George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss Essay

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George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss

George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss is a semi-autobiographical novel that traces the development of Maggie Tulliver, a character who finds herself caught in a web of conflict with her family and community as a result of both circumstance and her unique and spirited disposition. The narrative casts Maggie as a tragic heroin as she struggles between impulse and duty to define herself as an individual as “at one time [she] takes pleasure in a sort of perverse self-denial, and at another [she] have not solution to resist a thing that [she] knows to be wrong” (393). Maggie finds herself a member of a society in which reputation, respectability, and tradition are paramount; values which shape many of
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This statement is the first of many similar assertions that portray a threat the characters perceive in the actions of others, that is that they are likely to effect the world’s wife’s perceptions of themselves. Consequently, the characters strive to influence the actions of their peers in an attempt to maintain or better their own repute, efforts which at times shape the events of the novel. For example, upon Mr. Tulliver’s incurring of debt, Maggie seeks to “contribute something towards the fund in the tin box,” which holds the savings meant to repay the debtors; she therefore asks for fabric at a linen shop in St. Ogg’s to use for her “work at plain sewing” (293). Upon learning of this action, Tom (Maggie’s brother) admonishes her, stating “I don’t like my sister to do such things. I’ll take care that the debts are paid” (293). The stressing of the words “my” and “I’ll” in this reproof suggest that Tom views Maggie’s actions in regards to himself, or on the effect they’ll have on others’ opinions of him. This and other similar reproaches made by Tom towards his sister are in part responsible for leading Maggie “to be contented with hardness and require nothing,” (293) ultimately altering Maggie’s character to one “who was become so submissive, so backward to assert her own will” (294). Tom’s preoccupation with the effect of Maggie’s actions on himself therefore

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