The Mill on the Floss

by George Eliot

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Student Question

In The Mill on the Floss, how does Maggie's relationship with Stephen differ from her relationship with Tom in Book 6?

Expert Answers

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Stephen and Tom are very alike.  How often it is that women become attracted to the qualities possessed by their fathers, or father figures.  Both men are self-confident and arrogant.  They each believe that they alone know what is best for all the people in their life, particularly Maggie.  However, Maggie's reactions to each are very different.  In response to Tom's bossiness, she is rebellious and duplicitious.  She works hard to undermine Tom, trying to please him in certain ways so that he will give in to what she really wants.  She  tricks him in this way in regards to Phillip, letting him think that she only wants to be friends with Phillip so that Tom will relent and allow her to see him. 

With Stephen, she responds to his bossiness.  She has misgivings about his flirtatious behavior towards her, but she listens to his compliments and is led by them.  She allows him to lead her into a dangerous situation that leads to her ruin.  Her attraction to him has  blinded her.  In the end, of course, her confidence comes out and she does stand up to him.

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