From the beginning of the book until Tom leaves for school
During this stage we get to know our two main characters, Tom and Maggie. We learn about their respective personalities and how their character traits are likely setting them up for future hardship. We also get foreboding hints regarding floods and Mr. Tulliver’s lawsuit here.
The period while Tom is at school
Things seem to be going well for Tom and Maggie. Maggie meets Philip during this time, who will have a major impact on her life. And Tom, though he is often frustrated by school, is relatively content and not really worried about the future.
Mr. Tulliver loses his lawsuit and the family is bankrupt. The stage goes through Maggie’s secret relationship with Philip.
The Tulliver family is suddenly in financial ruin and the family as a whole is disgraced and hugely depressed. Tom begins to work and Maggie seeks solace in religion and later in her friendship with Philip. The family is united in a hopeful future goal, though: paying off their debts.
From the discovery of Maggie’s relationship with Philip until Maggie and Stephen’s elopement
Things spin out of control during these chapters. Maggie is forced to stop seeing Philip and her relationship with Tom is badly damaged. Mr. Tulliver dies after attacking Wakem. And Maggie goes through a period of intense emotional struggle as she is tempted into a relationship with Stephen Guest. The nightmare here is mainly Maggie’s, but other major characters, like Tom, continue to suffer in this stage.
Destruction or Death Wish Stage
Maggie ends her relationship with Stephen and is disgraced; a tragic flood claims the lives of Tom and Maggie
After ending things with Stephen, Maggie’s reputation is ruined and she is disgraced. Though she reconciles with many of her friends and family she is ostracized, or excluded, from St. Ogg’s and faces a lot of future misery. Tom and Maggie manage to reconcile, but they are then tragically killed in a flood.