It is said that George Eliots style of writing deals with much realism. Eliot, herself meant by a realist to be an artist who values the truthof observation above the imaginative fancies of writers of romance orfashionable melodramatic fiction. (Ashton 19) This technique is artfullyutilized in her writings in a way which human character and relationships aredissected and analyzed. In the novel The Mill on the Floss, Eliot uses therelationships of the protagonist of the story, Miss Maggie Tulliver, as a mediumin which to convey various aspects of human social associations.
It seems thatas a result of Maggies nature and of circumstances presented around her, thatshe is never able to have a connection with one person that satisfies hermultifaceted needs and desires. Maggie is able, to some extent, to explore thevarious and occasionally conflicting aspects of her person with herrelationships between other characters presented in the novel. From an earlyage, Maggie needs approval from men. . .
Maggie is not shown in any deeprelationship with a female friend. (Ashton 83) A reader can explore intoMaggie Tullivers person and her short development as a woman in four primarymale associations: her fatherMr. Tulliver, her brotherTom Tulliver, herfriend and mentorPhilip Wakem and her dangerous passion with Steven Guest. Maggie unconditionally loves her father although he has been the unconsciousroot of many of her misfortunes.Order now
Toms and Maggies young lives areblighted by the gloom, poverty, disgrace and death of their father. . . Maggie isobliged by her fathers failure to leave school. .
. It is the misfortune of aclever girl denied any activity other than domestic. (Ashton 50) In the timeperiod of the setting of the novel, women were regarded as male property, totake care of household matters and without skill, originality and intelligenceof a man. Mr.
Tulliver cared deeply for his daughters future butinadvertently oppressed Maggie through his views of women. This idea isrepresented in his dialog with Mr. Riley of Maggies unnaturalintelligence: Its a pity but what shed been then ladshedhabeen a match for the lawyers, she would. Its the wonderfulstthing. (Eliot 68) Mr.
Tulliver by nature was stubborn, opinionated and ledhis family to disgrace as a result. However, there is a close bond between himand Maggie for which he had always protected her and favored her over Tom, asmuch as would permit in that age. Maggie always felt a responsibility to pleaseher father and to never cause him any grievances. She was loyal to him at timesthat he seemed to not return her affection How she wished that her fatherwould stoke her head, or give her some sign that he was soothed by the sensethat he had a daughter who loved him! (Eliot 371) When her father was in thelowest point of self-ruin and was under the scrutiny of the family, Maggie tookupon the position of the protector and loyally defended her protector.
Herfather had always defended and excused her, and her loving remembrance of histenderness was a force within her that would enable her to do or bear anythingfor his sake. (Eliot 284) Maggies brother, Tom, is the person of whom shewas the most fond of. She turned the cheek on some of his unkind actions towardher in the realization of a strong, unbreakable bond. This excerpt fromBrother and Sister (Ashton 90) portrays the type of relationship Maggieand Tom Tulliver have.
He was the elder and a little man Of forty inches, boundto show no dread, And I the girl that puppy-like now ran, Now lagged behind mybrothers larger tread. Every episode in the early chapters show Maggieshigh hopes of pleasure being dashed by disagreements with Tom. (Ashton 75)Tom indeed was of opinion that Maggie was a silly little thing: all girlswere silly. . . still he was very fond of his sister and always meant to take careof her.
(Eliot 92) Even with this mutual love, Tom is extremely harsh ofMaggie, whose only concern is to please him and maintain closeness with himthroughout their lives. In many instances, Tom would feel his authority beingthreatened by Maggie and bear insensitive punishments upon her. He shows hisrage and after his own personal interpretation and feeling, giving Maggie nochance to defend herself. The worst punishment he could evoke upon Maggie is toestrange himself from her and banish him from their home.
This action in theirtroubled relationship causes Tom to be callous and harsh and raises thepossibility for Maggie to be isolated in the world. You will find no homewith me. . .
You have been a curse to your best friends. . . I wash my hands of youforever.
You dont belong to me! (Eliot 612) Till the dire years whoseawful name is change Had grasped our soul still yearning in divorce, Andpitiless shaped them in two forms that range Two elements which sever theirlifes course. This excerpt taken from the same poem is significant of thedivided views and paths of these two siblings. The only thing Maggie desired wasto have no cloud between herself and Tom. (Eliot 577) Despite all of thehardships that Tom had inflicted in Maggie, the possibility of his danger duringthe flood sparked the natural protective nature in Maggie as she laboriouslyfought the river to Toms house in a small boat. As seen before in times ofgreat dispair, they put aside their differences and forgave each other withoutsaying a word.
