Literapedia Book Notes for

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot


Characters

  • Narrator (ch 1) — the storyteller
  • Maggie Tulliver (ch 2) — the protagonist and main character
  • Tom Tulliver (ch 2) — Maggie's brother
  • Mr. Tulliver (ch 2) — Maggie's father
  • Mrs. Tulliver (ch 2) — Maggie's mother
  • Mr. Pivart (ch 2) — owner of the farm upstream of Dorlcote Mill '
  • Mr. Stelling (ch 1 bk 2) - Tom and Phillip's teacher
  • Bob Jakin (ch 6) — friends with Tom (and later Maggie) since childhood
  • Kezia (ch 6) — housemaid for the Tullivers
  • Mrs. Glegg (ch 7) — Mrs. Tuliver's sister
  • Mrs. Pullet (ch 7) — Mrs. Tuliver's sister
  • Mrs. Deane (ch 7) — Mrs. Tuliver's sister
  • Lucy Deane (ch 7) — Maggie's cousin
  • Stephen Guess (ch 1 bk 6) — Lucy's suitor

Chapter Summaries


Book First: Boy and Girl
  1. Outside Dorlcote Mill - The narrator walks along the River Floss at Dorlcote Mill. He watches a nearby little girl and her dog. The plot jumps to several years later, and the narrator begins to tell the story of the Tullivers that day at the Mill.
  2. Mr Tulliver, of Dorlcote Mill, declares his resolution about Tom — Mr Tulliver speaks with Mrs Tulliver about his plan to "give Tom a good eddication." Tom is, however, "a bit slowish," taking after his mother's side. Mr Tulliver finds it unfortunate that Tom, rather than Maggie, takes after his mother.
  3. Mr, Riley gives his advice concerning a school for Tom — Mr. Tulliver discusses lawyers and their evil with Mr. Riley, and his plans to educate Tom so that he will not have to work at the mill. Maggie, upset, thinks that Tom would not abandon the farm. Mr. Tulliver at first tries to show off Maggie's intelligence, but then sends her away. Mr. Riley recommends a tutor, Mr. Stelling.
  4. Tom is Expected — Maggie is not allowed to go meet Tom, so she sulks in the attic relieving her stress with a play voodoo doll of sorts. When the sun starts to shine she goes outside to celebrate Tom's eventual return with Yap, the dog. Luke discourages her from knowledge and learning. At Luke's reminder, Maggie realizes she has not fed Tom's rabbits. Maggie is invited to Luke's house, where she finds interest in the parable of the prodigal son.
  5. Tom Comes Home - Tom returns home, pleasing both Maggie and Mrs. Tulliver, and shows Maggie the fishing lines which he bought for her. Tom then wants to go see his rabbits which are actually dead, and he blames Maggie for their deaths. Mr. Tulliver orders Tom to be nicer to Maggie, and the next day the two go fishing together. The chapter ends Tom and Maggie seeing themselves living in harmony, though it is stated that their lives would soon change.
  6. The aunts and uncles are coming — Tom scolds Maggie for being "a greedy" and eating the larger half of an uneven jam puff that she fairly wins, even though she offered it back to him. Bob and Tom fight over a half-penny that Tom should have won, with Tom as the victor of the brawl. After Tom leaves, Bob is left to pick up his half-penny and knife (a gift from Tom), which he had thrown at Tom.
  7. Enter the Aunts and Uncles - Mrs. Tuliver's sisters, the Dodsons (Mrs. Glegg, Mrs. Pullet, and Mrs. Deane), come to visit the Tulivers. After recieving criticism from her Aunt Glegg, Maggie goes upstairs with Tom before dinner and cuts her hair. Tom ridicules her and makes Maggie regret her actions. The house servant eventually coaxes Maggie downstairs to eat. Maggie recieves even more criticism from her aunts and uncles, and she turns to her father for consolation.
  8. Mr Tulliver Shows His Weaker Side - After his wife tells him that Mrs. Glegg may ask for her loan of five-hundred pounds Mr. Tulliver plans to ask his sister's family - the Mosses - for the three hundred pounds he had loaned them. During this pursuit he has a change of heart when his sister's troubles brings on thoughts of Maggie.
  9. To Garum Firs - While building card houses with Tom and Lucy, Maggie accidentally knocks Tom's over, causing him to ignore her for sometime, and at the arrival of Mrs. Tulliver and the children, they marvel at Mrs. Pullet's new hat. Later, entranced by Mr. Pullet's music box, Maggie hugs Tom, spilling his drink, and is scolded; Mrs. Tulliver tries to convince Mrs. Pullet to get Mrs. Glegg to not call back her five hunded pound loan, and they are interrupted by a shocking sight.
  10. Maggie Behaves Worse Than She Expected - Maggie has been bad and pushes Lucy into the mud by the pond since Tom has been mean to Maggie all morning. After Tom brings Lucy to the house, he is sent back to find Maggie, but returns to his mother without her. Tom believes that Maggie has gone home.
  11. Maggie Tries to Run away from Her Shadow - Maggie flees from her family and wanders into a gypsy camp. At first she professes her great desire to live among them, but recants as soon as she grows hungry. A gypsy delivers her back to her father and stern words of rebuke.
  12. Mr and Mrs Glegg at Home - The town of St. Ogg's as well as the legend of its patron saint are described by the narrator. While discussing the Tullivers' situation, Mr. Glegg advises Mrs. Glegg to not ask for the five hundred pounds back. Mrs. Glegg still grim from the quarrel at the Tullivers' home is inititally submissive to the idea. However, she changes her mind, deciding to not require the money.
  13. Mr Tulliver further entangeles the skein of life - Mrs. Glegg has decided to "bear no malice" toward the Tullivers by recollecting the money but, an ill conceived note from Mr. Tulliver explaining the repayment of the loan greatly disturbs Mrs. Glegg and her esteem of the Tullivers falls considerably, not to mention cutting off the Tulliver children in her will.

