The Mill on the Floss Book 7, Chapter 2 Summary

George Eliot

Book 7, Chapter 2 Summary

The townspeople of St. Ogg’s are quick to pass judgment on Maggie. She ran away with a man and then returned with no promise of marriage, no after-wedding trousseau, and no husband. The man can be forgiven but not the woman. She will be scarred for life, as long as she lives in St. Ogg’s. Had she at least returned home with Stephan Guest at her side, and they were husband and wife, all would eventually be forgotten. This, however, is not the case.

Since her return, Maggie has been focused on what happened between her and Stephan as well as her abandonment by her brother. Maggie has paid little attention to the gossip about her. She rarely goes outside of her room at Bob’s house, and when she does, she has little mental energy to spare to look around her.

However, one day when she is determined to speak to her pastor, Dr. Kenn, she steps outside of Bob’s house and finds she is uncommonly sensitive to the stares she receives. That is, some of the people stare at her while many others, people she has known all her life, actually turn away from her as she draws near. The worst is the way Torry greets her. Torry once had a serious crush on Maggie. On this day, Torry sees Maggie coming and bows cordially to her, the way he would have bowed to a barmaid. Although the treatment she receives causes Maggie much pain, this discomfort is only minimal in comparison to her own self-incrimination. 

When she reaches the rectory, Maggie is immediately taken upstairs to meet with Dr. Kenn. The pastor had been very friendly and supportive of Maggie in the past. Maggie needs someone to talk to, and she hopes Dr. Kenn is still open to her.

Once she is seated, Maggie’s strength leaves her, and she cries when she begins to speak. Slowly she tells the pastor all the details of those fateful five days she spent with Stephan. The pastor listens very attentively. Then he tells her that he has read a letter Stephan sent to his father to explain the situation and to take full blame for what has happened. The pastor confirms that he would have believed Maggie’s story even without Stephan’s letter. However, he advises her to leave the town and try to start a new life somewhere else. The pastor states that though he lives by the Christian rules, not all the citizens of St. Ogg’s practice their religion in the same way. They are small-minded about Maggie’s situation and probably will never forgive her. When Maggie answers that she does not have any desire to go anywhere else, Dr. Kenn offers to help her find a job nearby.