The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss


George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 1, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Mr. Glegg and Mrs. Glegg live in St. Ogg’s, an ancient fishing village first built by the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons. The narrator recounts the legend of St. Ogg, a ferryman on the river Floss who supposedly carried the Virgin Mary across the river whenever her heart desired it. The town suffered a great deal of fighting during the English Civil War, but things have been relatively calm since then. The “Catholic Question” has caused some new controversy, since some people believe that the local preacher is “siding with the Catholics.” The town is a place where “ignorance was much more comfortable than at present.”
Narrating from a vantage point in the supposedly more enlightened present, the narrator calls St. Ogg’s a place where “ignorance” was “comfortable.” This suggests that people in the town are set in their ways and tend not to inquire much about the outside world, finding it more comfortable to leave their preconceptions unchallenged. For example, the town is prejudiced against Catholics simply for the reason that they are a minority population in Protestant England and are thus perceived as threatening.
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Mrs. Glegg constantly criticizes not only the other inhabitants of St. Ogg’s, but also Mr. Glegg’s passion for gardening and even his “blandest propositions” and suggestions. Mr. Glegg marvels at his wife’s “contrariness,” given that he provides so well for her financially and spends most of his time trying to earn and save money. That morning, Mrs. Glegg is still fuming from her quarrel with Mr. Tulliver and accuses Mr. Glegg of siding with the others and against her. Mr. Glegg suggests that Mrs. Glegg should hire a lawyer and find a good investment for her money, rather than calling in the loan now. This pacifies Mrs. Glegg, and she agrees to let the Tullivers keep the money for now.
Mrs. Glegg is notoriously bad-tempered, but Mr. Glegg's description of her as “contrary” suggests that he perceives her comments as specifically violating the norms of appropriate womanly and wifely behavior. He thinks that since he provides for her financially, she ought to be more grateful and docile. But perhaps Mrs. Glegg is contrary precisely because her life as a wife in a provincial town is so constrained. Her constant snipes might be the only outlet she has for expressing her emotions.
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