(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Dorlcote Mill stands on the banks of the River Floss near the village of St. Ogg’s. Owned by the ambitious Mr. Tulliver, the mill provides a good living for the Tulliver family, but Mr. Tulliver dreams of the day when his son Tom will achieve a higher station in life. Mrs. Tulliver’s sisters, who had married well, criticize Mr. Tulliver’s unseemly ambition and openly predict the day when his air castles will bring himself and his family to ruin. Aunt Glegg is the richest of the sisters and holds a note on his property. After he quarrels with her over his plans for Tom’s education, Mr. Tulliver determines to borrow the money and repay her.

Tom has inherited the placid arrogance of his mother’s relatives; for him, life is not difficult. He is resolved to be fair in all of his dealings and to deliver punishment to whomever deserves it. His sister Maggie grows up with an imagination that surpasses her understanding. Her aunts predict she will come to a bad end because she is tomboyish, dark-skinned, dreamy, and indifferent to their commands. Frightened by her lack of success in attempting to please her brother Tom, her cousin Lucy, and her mother and aunts, Maggie runs away, determined to live with the gypsies, but she is glad enough to return. Her father scolds her mother and Tom for abusing her. Her mother is sure Maggie will come to a bad end because of the way Mr. Tulliver humors her.

Tom’s troubles begin when his father sends him to study at Mr. Stelling’s school. Having little interest in spelling, grammar, or Latin, Tom wishes he were back at the mill, where he can dream of someday riding a horse like his father’s and giving orders to people around him. Mr. Stelling is convinced that Tom is not just obstinate but stupid. Returning home for the Christmas holidays, Tom learns that Philip Wakem, son of a lawyer who is his father’s enemy, is also to enter Mr. Stelling’s school.

Philip is disabled; Tom, therefore, cannot beat him up. Philip can draw, and he knows Latin and Greek. After they overcome their initial reserve, the two boys become useful to each other. Philip admires Tom’s arrogance and self-possession, and Tom needs Philip to help him in his studies, but their fathers’ quarrel keeps a gulf between them.

When Maggie visits Tom, she meets Philip, and the two become close friends. After Maggie is sent away to school with her cousin, Lucy, Mr. Tulliver becomes involved in a lawsuit. Because Mr. Wakem defends the opposition, Mr. Tulliver says his children should have as little as possible to do with Philip. Mr. Tulliver loses his suit and stands to lose all of his property as well. To pay off Aunt Glegg, he borrowed money on his household furnishings. Now he hopes Aunt Pullet will lend him the money to pay the debt against which those furnishings stand forfeit. He can no longer afford to keep Maggie and Tom in school. When he learns that Mr. Wakem had bought up his debts, the discovery brings on a stroke. Tom makes Maggie promise never to speak to Philip Wakem again. Mrs. Tulliver weeps because her household possessions are to be put up for sale at auction. In the ruin that follows, Tom and Maggie reject the scornful offers of help from their aunts.

Bob Jakin, a country brute with whom Tom had fought as a boy, turns up to offer Tom partnership with him in a venture where Tom’s education will help Bob’s native business...

(The entire section is 1396 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Summary

The Mill on the Floss Book 1 Summary

Book 1: Boy and Girl
The novel begins with a description of the rural area where the action takes place, near the town of St....

(The entire section is 1604 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 2 Summary

Book 2: School-Time
Tom turns out to be the only pupil of Reverend Stelling, and he is bored without friends. In addition, he is...

(The entire section is 634 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3 Summary

Book 3: The Downfall
Tulliver looks for someone who will buy the mill and let him run it. He is also troubled because he has...

(The entire section is 819 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 4 Summary

Book 4: The Valley of Humiliation
The narrator discusses the Dodson family and their idea of religion, calling it "simple,...

(The entire section is 145 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 5 Summary

Book 5: Wheat and Tares
Philip Wakem comes to the mill with his father one day. Although Maggie is home, she does not want to...

(The entire section is 575 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6 Summary

Book 6: The Great Temptation
Stephen Guest, son of the main partner of Guest and Company, is courting Maggie's cousin Lucy...

(The entire section is 1538 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Chapter Summaries

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 1 Summary

George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (1860) focuses most significantly on the maturing of a young girl who is too strong willed for her times. The novel's protagonist, Maggie Tulliver, is described by the London Guardian's critic Kathryn Hughes as a combination of Anne of Anne of Green Gables and Jane of Jane Eyre. The third published work of the author, the novel has been identified as a semi-autobiographical story, one that reflects Maggie's often strained relationship with her brother, Tom. Though it has been documented that Eliot cried as she wrote the last chapters of this story, Hughes also finds many comical moments in the novel, which together make The Mill on the Floss "as good...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 2 Summary

Maggie's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver, are having a conversation inside the family home. Mr. Tulliver is discussing his plans for his son, Tom. Mr. Tulliver wants to ensure that Tom receives a good education, one that will provide Tom with a financially secure position when the boy is grown. In order for Tom to gain this education, Mr. Tulliver will have to send him away to school, specifically to the school at Midsummer. Tom will be gone only for two years. That will do him well enough, Mr. Tulliver says. That is far more schooling than Mr. Tulliver ever received from his father.

