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Topic: The Mill on the Floss: Discussion 2 of 3

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Subject: The Mill on the Floss: Discussion 2 of 3
Date Posted: 5/22/2009 8:57 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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Please share your thoughts about the midde third of TMOTF.

Last Edited on: 5/22/09 9:14 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Random thoughts about the plot
Date Posted: 5/22/2009 9:27 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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The Mill is lost in a legal battle and Mr. Tulliver conveniently has a nervous breakdown so he doesn't have to deal with it. How nice that all the while he's recouperating and letting his family suffer, he's unable to hold himself the slightest accountable for his folly.  It's always someone else's fault (usually Wakem's). Tulliver represents a lot of people even to this day.

When I read about Mr. T, I think Oh brother, this guy's an ignorant, prideful piece of work.

However, I still rejoiced when he finally whipped Wakem and declared: I've made things a bit more even i' the world."  Yeah, Tulli, give 'em heck.

Then he dies. What the deuce? It's a puzzling thing, indeed.

Maggie is dull, dull, dull until she finally speaks out at her "golden boy" brother, Tom, for verbally attacking Philip.

" You have always enjoyed punishing me; you have always been hard and cruel to me; even when I was a little girl and always loved you better than anyone else in the world, you would let me o crying to bed without forgiving me. You have no pity; you have no sense of your own imperfection and your own sins....you are nothing but a Pharisee" (394).

and deep down, I don't think she truely loves Philip

"And yet, how was it that she was now and then conscious of a certain dim background of relief in the forced separation from Philip. Surely, it was only becasue the sense of a deliverance from concealment was welcome at any cost" (396).

Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Maggie. Tom's number one in her heart.

and as I keep reading over and over about her unconditional love for her brother, I kinda feel queasy inside.

Date Posted: 5/23/2009 12:32 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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Two things that really stood out to me in this section: the family's attitude about debt and Maggie's attitudes towards the men in her life.

It was strange to read about how the family was so ashamed of being in debt, of not just losing all their possessions but of not being able to pay back their creditors.  Compared to a lot of peoples' attitudes today about money troubles, like blaming the credit card companies etc., Eliot's depiction of the sense of shame, not the shallow, silly self-pity that Mrs. Tulliver and her sisters show, but the real commitment to working their way back up that Tom and Maggie show, speaks of a time when personal responsibility was a major part of life.  Mr. Tulliver gets out of contributing, so he himself avoids that personal responsibility, but its definitely there.

Secondly, I kept flip-flopping how I felt about Maggie.  Eliot emphasizes that Maggie's greatest weakness is her need to be loved.  She's only really loved unconditionally by her father, so its understandable that she might be somewhat desperate for affection from other sources.  And assuredly, everyone wants to feel loved and wanted.  But then, why why why is she such a doormat with Tom so often?  She's supposed to be such a smart girl, but apparently she's not smart enough to see the true nature of her relationship with Tom.  Which, frustrating as it is, is realistic- intellectually smart people often make stupid emotional decisions.  But still, the feminist in me goes grrrrr.

Subject: More comments
Date Posted: 5/23/2009 4:14 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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Wow, nice observations!

Times haven't changed that much when it come to keeping up appearances. 

Several characters--Riley and Stelling and Mr. Tulliver--are trying to keep up appearances and improve their station in life. Tulliver wants his son to get a grand eddication,yet utterly fails to give Tom the education he needed to make a living.

Interestingly too, one of the characters (I forgot to mark it) laments how todays kids are getting expensive educations that are completely useless in the real world.  That hasn't changed in the 21st century either.

One questions I keep asking is if this Is this a feminist book ? I don't think so. Like you mentions, Maggie is such a doormat. Her internal struggles do not strike me as a struggle that represents all women. None of the female characters appear to be fighting for any feminist cause. If there's a feminist bent to this book, I missed it completely.

This story, to me, highlights the pitfalls of remaining stubbornly attached to an idea or an idea no matter what the cost. Each member of the Tulliver family is so narrow minded and fail to examine all of their options that they hurt themselves.

During the reading of this section, I hold out hope that Maggie to a 180 and free herself from the weird chains of sibling devotion.

Last Edited on: 5/23/09 4:16 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 5/25/2009 7:46 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
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I agree with the two of you on several points.  Would that people would take care of their debts and feel the shame of not having paid them as the Tullivers did.  Well, as Tom did.  And, at least Mr. Tulliver did work for Wakem for a while, since there was no better offer.  However, I was quite put out with him when he said that he would no longer work for him now that he was out of debt.  Does this man give no thought for his family in the immediacy?  I believe that when Tulliver tells Wakem this, Waken tells him to get out of the house the next day.  I doubt that Tulliver even stops to think if Tom is just going to take care of them now.  Of course, I know much of this goes back to a somewhat different idea of family than many have today.

I absolutely agreed with the author about the type of education that many are getting today (in Eliot's time as well as now).  I thought that I had marked that passage but can't find it.  I do think that Mr. Tulliver's ignorance about what type of education Tom should have was just that--ignorance.  I think that he just wanted better for his son (and that's about all the good that I can say about Tulliver other than his loving and excusing his "little wench" when she was a a child).

As much as I want Maggie and Phillip to reunite and live happily ever after, I agree with you, Laura, with the passage that you quoted.  Surely Maggie's "certain dim background of relief in the forced separation from Philip"  is foreshadowing.  And, Vanessa, I hope that your queasy feeling is unjustified.  However, on the title page of my book, between the title and a note about an afterword, there is a phrase that definitely is foreshadowing.  I won't quote it in case your copy didn't have it or you didn't notice it.  And, if not, I would tell you not to look.  It reminds me of the prologue of Romeo and Juliet (and I hate when that happens--they tell you the end result at the beginning!)  NOTE:  A couple of hours after this post, I went back to look at my title page.  Now, I think that I noticed this after reading the blurbs on the back cover and assumed that the phrase on the title page refers to Maggie and Tom.  However, it may simply refer to the mill and the Floss.  Now I hope that you will look and tell me what you think.  Of course when I finish the book, I'll know. 

Do you think that there are people in the world today who live as narrow an existence as Maggie did between her reading the prophet's words in the book that she received from Bob Jakin and her meetings with Phillip?  I would hate to think that there are but they probably do exist.  I don't necessarily mean people who give up all thoughts of life on earth with thinking of heavenly rewards--but just such a narrow existence.  Is this possible in today's world?  And, how sad, if so.

Laura, I believe that you asked about figurative language earlier.  I loved this one:  "for it pulls the day out till they're as long as pigs' chitterlings."  I don't know about pigs, but I know that human intestines are very long.  I've had days like that!

Back to Mr. Tolliver, it amazes me that he was so bothered about public opinion considering his debts but, that it evidently would not have bothered him (in fact, quite the opposite) to be known as one who beat up Wakem.  I guess this is the testosterone factor and the idea that Toliver had of Wakem's being a "raskill."




Last Edited on: 5/25/09 1:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 5/29/2009 9:26 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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This section of the book picked up for me, story-wise. I'm still not fond of the writing style. The whole "lawsuit" was unfortunate for the Tulliver's. I like that Mr. Deane is helping his nephew somewhat.

The Dodson's are a study in contrasts. They stand by their kin but they sure are hard on them - never letting them forget their mistake and offering the bare minimum in support.  Mrs. Tulliver exasperated me with her obsession with her material things.

Vanessa, I agree about Maggie being too much of a doormat to Tom. She has an example of a strong female in her Aunt Glegg, but perhaps she doesn't want to emulate someone who never has a kind word for her :-)

Laura, in addition to the book highlighting the pitfalls of remaining stubbornly attached to an idea (Mr. Tulliver's lawsuit), I find the book also delves into compassion. Maggie is empathetic with others while Tom is the opposite, especially toward his sister. What a contrast between the siblings - she so devoted to him and he mostly oblivious to her feelings.  

Vivian - Does this man give no thought for his family in the immediacy?  I had similar thoughts :-)

Sometimes you just have to suck it up, admit your losses and move on.  Mr. Tulliver writes himself off. I'm not sure if he chose to wallow in his self-pity or if Eliot meant to show him simply unable to pull himself out of his stupor, although my inclination is the first.

Maggie is just too emotionally dependent for me to identify with her character as much as I would like to be able to. Bob Jakin is a great character but I have a feeling Eliot is not going to go anywhere with him. And Philip - too predictable . . .