The Vincy family represents the successful middle-class family with upper-class pretensions. The changing social structure brought about by industrialization made upward social mobility possible. Walter Vincy is not a worldly, educated man, but he dreams of offering his children a step up the social ladder. He pays for Fred's expensive college education in order to socialize him into manners and customs of the landed gentry, as well as to prepare him for a career as a clergyman. In the past, social status was determined primarily by birth. The rise of industrialization, however, allowed middle-class men to achieve the status of gentlemen through education and a successful profession.

For the Vincy daughter, however, the process of upward social mobility is different. Rosamond represents one stereotypical view of women. She has been trained to be a socialite wife by going to an expensive finishing school. Her "education" has molded her into the perfect ornament for a wealthy husband. A woman's status is not self-made. Rather, her husband's status determines her status. Still, Rosamond views her future husband with an unrealistic idealism. To her, Lydgate is the mysterious newcomer in town with rumored family connections. She views him as though he stepped out of a conventional romantic novel.

Lydgate himself suffers from stereotypical ideals of femininity. He finds Dorothea "troublesome." Unlike most women, she insists on reasons and explanations. His ideal wife is an adornment to his life. He believes that he wants an ornament, not a partner. However, he will find that his "ideal" wife isn't necessarily the best wife for him.

The Vincys believe that money is the ticket to success and social freedom. But Peter Featherstone demonstrates the manner in which money is also a tool for manipulation. He uses the uncertain promise of a large inheritance to control and humiliate Fred. Eliot often uses a web as a metaphor for the complex, interconnected social relations in Middlemarch. Money functions as a representation of this web. Featherstone instructs Fred to ask his uncle, Mr. Bulstrode, to confirm or deny the accusation against him. Bulstrode, as a banker, has an intimate view into the private lives of Middlemarch citizens through their finances. Private problems and secret sins are often discovered by tracing financial transactions.