Mr. Tulliver's goal is to give Tom enough schooling so that Tom can handle all the lawsuits against the family business. Though Mr....

(The entire section is 474 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 3 Summary

Mr. Riley visits at the mill with Mr. Tulliver to discuss the height of the dam that Tulliver has recently raised to improve the workings of his mill. The mill is one reason why Mr. Riley is there, but Mr. Tulliver has something else on his mind—the education of his son Tom. After Riley points out that a miller does not require an education, Tulliver confesses that he has a special reason for wanting extra schooling for Tom. He does not want Tom to be a miller, or at least not to take over the mill until Tulliver is dead. Tulliver expresses some concern that if Tom is not educated, he might push his father out of the family business by wanting to make a living through the mill. If, on the other hand, Tom learns a different type...

(The entire section is 435 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 4 Summary

Tom is due to arrive home from his regular school, the "academy," where he learns basic skills in reading and writing; the school is quite different from the more advanced one he will soon be attending. Maggie is disappointed that her mother did not allow her to go with Mr. Tulliver to get Tom. In rebellion against her mother's ruling, Maggie is acting defiantly, refusing to sit still while her mother curls her hair. Even more defiantly, Maggie runs away from her mother and pours water over her head to make sure that every curl her mother had tried to set in her hair is obliterated. Mrs. Tulliver, frustrated by her daughter's disobedience, says she will tell Maggie's aunts about her behavior, and they will not love her any more....

(The entire section is 497 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 5 Summary

Tom has come home, and Maggie can barely control her excitement. She runs to the carriage, and when Tom gets out, she throws herself upon him. Somewhat embarrassed, Tom attempts to break her grasp by putting his hands into his pockets and retrieving, but not revealing, a surprise he has brought home for her. He asks Maggie to guess what it is. Maggie can imagine only marbles, but Tom tells her that he has given away all his marbles to the younger students. What he has for her is better, he says. Finally, because Maggie has no more guesses, Tom reveals that he has bought her a fishing line. They will go fishing tomorrow, and she will have her own line and hook. She also will be able to place a worm on her hook all by herself. He...

(The entire section is 589 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 6 Summary

Maggie's aunts are due to visit as it is Easter week, and they have been invited to dinner. Mr. Tulliver is not looking forward to the visit much more than his children are. Mrs. Tulliver is more tolerant of her sisters because she hopes that her children will be remembered when her sisters write their wills. It is obvious that Mrs. Tulliver's sisters have more money than she does. With this in mind, Mrs. Tulliver is worried about the way her children will act when the aunts arrive. She tells Mr. Tulliver that Maggie always acts ten times more mischievously in the presence of Glegg and Pullet. Even Tom does not like his mother's sisters, but Mrs. Tulliver is more forgiving of her son, since it is more befitting for a boy to feel...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 7 Summary

The day finally arrives for the aunts' visit. Aunt Glegg has taken a seat in the most comfortable chair and holds her gold watch in her hand. She complains about the time Mrs. Tulliver has scheduled dinner and about the lateness of the arrival of their sister, Aunt Pullet. Glegg finds it disgraceful that both sisters have caused her to sit and wait. This is not the way of the Dodsons, at least not in their father's tradition, she says. She also tells Mrs. Tulliver to move the time of the dinner forward as a way to punish their sisters who are late. When Mrs. Tulliver mentions that her husband does not like to eat so early, Glegg calls Mrs. Tulliver weak for allowing her husband to dictate when meals should be served. She also...

(The entire section is 639 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 8 Summary

After her sisters leave, Mrs. Tulliver reminds her husband that her sister Glegg could call in the loan she has made to him. Mr. Tulliver was rather sharp with Glegg during her visit. His wife's statement infuriates Mr. Tulliver, who tells her that he has decided to pay her sister back whether or not she asks. He is determined not be beholden to her for anything. The next day, Mr. Tulliver gets on his horse and rides to his sister's house. He had loaned her some money in the past, and he is going to see when she can pay it back.

Mr. Tulliver is basically a soft-hearted man who freely gives his money to people in need, especially to his sister. He had given her one thousand pounds when she married, which in the end he...

(The entire section is 539 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 9 Summary

Lucy has spent the night at Maggie's house, and Maggie's mother has constantly used the young girl as an example of what she wishes Maggie would aspire to be. All her mother's efforts have little effect on Maggie. When her mother insists that Maggie have her hair cut by a professional hairstylist to repair the damage that Maggie caused, Maggie rebels, promising herself that once she is old enough, she will never allow anyone to cut her hair. When told to dress more appropriately, as Lucy is dressed, Maggie feels too tightly bound in her clothes and constantly fidgets with her garments. Lucy stands out in stark contrast. She is dressed as beautifully as she had been the day before. She never has accidents that soil her clothes, and...

(The entire section is 540 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 10 Summary

As Maggie, Tom, and Lucy go out to play at the Pullet's farm, Tom continues to ignore his sister. When he finds a toad, Tom calls Lucy to come see it. Lucy enjoys the attention she is receiving from Tom; however, she knows that if Maggie had been called over, she would have named the toad and provided an interesting history of the amphibian. Lucy calls to Maggie, but she turns away. As long as Tom prefers Lucy, Maggie sees Lucy as an associate of Tom's cruelty. Maggie also thinks that if Lucy had not been present, her brother would have made amends with her by now.

