(Sidharth Vardhan’s review of
of George Eliot’s ‘The Mill on the Floss’
The book was first published in 1860
Review first published on December 8, 2019
(5 / 5) )
Brought up at Dorlcote Mill, Maggie Tulliver worships her brother Tom and is desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her family. As she reaches adulthood, the clash between their expectations and her desires is painfully played out as she finds herself torn between her relationships with three very different men: her proud and stubborn brother, a close friend who is also the son of her family’s worst enemy, and a charismatic but dangerous suitor.
I didn’t expect to like that much. But there I’d so much to love in it – the central characters were developed from a very young age. I like it when stories start with children and develop with them over the years.
Maggie is as close as a character gets to Woolf’s idea of ‘Shakespeare’s sister’ in English literature I have read (being supposably based on Eliot’s own life) – a sensitive, artistic and intelligent spirit being constantly smothered by gender prejudice and social expectations. Almost all the characters in the book seem to believe that women and books don’t belong together. Even Maggie’s devotion to her father and brother has much stink of patriarchy in it. Her mother too showed preference toward son rather than her daughter.
The loss of mill seems symbolic of how futile men’s patriarchal sense of honor (more like arrogance) is. Though it didn’t change the patriarchal attitudes of characters (except Maggie’s mother was no longer blindly devotional to her husband and her husband was a little more humble). And yet, no character is completely despicable.
Tom and Maggie’s sibling love is another amazingly realistic thing. Their characters are a juxtaposition of practicality and passion respectably.
Maggie’s commitment to marry her hunchbacked friend seems to be a metaphor of luggage we have to carry after once having suffered from bad times even circumstances take a turn for better. Her choice is between morality and happiness. There is much to talk about price one has to pay to stay moral – and whether it is not right to seize one’s own happiness at cost of failing to keep promises and hurting your loved ones.
The titular mill has a story built around it through the mill much like other property so much valued by everyone in the book will be lost by the end.
Eliot seems to be better able to write these big books with a number of characters than Dickens or Tolstoy. She can also be humous which is something you can’t say about Tolstoy. All characters in here are drawn realistic.
Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan