The Mill on the Floss Book 5, Chapter 4 Summary

George Eliot

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.

Maggie does not find this statement flattering. She also does not believe she has a chance to take anything away from Lucy, who has every advantage over her. Lucy has nice clothes and good schooling, and she is “ten times” prettier than Maggie is. Maggie adds that she is not jealous of blond-haired women. Rather, she always cheers for the people who are most unhappy. If a light-complexioned woman in a story were unhappy, she would champion her.

Philip asks if this means Maggie could never reject a lover. He adds that he has always wondered if she could love a man whom other women are unable to love. To add to the scenario, he asks what if this man has no reason to be conceited because he was marked for suffering from childhood—and what if this man is someone who loves her so much that he finds happiness in merely being able to see her for rare, brief moments. After saying this, Philip worries that he has exposed himself to a greater degree than he should have. To his relief, he notices that Maggie has a new expression on her face. It does not reflect disgust; rather, it is as if Maggie has just heard something she had never imagined. However, she is trembling and seems about to cry. Philip blurts out an apology, saying he is a fool for having said so much. He asks if she now hates him.

Maggie answers by saying she does not think she could love anyone more than she loves Philip. However, she thinks it best if they not discuss this. Their friendship is so tenuous; if they were found out, they would never be able to meet again. She says she would love to spend the rest of her life with Philip if it were possible, but she would never do anything that would hurt her father. Philip will not allow this to deter him. As long as he knows Maggie loves him, he will have hope that they will be together one day. He is willing to wait for that chance.