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The Mill on the Floss (1860)

by George Eliot

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7,985112910 (3.79)481
Set in nineteenth-century England, this great novel of domestic realism sympathetically portrays a young woman's vain efforts to adapt to her provincial world. Maggie Tulliver, whose father owns a mill perched on the banks of the River Floss, is intelligent and imaginative beyond the understanding of her community, her relatives, and particularly her brother Tom. Despite their opposite temperaments, Maggie and Tom are united by a strong bond. But this bond suffers when Tom's sense of family honor leads him to forbid her to associate with the one friend who appreciates her intelligence and imagination. Later, when Maggie falls in love with the handsome and passionate fiancé of her cousin and is caught in a compromising situation, she fears her relationship with Tom may never recover.… (more)
  1. 130
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (ncgraham)
    ncgraham: Two Victorian heroines approach the question of how to reconcile passion and morality in very different ways.
  2. 100
    Middlemarch by George Eliot (Booksloth)
  3. 41
    Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (Booksloth)
  4. 64
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (roby72)
  5. 00
    David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (kara.shamy)
1860s (5)
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English (109)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (111)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
This book was good, but slow. This will mark my fourth George Eliot novel. You can say now that I'm a fan of her writing. I liked the sister/brother relationship, although it ends bittersweet. One thing I learned for Eliot's books already is don't expect a happy ending. With all that said, I think I read this book at a perfect time. I wasn't looking for something quick, fun, or happy. I wouldn't say this is a hard book to read, just slow and you need to take you time. ( )
  Ghost_Boy | Aug 25, 2022 |
I first read Mill on the Floss when I was thirteen years old. It was an English class assignment for my older sister, and, as I frequently did, I stole away to read the book while it was in her possession. I remember being blown away and the two of us discussing it at length, and I have always regarded it as my favorite Eliot, although I have read many others since and consider Middlemarch to be a masterpiece of literary achievement.

The thing is, I came to it this time from a much older point of view, and while I’m sure that the love story and the tragedy were the focus of my first reading, the familial love and the questions of how much we owe to the feelings of others, if those are soothed to the detriment of ourselves, are the central issues I found myself struggling with this time around.

Maggie is quick and bright, but her father, who loves her dearly, expresses a concern that such attributes are not an asset in a girl. Tom, her brother, is not suited for study, and would make a better use of his time by learning the business of the mill, but he must endure the schoolhouse because he is meant to make something more of himself. Frequently we see society forcing round pegs into square holes and wondering at the shavings that are left behind.

No one tackles the serious issue of morality with a more even hand than George Eliot. She does not turn away from the hard issues, which always puts me in mind of Hardy, and she does not tie anything up with a bow to make it seem sweeter than it is. Is there a breathing human being who thinks Maggie Tulliver got a fair shake? At one point in the novel Maggie says to Bob, “I haven’t many friends who care for me.” and Bob answers, “Hev a dog, Miss!--they’re better friends nor any Christian.” I tend to agree with him that a dog would have served Maggie better than most of the people she knew, but the saddest part, for me, was that there were people who loved her dearly but none of the love she received could outbalance the lack of understanding that she encountered so often throughout her life.

What drew me the most to Maggie was her unparalleled capacity for love, her willingness to see the fault in herself, while being so unwilling to find it in others. She is the first, and perhaps only, character in this book who sees Philip for the remarkable young man he is, without any regard for his deformed person. Her struggle to do the right thing costs her everything she has, and yet it is not for herself that she shows the most concern, it is for others. And, she never, ever forgets the bond she shares with her brother, Tom, or ceases to wish to please him and gain his respect and love.

Eliot is a genius at creating real people. There is not an evil person in this book, although there are many, many instances where evil is perpetrated. Wakem is a businessman who sees no problem in dealing harshly with Mr. Tulliver, but he is also a father who wants happiness for his son and makes difficult concessions in an attempt to achieve that end; Mr. Tulliver is a foolish man who acts without regard for consequences, but he is also a loving father, a champion to “the little wench” and a man so honest that his last breath is taken only when he knows all his debts have been satisfied; Tom is a boy who has to assume the mantle of a man too early and who dwells too much on what society will judge instead of his own intimate knowledge of who his sister is, but he sincerely believes he is right to cling to the stubborn, unforgiving past that haunts him and that the most important thing in life is to salvage the reputation of his family, even at the cost of his sister; even the Aunts are so misguided and simple-minded that their actions that seem cruel also seem to rise more from ignorance than from malice. These people breath and exist within the confines of the book, but it is easy to imagine that they breathed and existed outside of it as well.

Maggie is a girl moved to please everyone and blame no one. Maggie hated blame; she had been blamed all her life, and nothing had come of it but evil tempers. But, who can accomplish such a goal? It seems the harder she tries, the more isolated she becomes. What use was anything if Tom didn’t love her? She is at the mercy of others because she cares so deeply for their feelings and sensibilities, and yet life has seen fit to land her in the middle of the fray...she cannot please one without alienating the other.