When Tom mentions...

(The entire section is 522 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 11 Summary

Maggie has given up hope of living happily with her family. Instead of walking toward home, she chooses the opposite direction. Her goal is to find a band of gypsies and run away with them. If she does, her brother will never see her again, which would serve him right for all the cruelties he has laid on her in recent weeks. Living with the gypsies is not a new concept for Maggie. She has been teased most of her life about looking and acting like a gypsy, so why not join them. Among them she might find a kindred spirit.

As she walks away from the Pullet farm, she sees two raggedly dressed men walking toward her. She is slightly concerned about them, as they make her realize this is the first time she has been so far...

(The entire section is 629 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 12 Summary

This chapter focuses on the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Glegg, who live in the quaint town of St. Ogg. At the time of the story, the narrator declares, ignorance is often honored over knowledge, and the common belief among men is that women prefer spreading gossip over reading a good book. This information is provided as an introduction to the mind of Mrs. Glegg.

The Gleggs live in a house that features two parlors; they give Mrs. Glegg a view from both the front and the back of her home. Mrs. Glegg often stands before the parlors' windows to "observe the weakness" of others. Her observations lead Mrs. Glegg to give thanks for her own exceptionally strong mind.

From the back windows, Mrs. Glegg tends to watch her...

(The entire section is 592 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 13 Summary

After promising Mrs. Tulliver she would try to resolve the family conflict, Mrs. Pullet visits their sister, Mrs. Glegg, in St. Ogg's; she will plead with her not to call in her loan to Mr. Tulliver. When she arrives, however, she discovers her sister has already made that decision on her own. To her surprise, Mrs. Pullet also learns that her sister is offended by her visit. Mrs. Glegg reprimands Mrs. Pullet for believing it was necessary to come all the way to St. Ogg's to inform her of the appropriate manner in which to behave. Mrs. Glegg already knows it would not look good from the neighbors' point of view if their family members were quarreling. Although Mrs. Glegg has softened her mood, she does take the opportunity to be...

(The entire section is 497 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 1 Summary

Tom Tulliver has left home and is entrenched in his studies at King’s Lorton, his private school. Reverend Walter Stelling is his teacher; he insists that Tom not only learn Latin but also correct usage and pronunciation of the English language. This makes Tom nervous; he is never able to relax, even at the dinner table, because Rev. Stelling is always correcting him. Tom is the only student at present. Rev. Stelling is the only teacher. They are together through most of the day.

Mr. Stelling is not severe, but he is insistent. A broad-chested man of near thirty, with blond hair and large gray eyes, Rev. Stelling is very self-confident. His dreams are more inclined toward education than religion, though he is a...

(The entire section is 502 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 2 Summary

Tom is home in time to share in the family’s Christmas celebration. However, the holidays are not as happy as they might have been. Mr. Tulliver is constantly in a bad mood because a neighbor wants to divert some of the water that the mill needs to properly function. The neighbor, Mr. Pivart, is new to the community and lives upriver of the Tulliver mill. Pivart wants to use the river, through a system of dams, to irrigate his fields. The Tulliver family has lived on the river and has run the mill for more than one hundred years, so Mr. Tulliver feels he has the right to claim the river for his purposes. However, Tulliver knows that a lawyer by the name of Wakem is planning to represent Pivart. Tulliver is very familiar with...

(The entire section is 525 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary

Tom returns to school with candy in his pocket to help keep his mood positive. He is introduced to his only fellow-student, Philip Wakem. Tom is already familiar with Philip because they both went to the same school before transferring to Rev. Stelling’s private tutoring. At St. Ogg’s, Tom had turned away from Philip both because of the boy’s deformed back and because he believed Philip must be bad because his father was bad.

Philip is a bright boy but very timid. Upon being left alone in the room with Tom, Philip senses that Tom, like most other people, is afraid to look at him because of his hunched back. Tom sees Philip’s deformity (which was caused by a childhood accident) as a symbol of the boy’s...

(The entire section is 528 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 4 Summary

Tom and Philip’s relationship has several different dimensions. On one hand, Tom continues to think that Philip, being the son of a rascal lawyer, is his natural enemy. He also has trouble getting over his repulsion of Philip’s deformity. It is in Tom’s nature to adhere very strongly to his first impressions. However, Tom has found Philip to be a likeable young lad. He likes Philip’s companionship on many levels, especially when Philip is in a good mood. Philip often helps Tom in his Latin studies, and he tells Tom exciting stories about Greek wars. Additionally Philip’s skill in drawing helps to draw Tom to him.

In the meantime, though, Rev. Stelling knows that Tom’s education will be limited by the boy’s...

(The entire section is 528 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 5 Summary

When Maggie arrives at the school, Tom and Philip still have not resolved their recent argument. This is the first time they have held onto their feelings of disgust for one another for so long. They have had similar problems, but normally they tended to pretend their antagonistic feelings for one another did not really exist.

Maggie’s arrival does not completely change the negative attitude between the boys, but she sees Philip in a completely different light than does her brother. Maggie is aware that her father does not like Philip’s father, but this does not overshadow her fascination with the lawyer’s son. Upon walking into the classroom, Maggie is immediately impressed with Philip’s cleverness. She hopes...

