The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 5 Summary

George Eliot

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 Philip will also find her clever. Later, Maggie does not refrain from telling her brother that she thinks Philip is very nice. She reminds Tom that Philip did not choose his father and, therefore, should not be punished for his parentage. Besides, Maggie believes Philip deserves their love even more because his father is so bad. Tom then tells Maggie that he and Philip have had a fight and that the boy has been “sulky” toward him ever since. Then Tom excuses himself because he wants to go do something in his bedroom that he would tell Maggie about later.

In the evening, Maggie sits with the boys as they study. She stares at one boy and then the other, observing the manner in which they seem to learn. She is impressed at the ease with which Philip reads his books. When Philip catches Maggie staring at him, he is attracted to her eyes, which he finds full of “unsatisfied intelligence.” He wishes he had a sister like Maggie and decides that she must be much nicer than her brother is.

When Tom is finished studying, he tells Maggie to follow him upstairs. He says what he is about to show her must remain a secret. He has her stand in his room with her eyes covered. When he tells her to look, Maggie is transfixed. Tom has wound a red handkerchief around his cap like a turban. On his face, he has a frown he has been practicing in the mirror. Maggie says Tom has made himself look like a pirate. This unimpressive remark makes Tom take more drastic measures. He unsheathes and points the sword at his sister. This frightens Maggie, which pleases Tom. He readjusts the sword as if to swing it around, but the sword is heavier than he expects and it falls to the ground, piercing Tom’s foot. Maggie shrieks. Tom faints. Rev. Stelling comes running.