Book Second: School-Time
  1. Tom's "First Half" - Tom begins schooling at King's Lorton, where he struggles with Latin and the undivided attention of Mr. Stelling. Tom becomes, in Eliot's words, "like a girl", taking blows to his pride from his schoolmaster without complaint and helping care for the Stelling's daughter, Laura. Maggie visits, flaunting her superior brainpower while aiding Tom with his Latin.
  2. The Christmas Holidays. - Tom returns from school to a snow-covered St. Ogg’s for Christmas. As Tom and Maggie eat breakfast on Christmas day, Mr. Tulliver complains about his new, upstream neighbor, Mr. Pivart, and Pivart’s irrigation projects that may divert waterpower from Dorlcote Mill. Mrs. Tulliver attempts to pursuade Mr. Tulliver not to take the case to the law, but Mr. Tulliver maintains his desire to win the water rights as well as to serve retribution to Waken, Pivart’s lawyer.
  3. The New School Fellow -Tom returns to school where he meets Philip (another student of Mr. Stelling's and the son of Mr. Waken. Philip's intelligence, hunch back and father lead to slight friction between the boys.
  4. "The Young Idea" - While Philip excels in his subjects, Mr. Stelling hires a new teacher, Mr. Poulter, for Tom. He tells Tom about war stories and brings his sword one day to show Tom his excercises. Tom, being extremely excited, goes to tell Philip to come watch, but he interrupts Philip's singing, making Philip angry. Tom insults Philip and calls Philip's father a rogue, making Philip cry. Tom goes back to Mr. Poulter and convinces him to alllow Tom to borrow his sword for five shillings.
  5. Maggie's Second Visit - The tension between Tom and Philip mounts. When Maggie visits Tom again at school, Tom injures his foot while playing with a sword.
  6. A Love-Scene - Tom's foot is treated. Philip notices Tom's distress and assures him that he will not, in fact, be lame and thereby momentarily rekindles the friendship between the two. Later in the chapter, Philip asks Maggie if she would love him if he was her brother. She says yes, embarasses him by saying she would pity him, and then kisses his cheek upon his prompting.
  7. The Golden Gates are Passed - Tom is slowly but steadily learning, and by the last quarter at the academy, he is tall and well-groomed (and eager to start shaving). Maggie, also grown, appears, greets him warmly, and informs him that his father has lost the trial (and therefore a huge sum of money) as well as his senses. Maggie sobs, but Tom does not cry, bearing his horror in silence as the siblings cling to each other, and Mr. Stelling sees them off.