(The entire section is 443 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 6 Summary

Tom is in bed while his foot heals. Philip is the first one to suggest that the doctor tell Tom he will not be lame for the rest of his life because of the accident. No one but Philip understands that such a thought might be bothering Tom. Upon hearing this, Tom is quite relieved. His mood brightens, and he even encourages Philip to come often to his room to help him pass the time.

Maggie is visiting the school again. As Philip frequents Tom’s room, he also comes to know Maggie better. Philip continues to tell Tom stories about wars. When he relates how one soldier was wounded in the foot and complained so bitterly that his fellow soldiers could no longer stand to hear him, Tom boasts of how well he reacted to his...

(The entire section is 529 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 7 Summary

Tom is sixteen and has completed his fifth “half-year” at King’s Lorton. Maggie has been enrolled at Miss Firniss’s boarding school and enjoying her classes with Lucy as a companion, and she never fails to ask about Philip in her letters to her brother. Tom continues to find Philip a very ill-tempered boy. When the holidays come and Maggie has the chance to visit Tom at school, she conveniently forgets her promise to Philip that she will kiss him every time she sees him. Maggie realizes that she made that promise when she was still an innocent child. Now that she is a budding young woman, she knows kissing a man would be inappropriate, so she avoids it. When Mr. Wakem, Philip’s father, is called on to represent Pivart in...

(The entire section is 509 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 1 Summary

Upon hearing that he has lost the lawsuit, Mr. Tulliver at first bears the news very well. He even convinces himself that the loss has not affected him. He knew he would not let anyone think he was crushed by the blow, but it surprises him that he is not pretending this is so. Rather than feeling bitter or angry, Mr. Tulliver spends all his energy making plans to ward off any calamity. In fact, his mind is so full of thoughts of what he will do next that it is unsurprising that his face feels flushed when he mounts his horse to ride home.

However, on his way home, the resultant facts all come rushing in on him, and he realizes how dire his situation is. Not only has he lost the suit, which will cost him more money than...

(The entire section is 535 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 2 Summary

When Tom and Maggie finally arrive home, they are surprised to find a strange man in the parlor, sitting in their father’s chair and smoking a pipe. Maggie has no idea who the man is or why he is there. Tom’s first reaction is similar until he remembers hearing stories about bailiffs being sent to homes that are about to be sold due to lack of funds. This thought disgusts Tom; in the past these stories were meant to impart the sense of complete failure, of a family sinking to a level of disgraceful poverty.

Maggie feels concerned about her father; she runs upstairs and finds Mr. Tulliver asleep in his bed. Only then does Maggie consider her mother. She has Tom join her in searching the house for Mrs. Tulliver. They...

(The entire section is 520 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 3 Summary

The aunts and uncles are due to come today to consult with their sister. Mrs. Deane is the first to arrive in her new carriage. Mr. Deane has obviously been advancing in his riches, as quickly, it is observed, as Mr. Tulliver is falling. Upon seeing her sister near tears, Mrs. Deane reminds Mrs. Tulliver that trouble is sent for a reason and she must learn to bear it. She adds that she is willing to send “jelly” for Mr. Tulliver, should the doctor order it. Mrs. Tulliver thanks her sister but adds that the doctor has not yet mentioned the need for jelly. This frivolous offer on Mrs. Deane’s part is almost insulting; the Tulliver family is deep in debt and has need of so much more than a jar of jelly.

After this...

(The entire section is 598 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 4 Summary

Mr. Tulliver’s sister, Mrs. Moss, comes as soon as she hears that her brother is not well. She shows genuine distress about both her brother’s condition and his financial worries. She wants to repay a loan he had given her family a few years ago, but she and her husband are in financial straits, too, and she does not know how she can do so. Tom remembers a conversation with his father in which Mr. Tulliver said he did not intend to let the Mosses repay the loan; he gave the money freely and would rather not be repaid. Tom is worried that if his father does not regain his senses to speak for himself, when he is declared bankrupt the banks will make Mrs. Moss pay back the money. Uncle Glegg tells Tom that they need to find the...

(The entire section is 551 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 5 Summary

Tom reflects on his Uncle Deane’s business success and concludes that if anyone can advise him on finding a job, it is this uncle. So the next day, Tom heads out to St. Ogg’s to visit his uncle. Unlike Maggie, Tom does not feel angry toward his aunts and uncles for not being more generous. He understands that his family cannot demand money from their relatives when his father had not properly taken care of the family’s business. He does not think other people are obliged to make his life easy. Therefore, he will not ask anyone to help him except to give him work and pay him for his labors.

Tom knows his uncles’ histories. Uncle Glegg and Uncle Deane had once been very poor. If they could make money, he can, too....

(The entire section is 540 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 6 Summary

It is December, and most of the furnishings of the Tulliver household are being sold. Mr. Tulliver comes in and out of conscious during the two days of the sale but remains somewhat unaware of what is going on around him. After the auction of their belongings is done, Mrs. Tulliver looks as if she has aged ten years. Her face looks more lined and there appear to be more gray streaks in her hair.