In their unfortunate ending, their mutual love was shown as anembrace never to be parted (Eliot 655) Tom and Maggie must be reconciledin Death, where they could not be in life. (Ashton 92) One of the majorarguments between Tom and Maggie resulted in her friendship with Philip Wakem. Tom furiously hated Philip as a result of his father, Mr. Wakem, which Tomregarded as an accomplice to his fathers and his familys downfall. Maggiewas given strict orders to stay clear of all Wakem accompaniments. However,good-natured Maggie saw goodness in Philip that he was not associated with hisfathers actions.
They developed a close friendship where Philip resultantlydeveloped a deep love for Maggie that exceeded the bounds of their comradeship. Philip is from their schooldays a brotherly figure for Maggie, a lovingsubstitute for Tom. . .
Maggie’s feelings for him will fall short of passion;though he is a more satisfactory brother figure. (Ashton 92) In thisrelationship, Maggie finds the love she has yearned for from her own brother,however it is complicated from external issues and irrational thought of a loverstatus by Philip. Philip provided education and moral support for Maggie duringtheir time together and she regarded him very dear. Philip can relate toMaggies inferior status as a woman because he has been plagued by a physicaldeformity and therefore is inferior to society. He is marganalized by hisdeformity as women are marginalized by their gender.
(Carlisle 7) As theirrelationship progressed, it is threatened by another force: the appearance ofSteven Guest. Steven Guest can provide the aspect of passion for Maggie thatPhilip cannot provide. In their first interaction Steven felt an instantattraction for her, as she for him. For one instant Stephen could not concealhis astonishment at the sight of this tall, dark-eyed nymph with her jet-backcoronet of hair, the next, Maggie felt herself, for the first time in her life,receiving the tribute of a very deep blush and a very deep bow from a persontowards she herself was conscious of timidity.
(Eliot 484) Steven complicatesMaggies life because his attraction is also irrationalhe is courting herloving and dear cousin. Maggie is aware of the danger in these passions andtakes great effort not to partake in them, on an external display. Maggie statedthat she would rather take death than to participate in temptations that couldhurt so many people: Herself, Steven, Lucyher cousin and Philip. How littleshe did not know of the disastrous effects it would have on a more broad scale. As time progresses, both Steven and Maggie find it more difficult to hide suchattractions for each other and eventually Steven makes a thoughtless gesturethat the two of them should be together.
. . forever. Maggies conscious and herinability to directly cause grief to her loved ones overcomes her strong sexualattraction for Steven and the prospects of a free life with him. This actioncauses the complexities of their relation to be exposed to the general public,the public to pass ill judgment on her and begins the second major disputebetween her and her and Tom.
Steven is said to be a catalyst in the primarydrama between brother and sister (Ashton 52) This is an accurate statementbecause tension was already established between Maggie and Tom and if it werenot for Steven, it would have been another thing to cause further conflicts. It is perhaps worth remarking that he is the literary descendant to otherenergetic, simple, sexually powerful men in novels who create quite complexproblems for women whose alternative lovers are perhaps more sensitive. (Byatt690) Despite of her short and problematic life, Maggie Tulliver has theopportunities to explore various aspects of her personality and womanhood in hervariety of relationships especially with male characters. She was able cherishthe forgiving love of a father, which made so much impact on her life. She wasable to experience virtually unpressured friendship and intellectual stimulationfrom her beloved friend Philip.
She experienced a glimpse of sexual identity andattraction with her relations with Steven Guest that unfortunately caused themboth much pain. Maggie was also allowed to experience the type of love that canexist between siblings, despite all of their disagreements, Maggie and Tom wereable to realize that their bond was deeper than could have been imagined. GeorgeEliot artfully created such relationships in this novel in a successful methodto analyze and probe into the complexities of human interaction. This comesalong with the message that it may be possible to have everything that one maywant in life, just not all at once or at the same time. BibliographyWorks Cited Ashton, Rosemary. The Mill on the Floss: A Natural History.
Twaynes Masterwork Studies. Boston, G. K. Hall ; Co. 1990 Byatt, A. S.
The Placing of Steven Guest. Appendix, The Mill on the Floss, Middlesex,Blays Ltd, St Printing; Penguin Classics. 1979 Carlisle, Janice. The MirrorIn the Mill on the Floss; Toward Reading of Autobiography Discourse.
Studiesin the Literary Imagination. Vol 23:Issue 2. EBSCO Masterfile Premier 1990Edinborough and London. Brother and Sister The Legend of Jubal and OtherPoems. London, Blackwood 1874 Eliot, George.
The Mill on the Floss. Middlesex,Penguin English Library, 1979.Biology