Book Third: The Downfall
  1. What Had Happened At Home - After losing the lawsuit, Mr. Tulliver considers ways to maintain his status on the Mill, but he learns that it has already been transferred to Wakem. He is found by the roadside, insensible. Maggie returns home, to find her father suffering from memory loss. Mrs. Tulliver sends for her sisters. Maggie fetches Tom, who is hostile toward Wakem.
  2. Mrs Tulliver's teraphim, or household goods — Tom and Maggie return home. Mrs Tulliver frets over their current financial situation as they may have to sell her possessions; she and Tom seem to blame Mr Tulliver, but Maggie stands up for her father. Later, though, Tom joins Maggie at their father's bedside, and the two grieve together.
  3. The Family Council — Mrs. Tulliver worries about her luxuries being sold, not her necessities. Tom wants to pay off the 500 pound debt, with interest, and is told that his family is far worse in debt. Tom says his father told him the Moss family does not need to pay off its debt, so Tom is encouraged to destroy the note.
  4. A Vanishing Gleam — While searching through Mr. Tulliver's things, a noise rouses Mr. Tulliver from bed. He has a temporary recovery and is angry that his things are being searched through, and so they explain what happened to him. He rants about Wakem and the law. He then falls back asleep while muttering about the future. Tom manages some financial affairs.
  5. Tom applies his knife to the oyster - Tom leaves St. Ogg for to see uncle Deane about getting a job. The two talk about employment, yet Deane makes no offers. Disgruntled, Tom returns home and gets in an argument with Maggie which ends with Maggie running away in tears.
  6. Tending to refute the popular prejudice against the present of a pocket-knife — After many items are sold from the house, Bob visits Tom and offers him nine sovereigns, which Tom kindly refuses. Maggie changes her opinion of Bob (to a more favorable one).
  7. How a Hen Takes to Stratagem - The Tuliver's hope that Mr. Deane's Guest & Co. will buy the mill and keep Mr. Tuliver on it. Tom is offered a low-pay job under Mr. Deane. Mrs. Tuliver goes to Mr. Wakem in hopes of convincing him to not buy the mill. However her revealing Guest & Co's plans to buy the mill, gives Wakem the idea to buy it himself and keep Mr. Tuliver on as manager.
  8. Daylight on the Wreck - Wakem buys property and offers to keep Mr. Tulliver employed as the miller. Mr. Tulliver is in a frail state of mind, and being reminded of this new ownership causes him to promise to make amends.
  9. An Item Added to the Family Register - Mr. Tulliver is troubled by the promise he made Mrs. Tulliver to work under Mr. Wakem, and walks with Luke, remembering childhood memories at the Mill. Later that night, he vows to them to work under Mr. Wakem but to not forgive him, and he gets Tom to write that vow and the wish of an evil befalling Mr. Wakem in the family Bible.

Book Fourth: The Valley of Humiliation
  1. A Variation of Protestantism Unknown to Bossuet - Eliot explains the differences between how the Dodsons and Tullivers were raised and what their beliefs and morals were. Eliot then explains that their existing morals and their isolation from a socially progressing society has affected Maggie and Tom greatly.
  2. The Torn Nest Is Pierced by the Thorns - Monotony and depression set in at the Tulliver household as the reality of their situation becomes fully realized. Tom works relentlessy to stave off creditors, Mr. Tulliver seems to have lost all purpose besides paying off the debt, and Mrs. Tulliver wanders aimlessly around the house.
  3. A Voice From the Past - Maggie attempts to read outside. However, her concentration is disripted by thoughts of her father's actions the day before. While outside she is visited by Bob Jakin, who gives her picture and prose books to replace the sold ones. They discuss Bob's dog and Maggie scolds Bob for cheating his customers. After Bob leaves, Maggie begins to read a book by Thomas a Kempis.