Around six in the evening, Kezia, the Tulliver’s housemaid, tells Tom that he has a visitor. When Tom comes downstairs, he does not recognize the young man waiting for him. The stranger looks about two years older than Tom; he has red hair and blue eyes and a face full of freckles. As the two of them walk to the parlor, Tom...

(The entire section is 548 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 7 Summary

While Mr. Tulliver’s health slowly improves, his lot in life quickly deteriorates. First the furnishings of the Tulliver’s home were bought by strangers; now the livestock are being made ready to be put up for sale. Following this will be the auction of the family’s house and mill. Although Mrs. Tulliver and Tom and Maggie are well aware of what is going on around them, Mr. Tulliver appears stuck in the first stages of his predicament. During his few, irregular moments of clarity, Mr. Tulliver talks to his wife about his plans to save their home upon his feeling better. Mr. Tulliver cannot yet imagine how deep his troubles have grown.

Mrs. Tulliver and her children have not lost all hope of something working in...

(The entire section is 554 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 8 Summary

Mr. Tulliver comes downstairs for the first time. Mrs. Tulliver has Tom wait before he goes to work so he will be there when Mr. Tulliver first sees how desolate the house looks without furniture. Mr. Tulliver’s doctor is concerned that a rush of information might put Mr. Tulliver back into his less conscious state; he bids the family to let Mr. Tulliver learn of the family’s current situation as slowly as possible.

Things have gotten worse for the Tullivers. Mr. Deane and his company were not able to purchase the land and mill because Mr. Wakem outbid him. Everything now belongs to Wakem. Conveniently for Wakem, he had come to call on the Tullivers while both Mr. Glegg and Mr. Deane were present. Wakem let it be...

(The entire section is 485 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 3, Chapter 9 Summary

As Mr. Tulliver’s health improves and his mind is better able to grasp the major changes that have evolved in his life, his mood becomes more negative. As he thinks about his options, he realizes that there is not much he can do to improve the conditions of his family’s current status. He has spent all his working years ordering other people around. He has no other aptitude. He might take a job doing physical labor, he thinks. There is also the possibility that his wife’s sisters might help them out financially. However, the more he thinks about both of these options, the less he likes them. Neither of these proposals hold any meaning, once Tulliver reflects on them. He is angry with his wife’s family for having allowed all...

(The entire section is 499 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 4, Chapter 1 Summary

The narrator states that this chapter concerns some of the beliefs of the characters involved in this story in order to help readers better understand why the characters act the ways they do. It focuses on the Tullivers and the Dodsons (Mrs. Tulliver’s side of the family).

Readers might find the lives of the Tullivers and Dodsons oppressive, with their lack of romantic visions and “self-renouncing faith.” They seem unmoved by wild, uncontrollable passions; their lives are devoid of any of the “poetry” of peasant life. Instead, these families are ruled by conventional habits and proud respectability. The little religion that guides their lives is not much above the “pagan.” They believe what their parents...

(The entire section is 500 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 4, Chapter 2 Summary

Mr. Tulliver has recuperated and is back at work overseeing the mill—only now Mr. Wakem is his employer. Tom has busied himself with work in the town and does not have much to say when he is home. Tom has focused his life on his pursuit of “ambitious resistance to misfortune.” Mrs. Tulliver seems to be the most worn down by the drama of the past few months. She cannot seem to return to her old ways. All the things that had once occupied her days are now missing from her home—the linens she tended, the pots and pans she scrubbed; all the things she once cared for are gone. She is growing thinner every day, worrying over the loss of her lifetime of collecting treasures. She does not notice until Maggie calls her on ruining...

(The entire section is 492 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 4, Chapter 3 Summary

One day while Maggie is sitting outside reading a book, she hears footsteps walking toward her. She looks up to find Bob, the young man from Tom’s boyhood who thanked Tom for giving him a pocketknife when they were children. When Maggie explains that Tom is at work, Bob tells Maggie that the real reason for his visit is to see her. Then Bob opens a sack he is holding and takes out several small books. Bob tells Maggie that he knows she felt sad about losing all her books, and he hopes his small offering will make her feel better.

Bob leafs through each of the books and points out the pictures of gentlemen in one and ladies in another. He comments that some of the people have on wigs while others do not. Some of the...

(The entire section is 522 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 1 Summary

Maggie is now seventeen; she is sitting in the parlor when she sees Mr. Wakem ride up the path. Someone is with him. When they come closer to the house, Maggie recognizes Philip, Wakem’s son. Maggie feels too embarrassed to see him, especially with his father and her father close by, so she takes her books and goes upstairs to her room. But she wonders how Philip might have changed. She knows he has spent years abroad and thinks he might not even remember her. Philip might have no desire to talk to her.

As she stares at Philip from her bedroom window, Maggie notices that his looks have barely changed. He is bigger but still has a young boy’s features, emphasized by his large gray eyes and wavy dark hair. She...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 2 Summary

Tom’s Uncle Deane has taken Tom under his care, at least as far as business goes. When Mr. Deane, a ship owner, has the time, he calls Tom into his office and teaches him about the import and export business. Tom has done well at the job Mr. Deane has given him and is in his second year with his uncle. Although Tom has already received an increase in salary, most of what he makes goes into his father’s savings box. Tom is determined to help his father repay all his debts. The process is very slow, however. In two years, together they have not even saved two hundred pounds—less than half of what Tulliver owes.

