The Mill on the Floss

by George Eliot

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What is the significance of the title The Mill on the Floss?

The significance of the title of The Mill on the Floss is that the story of Tom, Maggie, and the Tulliver family is inseparable from the Dorlcote Mill and the River Floss.

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The Mill on the Floss carries significance because the action of George Eliot’s novel revolves around the Dorlcote Mill and the River Floss (or, as it appears in the text, "river Floss"). In a sense, Eliot has named her work of fiction after the two landmarks in the book.

The Mill has been a part of the Tulliver family for a long time. Unfortunately, it’s about to be taken away from them. Mr. Tulliver is in a legal battle over the Floss. He doesn’t want Pivart to irrigate his land because that would infringe upon Tulliver’s water power. Pivart is represented by a lawyer named Mr. Wakem.

After Pivart wins the lawsuit, the Tulliver family struggles mightily. Mr. Tulliver’s health plummets, and the family goes bankrupt. They have to sell the Mill. Wakem, fittingly enough, buys the Mill. Quite condescendingly, Wakem hires Mr. Tulliver to manage the Mill that once was his.

Even though Wakem took away their Mill on the River Floss, Maggie, Mr. Tulliver’s dynamic daughter, strikes up a friendship with Wakem’s son. Tom, Maggie’s brother, finds about their relationship and forces her to end it. Tom, though, has been working hard. He has earned enough money to buy back his family's mill from Wakem.

As Tom and Maggie confront their relationship and other romantic prospects, the Dorlcote Mill and the River Floss remain a stable influence. It’s as if they’re inevitably drawn back to it, for better or for worse.

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