Book Fifth: Wheat and Tares
  1. In the Red Deeps - On a trip into the Red Deeps, what was a relaxing pasttime was interrupted by Philip Wakem who has followed Maggie. He entreats Maggie to rekindle their childhood friendship although she she denies him his request at the current. Maggie's decision is differed until the next time that she should enter the Red Deeps.
  2. Aunt Glegg Learns the Breadth of Bob's Thumb - Tom pleases all family members by working hard and independently to rise in his career. Bob offers Tom the opportunity to profit from his (Bob's) foreign trading, and Tom and Bob visit the Gleggs to garner additional funds for their investment. The trip is successful, due to Bob's skills of coercion and flattery.
  3. The Wavering Balance. - Maggie meets Philip in the Red Deeps. Maggie, inwardly conflicted by her secretive meetings with Philip, tells him that they should not continue to meet on the grounds that the furtiveness of their engagements is wrong. Philip convinces Maggie to remain in the forest for a half-hour by painting a portrait of her. Philip tells Maggie that he will continue to walk the Red Deeps so that if the friends perchance meet, it will not be premeditated or covert.
  4. Another Love Scene- While meeting in the woods Maggie realizes Philip's love for her and readjusts her perception of their relationship. She kisses Philip and professes her love to him.
  5. The Cloven Tree - While listening to several conversations, Tom realizes that Maggie has been visiting Philip secretly in the Red Deeps. He confronts her telling her that she must never see Philip again without Tom's knowledge or he will tell their father. She asks to see Philip one last time, and Tom agrees but goes with her. When they see him, Tom continuously insults him, and Maggie tells him she must never see him so that Tom will not tell her father. They leave, and Maggie gets mad at Tom for his actions, saying she will not submit to him. When she gets home, she feels relieved that she must not see Philip anymore, but she does not fully understand why she feels this way.
  6. The Hard-Won Triumph - Tom saves enough money to pay off the Tulliver family debt. When he tells his father, Mr. Tulliver is overjoyed.
  7. A Day of Reckoning - Mr. Tulliver arrives home to find Wakem currently leaving Dorlcote Mill. When Wakem tries to leave, he blocks him off making his horse rear and buck Wakem to the ground. Mr. Tulliver then attacks his back while he is on the ground with his riding whip. Maggie exits the house to hold her father back. Mr. Tulliver feels ill and exits to his bed. After a solemn dinner at which Mr. Tulliver is not present, he calls for Tom and Maggie. He shakes hands with Tom and tells them of his imminent passing. Tom promises to get the mill back and look after his Mother and Sister. When Maggie asks him if he forgives Wakem even on his death bed he replies firmly that he does not.

