The Mill on The Floss: Novel - Summary & Analysis

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      The Mill on The Floss, 1860, is primarily the story of Maggie Tulliver, who is a close self-portrait. Her childhood is passed in the village of St. Ogg’s, a Mildand Town in every respect. She loves her brother Tom and is never happier than in his company. She grows up, into a fine young lady and falls in love with Philip Wakem, the son of the lawyer whom her father considers responsible for his financial ruin. Soon he is displaced in her affections by Stephen Guest, the lover of her cousin Lucy, and regarded as the richest youngman in St. Ogg’s. One fine evening they go out for boating on the river Floss. Maggie remains lost in thought and does not resist as Stephen Guest continues sailing on and on. When she comes to her senses, it is too late for them to return home. However, as an act of supreme self-sacrifice, she renounces Stephen Guest, though it is clear that neither he can marry Lucy, nor she can marry Philip Wakem. Her reputation has been compromised, and none will ever believe in her innocence. Denounced by Tom for having disgraced the family, she lives a lonely life in St. Ogg’s. But the river Floss soon comes to her rescue. There is a devastating flood, and she makes heroic attempt to rescue her brother, but ultimately both brother and sister are drowned in the flooded river. Maggie finds release in death, from her spiritual troubles.


      In this novel, the rustic chorus is formed by a group of aunts and uncles who comment on character and action and provide humor. Commenting on the novel Robert Speaight writes, “The Mill on the Floss is readable, not only for the unanswering truth of Maggie, but for the more suitable texture of the writing. But the book is above all else a masterpiece of memory. It is the experience other own childhood, relived by a woman approaching the maturity of her powers, which makes it sometimes glow like an October sunset and sometimes tremble like a Daffodil in a April breeze. Maggie is always in the middle of the scene, because she is so near, to George Eliot herself to what George Eliot was or to what she would like to have been. But the other characters, Stephen always excepted, take life from her vitality and are generally seen as they affect her. It is a single childhood which is here on record; and The Mill on the Floss must take rank with the greatest books ever written about children”.

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