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The Mill on the Floss


The Mill on the Floss


The Mill on the Floss takes place in the fictional English village of St. Ogg’s and focuses chiefly on siblings Tom and Maggie Tulliver, from childhood through young adulthood.

Brought up at Dorlcote Mill, Maggie Tulliver worships her brother Tom and is desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her family.

She is unhappy at home with the small amount of education she has received. Their father, as is the custom in this century, provided the better education to the son.

As she reaches adulthood, the clash between their expectations and her desires is painfully played out as she finds herself torn between her relationships with three very different men: her proud and stubborn brother, a close friend who is also the son of her family's worst enemy, and a charismatic but dangerous suitor.

Maggie as a child is a beautiful character; Eliot portrays the workings of her mind so truthfully and compellingly. She is full of fiery defiance and lives for the moment, whether in her need for Tom's affection or full of bitter regret after she realizes the consequences of her actions.

As Dickens does with the Thames River in his magnum opus, Our Mutual Friend, Eliot weaves the theme of The Floss, the river that binds together the peoples and the landscape of Maggie’s world, through the novel with her use of metaphor and allusion, and pastoral description.

The novel starts with The Floss, and through the course of the book it is always there, relentlessly flowing to the sea.

Ultimately, it is this connection with The Floss that Eliot masterfully uses to bring her readers to the close of this magnificent novel culminating in the great climax that brings Maggie the redemption she longs for.

GEORGE ELIOT (1819-1880 was an English novelist, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She was born Mary Anne Evans, and adopted her male nom de plume so that her works would be taken seriously at a time when women were supposed to write only of “lighthearted” subjects. She is the author of seven novels, including Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda, most of them set in provincial England and known for their observational wit, psychological insight and dramatic realism.

"As one comes back to [Eliot's] books after years of absence they pour out, even against our expectations, the same store of energy and heat, so that we want more than anything to idle in the warmth."
--Virginia Woolf


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