Tom’s Uncle Glegg has also taken an interest in Tom’s financial success. Glegg encourages the boy; he...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 3 Summary

On the appointed day, Maggie walks out into the field, determined to tell Philip that this will be the last time they will meet. When she sees him, the first words that come out of her mouth are, “I have made up my mind.” She tells him the only way they could continue to see one another would be through “concealment.” In other words, she would have to lie to her parents about what she is doing. No good can ever come from lying, Maggie says to Philip. If they were found out, there would be anger. Then when they were forced to part, it would be worse because they will have reignited their feelings for one another.

Philip is ready to resist Maggie’s conclusion, but he decides to take a subtle direction. First he...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 4 Summary

Almost a year has passed, and Maggie and Philip are still secretly meeting in the field next to Maggie’s home. She is reading a book Philip lent to her, and she does not want to finish it. She is tired of reading about light-haired protagonists winning the lover over their dark-complexioned rivals. The blond-haired women in books gain all the happiness. She asks Philip to find her a book in which a dark-haired woman thrives.

Philip suggests that maybe Maggie will avenge all dark-haired women in real life by carrying away all the love from her light-haired cousin, Lucy. Philip says Lucy probably has some handsome suitor right now whom Maggie could easily steal. “You have only to shine upon him,” Philip says.


(The entire section is 476 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 5 Summary

Maggie and Philip enjoy meeting in secret for almost a year before they are found out. The person who gives them away comes as a surprise to them: it is Maggie’s Aunt Pullet. On a Sunday after church, Mrs. Pullet rides past the fields on her way to a visit with her sister, Mrs. Glegg. Afterward, she comes to see her more unfortunate sister, Bessy Tulliver.

Tom is home when his aunt arrives, and he is in an exceptionally good mood. He is even thoughtful enough to include Maggie in his invitation to walk outside with their mother and aunt. Tom has become more tolerant of Maggie since she has curbed her childhood tendency toward rebellion. Tom also is becoming proud of Maggie, especially after hearing flattering comments...

(The entire section is 559 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 6 Summary

Three weeks after Tom found out about Maggie’s relationship with Philip, Tom again comes home early from work. Although his communications with his sister have ceased, neither of their parents has noticed the tension between Tom and Maggie. Both Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver have been too lost in their own gloom, still suffering from their losses of the past few years.

Tom, however, is in a good mood and calls his parents into the parlor. Once they are both seated, Tom asks his father to tell him the exact amount of money that has been saved. Mr. Tulliver gives him a figure, which is short of two hundred pounds. Mr. Tulliver comments on how frustrating it is that it takes so much time to save so little.


(The entire section is 525 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 7 Summary

At the meeting between Mr. Tulliver and his creditors, Mr. Tulliver takes a drink. This is unusual for the man, and most believe the action is a sign that the sudden surprise of his fortune is too much for Tulliver’s frail health. However, as the meeting progresses, Tulliver appears to gain strength and confidence. Before the meeting is concluded, Tulliver makes a speech in which he asserts his “honest principles” and compares them to those of the “rascal” who would rather see him put down. He has triumphed in spite of the attempts of some people who wanted to see him fail. He has worked hard, and through his efforts and those of his “good” son, he has prevailed.

Mr. Deane adds a few words about the fine...

(The entire section is 505 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 1 Summary

The scene changes to the Deanes’ home, where cousin Lucy is sitting with Stephan Guest. It is not official, but Lucy and Stephan are very near to being engaged. Lucy is dressed in black because the family is still in mourning for Mr. Tulliver, Lucy’s uncle. Stephan appears bored; he is teasing Lucy’s dog with a pair of scissors. Lucy tells Stephan to stop making her dog angry so she can tell Stephan some news. Then she tells him to guess what the news might be.

After Stephan makes several ridiculous guesses, Lucy claims that he must think she is silly. She then adds that Philip Wakem told her that Stephan said he likes women to be “insipid.” Stephan responds that Philip’s remark does not surprise him....

(The entire section is 458 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 2 Summary

Maggie has arrived at the Deanes’ house, and Lucy is talking to her about Stephan. Lucy says she is sure Maggie will like him. Maggie, however, is not so sure. She says any man who thinks he is good enough for her cousin will have to be scrutinized very carefully. Maggie tells Lucy she will be very difficult to please. Lucy claims that Stephan is actually too good for her. When he is not with her, she cannot imagine why he loves her. However, she never doubts his love when he is with her. She then admits that she has never told anyone else how she feels about him. She also confesses that she would rather not be engaged just yet. She likes the way their relationship is without a commitment to marriage. She hopes they are able to...

(The entire section is 494 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 3 Summary

When Maggie retires to her room at Lucy’s house, she cannot fall asleep. She is agitated but cannot figure out why. She thinks back to the details of the day. Everything was stimulating, especially in comparison to the life she had experienced before coming to the Deanes’ house. There was music, good food, and stimulating conversations. There was also Mr. Stephan Guest, who was very obvious about his admiration of her.

Maggie tries but cannot reconstruct the mental mode of removing all emotions from her being. She had been able to do this once in the past, but she shudders now just thinking about it. There was a time when she had thought all her longing and impatience had been subdued. No matter how hard she prayed...

