The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 3 Summary

George Eliot

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 suggests that they walk together and merely enjoy the time they have together without thinking about what lies ahead. He takes her hand, and they walk in silence. At a certain point, Philip suggests that they sit so he can make sketches of Maggie. He will spend his time away from her, painting a picture of her.

As Philip concentrates on his drawing, Maggie says it seems that all he thinks about is his art. Philip denies this and says he thinks about a lot of different things. He uses a metaphor to explain his thoughts, saying that he sows a lot of seeds but gains no great harvest from any of them. He is cursed, he states, by wanting to do so many different things without being particularly good at any of them.

Maggie relates to what Philip is describing. She, too, wants many different things. However, she knows now that her life will be of no special consequence, and she has resigned herself to it. The only way she can gain any sense of contentment is to want nothing. She tells Philip she is teaching herself to subdue her own will.

This angers Philip. He says she is shutting herself up in a delusion. She is trying to escape pain by making herself numb to the world and everything around her. She has not gained peace as she has suggested; she has only reached “stupefaction” and ignorance. This makes tears come to Maggie’s eyes. There is some truth in what Philip is saying, though Maggie does not want to fully accept it. Philip knows he is telling Maggie something that might do some good for her, but he also realizes that he stands to benefit if he can convince her to live for enjoyment and include him in her life.

Finally Philip tells Maggie there is one way around their problem: no one can accuse them of concealment if they meet in the field on another day by accident. So they part without any plan of ever seeing one another again.