The most poignant moment in this section, however, occurs when Bulstrode's wife goes to meet her husband after she learns the full details of his past. She has the opportunity to leave him and save herself the worst of the consequences. The town doesn't blame her, although it associates her with his false life in Middlemarch. In spite of her window of opportunity to escape the scandal, she decides to stay with him. His life is shattered, and she is all he has left. Her sacrifice in the midst of a petty, small-town scandal is a quiet moral triumph.

Dorothea encounters her own test when she mistakenly assumes that Ladislaw and Rosamond are having an affair. She is forced to confront the conflict between her own individual desire and the self-interest of the people she has vowed to help. Her abrupt departure and her sleepless night hint that she fails to rise to the occasion. She opens the novel as an unsung Theresa, so her failure to help Rosamond seems to indicate that she fails to live up to early predictions for her character.