(The entire section is 515 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 4 Summary

Maggie goes to visit Tom to ask his permission to see Philip. Tom is now living with Bob in a small house near the water. Bob has married a very small but friendly woman who invites Maggie into her home as if they have known one another for a long time. Bob’s wife says Bob has often talked about Maggie. When Bob appears, he tells Maggie that Tom, despite his good fortune in the trading business, appears to be depressed. Bob thinks the reason might be that Tom has been rejected in love. He asks Maggie to talk to her brother to find out what is truly wrong with him. Maggie says she has no power with Tom. She fears that he will not open up to her.

Eventually Tom comes into the room, and Bob leaves the brother and sister...

(The entire section is 500 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 5 Summary

Mr. Deane has called his nephew, Tom, into his office to discuss a business proposition. Deane starts the conversation by comparing the present time to when he was Tom’s age. He tells his nephew that it took much longer for a young man to progress. Everything moved slower back then. However, now there are steam engines that speed productions, and with the population growing, there are greater demands for goods. This means there are opportunities for young men to advance at a much quicker pace.

As his uncle continues, Tom anticipates what Deane is about to say. In the past few weeks, his uncle has thrown out hints that Tom might expect a promotion in position as well as a bigger salary. Tom has been working for his...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 6 Summary

Maggie is enjoying a lot of attention in the society of St. Ogg’s. She attends dances, wears fancy dresses, and is very aware of the young women talking about her and the young men flirting with her. Thus Maggie is introduced to the way of life of a young, well-to-do lady. She gets up in the morning without having anything special that must be done. She enjoys unchecked leisure, an abundance of music, and long walks in the sunshine. As time passes, the haunting memories of her troubled youth begin to slip away. She has become, she realizes, a woman who is noticed. This is something very new for her.

Philip has not yet shown himself. He had not known that Maggie was in town when he made plans to spend a couple of weeks...

(The entire section is 554 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 7 Summary

On a rainy day, Philip comes to visit at Lucy’s house. He feels some apprehension because this will be his first time to see Maggie since Tom forced him off the Tulliver property. Philip is not sure how Maggie will greet him. However, Philip is pleasantly surprised when Maggie puts out her hands to him and greets him with a smile and a few tears, which he believes are due to happiness. Maggie tells Philip that Tom has released her from her promise to not see him, so they are free to enjoy one another’s friendship.

Maggie relates some of the things she has been doing while staying with Lucy. She is enjoying a great holiday, she says, with Lucy acting as if she were her fairy godmother. During this exchange, Maggie...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 8 Summary

Lucy has informed Philip that Tom wants to regain ownership of the family mill. Knowing that this was Mr. Tulliver’s dying wish, Philip believes his efforts in returning the mill to Tom and Maggie will win him favor with the brother and sister. So Philip devises a plan.

First Philip invites his father to his painting studio. First Mr. Wakem looks at the many landscape pictures, commenting on the quality of his son’s art. Then in a far corner Mr. Wakem notices two portraits. One is a small drawing of a young girl. The other is a much larger piece of a young woman. He asks his son who the models are. Philip explains they are the same person, Maggie Tulliver.

Mr. Wakem’s face reddens as he turns to face...

(The entire section is 601 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 9 Summary

All the well-dressed people of St. Ogg’s come to the town fair. Maggie enjoys a lot of flattering attention. Although she is obviously dressed in a plain, muslin, hand-me-down outfit, she is admired for her simple beauty and lack of adornment. Her manner is distinctive too; she puts on none of the artificial airs of her contemporaries.

Inside the town hall, many of the female citizens have set up tables to display their handicrafts and ware, which they are selling for charity. People from all around come to support their efforts as well as to see all the young ladies dressed in their finest garments.

Lucy and Stephan are there, and Lucy is enjoying the exclusive attention of her beau. She does notice,...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 10 Summary

The night before she is to leave St. Ogg’s, Maggie attends a dance with Lucy. She mostly stands on the sidelines because she is not in a mood to dance. When men pursue her, she tells them she cannot dance. The only dance in which she is willing to participate is a lively country dance, which is finally played. She enjoys the vigorous steps although she is not very attracted to her partner, a young, insignificant male named Torry.

Stephan has not paid much attention to Maggie all night. Instead, he has put all his energies into Lucy. Eventually, he finds he is bored with Lucy and cannot wait until the dance he is sharing with her is over. He has noticed that some other young man has finally succeeded in getting Maggie...

(The entire section is 482 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 11 Summary

Before moving to the coast to begin her new job, Maggie stays with her father’s sister, Mrs. Moss. Maggie is outside playing with her small cousins when Mrs. Moss calls out that someone is riding up the lane. Maggie looks up and recognizes Stephan riding fast toward the house on a tall bay horse. When her aunt asks who the man is, Maggie says he is her cousin Lucy’s intended.

As soon as he is near enough, Stephan jumps off his horse and asks to see Maggie in private because he has a very personal message to deliver. Then he asks Maggie to walk with him. Maggie recognizes an annoyed look on his face and wonders what is wrong.

Neither of them says a word until they are out into the lane. Finally Maggie...

