The Mill on the Floss

by George Eliot

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Book 6, Chapter 12 Summary

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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 old Tulliver homestead to the original owners even earlier than had previously been decided. Now the Tullivers can all live together again, and Maggie will not have to go away, Lucy points out. Even Aunt Pullet uses her wits to keep Maggie from “going into service” (taking a job). Aunt Pullet teases that she would not give any more gifts to Maggie if she were to go away. Even Mr. Glegg teases Maggie, suggesting that she must have at least a dozen male friends by now who would gladly marry her so she might not have to leave St. Ogg’s to go to work.

Maggie ignores the teasing when her brother, Tom, arrives. This is the first time she has seen Tom since the mill was restored to the family. Maggie continues to want Tom’s affection and hopes she has finally won his loyalty by refusing to marry Philip. However, Lucy has other ideas. She wants to talk to Tom in private to beg him to forgive the Wakems. Lucy believes that Maggie truly loves Philip and is refusing to marry him only because she does not want to lose her brother’s friendship. Lucy believes Tom’s heart will be more flexible now that he has the mill, so she takes this occasion to try to talk him into accepting Maggie’s marriage to Philip. Unfortunately, Lucy does not fully understand how deeply the bitterness is rooted in Tom’s heart.

Lucy is puzzled when she sees Tom’s expression change when she mentions the possibility that Philip and Maggie could be married. Even after Lucy mentions that Mr. Wakem is ready to receive Maggie as his daughter-in-law, Tom remains adamant that his sister should not marry Philip. Although Tom is well aware of his father’s ignorance and biases and has pursued a much more tolerant path of his own, on this one matter he will not budge. He will never sanction such a union, he tells Lucy. Maggie can still do whatever she wants, but Tom will break off his relationship with his sister if she marries Philip. Lucy had thought she would be improving the friendship between Tom and Maggie, but in the end she only worsens the bitterness. After this conversation, Tom believes that his sister continues to pursue a path through which she can marry Philip.

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