Nevertheless, there was a visible improvement in Tom under this training; perhaps because he was not a boy in the abstract, existing solely to illustrate the evils of a mistaken education, but a boy made of flesh and blood, with dispositions not entirely at the mercy of circumstances.

This quotation occurs as narrative commentary within Chapter IV of Book Second, and it points to George Eliot's preoccupation with realism. Eliot scorned so- called "realistic" novels that were written in her day in which characters were idealistically simple or stereotypical, and motives were depicted as straightforward. Eliot proposed to concentrate on psychological realism, depicting in detail the variety of forces at work within one character, to create a sense of authenticity and believability. At moments such as this, Eliot calls attention to this method by pointing to how a character would be treated in another novel. Though Eliot has a point to make about the evils of a miseducation, she will not make it bluntly or at the expense of the veracity of a main character. A similar comment occurs in Chapter III of Book First, when the narrator discusses the motivation behind Mr. Riley's recommendation of Mr. Stelling.