(The entire section is 571 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 12 Summary

Maggie had previously planned a visit to her Aunt Pullet’s home before leaving for the coast to teach. In the meantime, many things have happened within the family, and so a celebration has been planned. The reason for the party involves the fortunate circumstances that have affected the Tullivers—in particular, the return of the family to the mill.

Lucy has come early so that she can have some undisturbed discussions with Maggie. She tells Maggie that she feels as if everything is finally working for the good of Maggie’s family. It was bad news to hear about the accidental death of “young Jetsome,” the man who had previously worked the mill for Mr. Wakem, but this occurrence has caused Wakem to turn over the...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 13 Summary

A few days later, while Maggie is still visiting her relatives and helping her brother and mother move back into the mill, Lucy notices that her cousin seems depressed. Lucy thinks this moodiness is caused by Tom’s refusal to sanction Maggie and Philip’s marriage and Maggie’s subsequent self-banishment to the coast. What Lucy does not understand is that Maggie feels tormented by her attraction to Stephan Guest, Lucy’s intended.

Maggie believes she is going through the worst emotional battle of her life. Sometimes selfishness overcomes her and she questions what is wrong with causing Philip and Lucy to suffer should she and Stephan become lovers. After all, Maggie has experienced much suffering in her life; maybe...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 14 Summary

After spending the night on the deck of the boat, Maggie awakens from a dream in a dreadful mood. When Stephan opens his eyes, he can feel that something is wrong. He knows Maggie has changed her mind, and this alarms him. He realizes that he had not allowed her to make a decision the day before. He had, instead, forced her into a situation he had contrived. Because of this, he would not blame her for hating him.

Maggie does not feel anger toward Stephan. She is angry with herself for yet another example of her weaknesses. They sit in silence, holding hands, waiting for the fateful moment when the ship lands and they must choose which direction they will take. When Stephan does talk, his words express his hope. He...

(The entire section is 470 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 7, Chapter 1 Summary

Five days have passed since Maggie and Stephan left on their boating excursion. No one has heard from either of them. Bob Jakin, though, saw Maggie and Stephan at the port when they got off the ship. Now all speculation of Maggie and Stephan’s possible drowning has ceased, and Tom is extremely angry. At first Tom had thought that maybe Maggie and Stephan might have eloped. Later, though, Tom put this thought out of his mind. He knows his sister too well. Tom suspects that the worst will happen: she will return completely disgraced.

Tom is out in the yard when he looks up and sees Maggie walking toward the mill gate. When he recognizes her, he is filled with disgust and indignation. Maggie greets him by saying that she...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 7, Chapter 2 Summary

The townspeople of St. Ogg’s are quick to pass judgment on Maggie. She ran away with a man and then returned with no promise of marriage, no after-wedding trousseau, and no husband. The man can be forgiven but not the woman. She will be scarred for life, as long as she lives in St. Ogg’s. Had she at least returned home with Stephan Guest at her side, and they were husband and wife, all would eventually be forgotten. This, however, is not the case.

Since her return, Maggie has been focused on what happened between her and Stephan as well as her abandonment by her brother. Maggie has paid little attention to the gossip about her. She rarely goes outside of her room at Bob’s house, and when she does, she has little...

(The entire section is 468 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 7, Chapter 3 Summary

Maggie’s Aunt Glegg surprises the family. When Maggie disappeared, Aunt Glegg first thought that her niece had drowned. She became depressed and closed her shutters, refusing to go out. However, when Aunt Glegg learns from Tom that Maggie has come home and then hears what Tom said to Maggie, the old aunt is furious. No matter what someone in the family does, according to Aunt Glegg, family members must always stick together and support one another. Tom was awful, in Aunt Glegg’s mind, to refuse to shelter and love his sister. Aunt Glegg also argues with her husband for turning his complete sympathies toward Lucy. He has no compassion for Maggie and judges her as harshly as any other citizen of St. Ogg’s does.


(The entire section is 544 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 7, Chapter 4 Summary

Dr. Kenn has talked to almost every one of his parishioners in an attempt to find employment for Maggie. He cannot understand how everyone can be so unforgiving. No matter how hard he urges them, everyone argues against him. No one is willing to trust Maggie. No one believes the letter from Stephan. They are convinced that Maggie is guilty. If she were not, they say, would her brother turn her out? Would Maggie not go live with her aunt Glegg if she were innocent?

Finally Dr. Kenn comes to the last person who might offer Maggie a job and is turned down again. Then he realizes that since his wife died, he has needed a tutor for his young children. When he remembers this, he decides to offer the job to Maggie. It does not...

(The entire section is 495 words.)

The Mill on the Floss Book 7, Chapter 5 Summary

Maggie is alone in her room. She has a candle lit and is looking at a letter she received that day. The letter has added more gloom to her already depressed mood.

Earlier, Dr. Kenn had been forced to advise Maggie to leave town. He was losing parishioners because he employed her. The perceived scandal between Maggie and Dr. Kenn was threatening to destroy the pastor’s influence in his community. He had told her that she should go away just for a little time until the gossip cooled down. Maggie had agreed. She had no other choice; the decision was not really hers to make.

As she sits in her room, unable to sleep while everyone else in St. Ogg’s appears to have gone to bed, she wonders why she has been so...

(The entire section is 584 words.)