The Mill on the Floss

by George Eliot

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In The Mill on the Floss, is the tragedy of Mr. Tulliver the result of class or his own heroic nature?

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I suppose the tragedy of Mr. Tulliver relates to his inability to work out and understand the children that he has and the way that they are. For Mr. Tulliver, who is at best an unintelligent man who is stubborn and deliberately holds grudges against people, the way that his own children grow up, and in particular Maggie, causes him great consternation. Mr. Tulliver, who comes from a long line of working class Tullivers, is not able to understand the fierce intelligence of his daughter and the way in which she desires a better life and is not satisfied with the same restrictions of other women in her world.

Mr. Tulliver is therefore a product of the class system that was so important in England at the time, and continues to be so important. The tragedy that befalls the characters of this play therefore is more of a tragedy of class and the particular society that is created as a result rather than anything else. This tragedy is of course centred on the character of Maggie Tulliver and the way that she refuses to have life lived for her. She demands to be an active participant in life, and she deliberately rejects the meek, passive and subservient role of women adopted by so many in her time and the role that her class gives her. This is what causes the tragedy of this play.

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