The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 4 Summary

George Eliot

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 alone so they can talk. Maggie does not hesitate to tell her brother why she is there. She asks him to release her from her promise to not see Philip. She explains that she has not broken her promise in all this time, and she is not asking permission for herself but rather for Lucy, who wants to invite Philip to her house.

Maggie is surprised to find that her request does not anger her brother. However, she can tell he is not pleased with her. Tom tells Maggie that he could never approve of her involvement with Philip if for no other reason than that Philip’s father would never agree to their marriage. Tom reminds Maggie of the last scene between their father and Mr. Wakem, during which their father beat Wakem. Tom asks, how could Mr. Wakem ever forget what their father did to him?

Maggie assures Tom that she only wants to be friends with Philip. She realizes that they can never be lovers. She is hurt, though, when her brother says he does not trust her judgment. Tom then criticizes Maggie for acting in extreme ways. He says she does not have very good control of her thoughts or her emotions. Despite this, she always thinks she knows best and is resistant to his counsel.

Maggie attempts to explain that she and Tom have very different characters. They are so dissimilar that they will never fully understand one another. She appreciates what Tom tries to do for her, but circumstances affect her differently than they affect him. Tom accepts this assessment; however, he maintains that Maggie loses herself in extremes. One day, he says, Maggie is absorbed in complete self-denial of all emotions, but the next day she is reacting to any frivolous feeling no matter what the consequences might be.

The brother and sister part when Tom says he is too busy to talk any longer. Maggie asks if she can stop by another day and share tea with him. Tom graciously accepts this. When Maggie says she might turn out better than Tom can imagine, Tom says he hopes she does.