Book Sixth: The Great Temptation
  1. Paradise - This cloyingly sweet scene involves Stephen and Lucy flirting for a good bit, talking about how Maggie (whom Tom believes to be like her mother Mrs. Tulliver) will be staying for a spell, and how Tom needs to call on Philip to visit. Tom leaves and Lucy is all giddy and goes to feed her favorite animals. Tom is happy to have chosen her to marry as she suits his tastes and sentiments.
  2. First Impressions - Maggie and Lucy sit and discuss their problems. Stephen arrives, impressing Maggie with his cleverness, and the three take a row on the river. Back home, the Pullets and Mrs. Tulliver discuss Maggie's attire and appearance.
  3. Confidential moments — Lucy goes to Maggie in her bedroom, and she asks Maggie what she thinks of Stephen. Maggie admits that she finds Stephen too "self-confident." When Lucy mentions that Stephen will bring Philip with him to visit the next day, Maggie tells Lucy she cannot because of her promise to Tom. Lucy resolves to find some way to unite the two and have them marry one day.
  4. Brother and Sister — Maggie visits Bob Jenkins, where Tom lives. Maggie wishes for her promise not to see Phillip to be lifted. Tom criticizes Maggie, and tells her that she must give him up if she is to be Phillip's lover. Tom reminds her of their father's final stand against Mr. Wakem, and Maggie promises not to become lovers with Phillip. By the time they leave, harsh feelings have been forgiven.
  5. Showing that Tom had Opened the Oyster — Mr. Deane compares the present to the past from the perspective of business, and compliments Tom's work. He then offers Tom a share of the business, but Tom expresses a desire to reclaim his father's mill, believing that there is a chance Wakem will sell it back due to mismanagement. Deane agrees to ponder it.
  6. Philip reenters — Philip and Maggie become friends again. Philip notices some connection between Stephen and Maggie. Mr. Deane reveals that Tom wants Guest and Co. to buy back Dorlcote Mill, and Lucy wants to tell Philip so that he may help convince Mr. Wakem.
  7. Wakem in a New Light - Philip reveals his feelings for Maggie to his father by showing him potraits Philip has painted of her. At first Mr. Wakem does not take it well, however after his evening outing he sits down to talk to Philip about his and Maggie's relationship. Mr. Wakem is eventually convinced of the legitimacy of their relationship and approves of Philip's feelings for Maggie. Mr. Wakem surprisingly concedes to Philip's plan of transfering the mill and land to Guest & Co to mend family ties and make it easier for Philip and Maggie.
  8. Charity in Full Dress - On the day of the St. Ogg's Bazaar, Stephen tells Phillip that he does not like Maggie, information to which Phillip acts hostile, and Maggie announces her departure from St. Ogg's. Afterwards, Lucy and Maggie talk about Maggie's feelings for Phillip.
  9. The Spell Seems Broken - After avoiding each other at Stephen's party, Maggie and Stephen walk together to a conservatory, and as Maggie picks up a flower, Stephen begins kissing her arm. She becomes angered and tells him to leave her alone. The next morning, Philip comes to visit her, and she tells him that she cannot be with him, for it will anger Tom.
  10. In The Lane - Maggie is staying at her Aunt Moss's when Stephen comes. He asks her for forgiveness and then asks if she will but go away with him. She refuses, gives him "one kiss - and then a long look," then sends him away. Maggie feels wretched afterwards.
  11. A Family Party - The family gathers to celebrate the Tullivers' change in fortunes, and Maggie's return to work as a governess is discussed. Lucy eagerly tells Tom about Philip's work to get his father to sell the mill, but Tom remains adamant in "bitter repugnance" towards him.
  12. Borne Along by the Tide - Before she leaves for her job, Maggie has dinner at the Deanes'. Philip leaves the home early after sensing Maggie no longer has feelings for him, but rather for Stephen instead. He asks Stephen to take Maggie on the boat ride in his place. Stephen rows the two of them far past the meeting point with Lucy in St. Ogg's. They get on a trading boat towards Mudport and stay at an inn in the morning. Maggie insists the love Stephen has for her is not mutual and she leaves. She takes a coach back to St. Ogg's, but she misses the town and ends up in York.
  13. Waking- In the boat with Stephen, Maggie is lulled into a prophetic dream before waking to feel sinful and alone. Together they dock at Mudport where Maggie declares they shalln't be together, though it was clear enough they faced a coming trial. They are lead to a posting house where Stephen adamantly protests her returning to St. Ogg's, reminding her of the tribulations she will face. Both she and Stephen then take a coach to inn.

Book Seventh: The Final Rescue
  1. The Return to the Mill - Maggie returns to Tom, who turns her away, claiming he has no faith in her anymore. Mrs. Tulliver offers to be with Maggie, and the two travel to Bob's house for refuge.
  2. St. Ogg’s Passes Judgment. - The town learns that Maggie has returned from Mudport. Maggie is publicly repudiated for returning as Miss Tulliver rather than Mrs. Stephen Guest. Stephen, however, maintains his social prominence. Eliot socially notes how the town would have been proud had she gotten married to Mr. Guest. Maggie visits Dr. Kenn to explain her side of the story after Lucy and Philip are in not condition to talk. Dr. Kenn consents to help Maggie find a job in St. Oggs.
  3. Showing That Old Acquainitances Are Capable of Surprising Us- Maggie's mother tells her that Mrs Glegg has not disowned her and suports her. Maggie gets a letter from Philip forgiving her and telling her that he will wait for her.
  4. Maggie and Lucy - Dr. Kenn hears many women talking about Maggie and gives her a job as governess to his children. Maggie heard that Lucy was leaving for Scarborough because she was sick. That night, Lucy came to see her and forgave Maggie .
  5. The Last Conflict - Maggie reads letters from her past and the present. When the flood comes, Tom and Maggie drown in each other's embrace.
  6. Conclusion - 5 years later the earth has repaired itself from the flood and Tom and Maggie lay in their graves. The tomb was visited by both Stephen and Philip (not together and not explicitly stated). Stephen visits a second time with Lucy (again not explicit). The engraving on the tombstone reads "In their death they were not divided."

Student Contributors


Suzie Oh, Zenubia Madhani, Lucy Song, Chris Dawson, Justin Geldzahler, Laura Kuthy, Carley Beckner, Andrew Rankin, Ben Han, Sean Schultz, Andrew Burks, Heather Jaros, Thomas Fulks, Will Canup