The words that were marked by the quiet hand in the little old book that she had long ago learned by heart, rushed even to her lips, and found a vent for themselves in a low murmur that was quite lost in the loud driving of the rain against the window and the loud moan and roar of the wind. ‘I have received the Cross, I have received it from Thy hand; I will bear it, and bear it till death, as Thou hast laid it upon me.’

In the end, whether she is right or wrong in her feelings, Maggie is steadfast. She has been given a cross to bear that seems unfair and too heavy, but she tries with everything inside of her to bear it with faith and without complaint. How many of us could do the same? If one believes in only the present and the body, Maggie’s story is a loss, but if one believes in the soul, ah, then Maggie is purged to purity by the fire she endures.

Finally, there is the river. It meanders through this book from beginning to end and it brings with it all the joy and all the sorrows found there. Maggie and Tom revel in their childhood on the river, but we are told early on that the river once destroyed the town and so we know that the river is a duplicitous thing. Not since Dickens use of the Thames, has a river been so integral to the heart of a story, for the Floss represents the years that rush by, the hopes and expectations that are swept away without a trace, the love that brings joy, like the river when it is calm and still, but can be so destructive when it races out of the control of its banks. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
George Eliot paints people in a way that brings them to life. This book, is all about the contrast of personalities, the resonating effects of prejudice, and the challenges of conflicting ties. I loved it, even as I cringed at the behavior of many of the characters.

I did not like the ending. Not because Maggie died. I had been expecting her death from the moment she woke up on the boat, fleeing with her lover. What I hated was that in the end, it was the acceptance and love of her emotionally abusive brother Tom that brought Maggie peace. He didn't change at all, and I have no doubt that if he hadn't died, it would have only a matter of time before he was pushing her away and condemning her excessively once again.

My happy world ending would have had Maggie eventually realize how to navigate the narrow space between severing any tie that seems onerous, as Stephen Guest would have her do, and severing those that are truly unhealthy, as Maggie herself is unable to do, and thus finding happiness. But even an ending where Maggie dies miserable because she is trying to be true to a set of conflicting demands would have been preferable to giving way before the slightest friendly look from her brother.

All that said, I don't think we're supposed to be satisfied with the ending. I think this is supposed to be a tragedy, a tragedy not just because of death, but because Maggie, in the end, is never able to overcome the weakness that has haunted her from her earliest days. Eliot does not, I think, expect us to like or forgive Tom.
( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
4/26/22
  laplantelibrary | Apr 26, 2022 |
Here's what I wrote after reading in 1990: "Reportedly autobiographical, the story of a yong girl, young woman growing up in rural Victorian England. Maggie Tulliver, intelligent, strong-willed, and loving faces family misfortune bravely and endures. The carelessness of others, however, bring her to ruin and, eventually, death." ( )
  MGADMJK | Apr 1, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (73 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eliot, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allen, Walter ErnestIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Atkins, EileenReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A. S.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Constable, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Daiches, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, J BernardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Livesey, MargotIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacNeill, AlysonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manning, WrayIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mooney, BelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salomon, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stephens, IanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its green banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks its passage with an impetuous embrace. On this mighty tide the black ships -laden with the fresh-scented fir-planks, with rounded sacks of oil-bearing seed, or with the dark glitter of coal—are borne along to the town of St. Ogg's, which shows its aged, fluted red roofs and the broad gables of its wharves between the low wooded hill and the river-brink, tingeing the water with a soft purple hue under the transient glance of this February sun. Far away on each hand stretch the rich pastures, and the patches of dark earth made ready for the seed of broad-leaved green crops, or touched already with the tint of the tender-bladed autumn-sown corn. There is a remnant still of last year's golden clusters of beehive-ricks rising at intervals beyond the hedgerows; and everywhere the hedgerows are studded with trees; the distant ships seem to be lifting their masts and stretching their red-brown sails close among the branches of the spreading ash. Just by the red-roofed town the tributary Ripple flows with a lively current into the Floss. How lovely the little river is, with its dark changing wavelets! It seems to me like a living companion while I wander along the bank, and listen to its low, placid voice, as to the voice of one who is deaf and loving. I remember those large dipping willows. I remember the stone bridge.
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Such things as these are the mother-tongue of our imagination, the language that is laden with all the subtle, inextricable associations the fleeting hours of our childhood left behind them. Our delight in the sunshine on the deep-bladed grass to-day might be no more than the faint perception of wearied souls, if it were not for the sunshine and the grass in the far-off years which still live in us, and transform our perception into love.
There is no feeling, except the extremes of fear and grief, that does not find relief in music.
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Set in nineteenth-century England, this great novel of domestic realism sympathetically portrays a young woman's vain efforts to adapt to her provincial world. Maggie Tulliver, whose father owns a mill perched on the banks of the River Floss, is intelligent and imaginative beyond the understanding of her community, her relatives, and particularly her brother Tom. Despite their opposite temperaments, Maggie and Tom are united by a strong bond. But this bond suffers when Tom's sense of family honor leads him to forbid her to associate with the one friend who appreciates her intelligence and imagination. Later, when Maggie falls in love with the handsome and passionate fiancé of her cousin and is caught in a compromising situation, she fears her relationship with Tom may never recover.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439629, 0141198915

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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