The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss

by

George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 1, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at the house, Maggie has a difficult morning. In preparation for the visit to Garum Firs, Mrs. Pullet’s farm, Maggie is forced to endure a visit from the hairdresser and to wear her best Sunday clothes, which make her uncomfortable and irritated. While building card houses with the other children, Tom praises Lucy’s house and calls Maggie “stupid.” Maggie knocks over Tom’s house of cards, which makes him angry and distresses her. Tom continues to favor Lucy for the rest of the day.
Maggie’s physical discomfort in her “best” clothes mirrors the discomfort she feels at being forced to conform to standards of conventional femininity more generally. When she acts out and tries to express her anger, she incurs the irritation of Tom and immediately feels distressed. This childhood interaction suggests just how little scope Maggie has to express her thoughts and feelings (especially those that go against the societal grain) without fear of punishment.
Themes
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Garum Firs is a beautiful farm and house, but Mrs. Pullet refuses to allow the children to touch anything (in case they dirty her polished stairs and floors), which ruins the children’s fun. Mrs. Pullet takes Mrs. Tulliver, Maggie, and Lucy, into her “best room” to show them her extravagant new bonnet. She even cries over it and says that she hopes the women will remember this bonnet when she’s dead. Meanwhile, Tom talks downstairs with Mr. Pullet, whom Tom thinks is rather stupid but very rich.
The Pullets are wealthy, but although they have a beautiful house and luxurious possessions (like Mrs. Pullet’s extravagant bonnet), this abundance doesn’t seem to have made them any more generous. Indeed, they seem to care far more about their polished floors than welcoming their nieces and nephews, suggesting that the family prioritizes appearances to the detriment of other values, like emotional warmth and hospitality.
Themes
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
When the women come downstairs, Mr. Pullet plays everyone a song on his music-box. Maggie is overwhelmed by the beauty of the music and enthusiastically hugs Tom, spilling his cowslip wine and infuriating the Pullets for disturbing their spotless house.
Music moves Maggie deeply, demonstrating her passionate nature and desire for higher forms of artistic and intellectual stimulation. However, this is completely lost on her relatives, who merely criticize her for being messy.
Themes
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
The adults send the children outside to play, while Mrs. Tulliver talks with the Pullets about the fight with Mrs. Glegg and her family’s financial situation. Mrs. Pullet says that Mrs. Tulliver was always her favorite sister—since they liked the same fabric patterns, spots rather that stripes—but that Tom and Maggie are rude, and Mr. Tulliver is squandering the family’s money. Mrs. Tulliver tearfully asks Mrs. Pullet to help end the quarrel between Mr. Tulliver and Mrs. Glegg, since both are too proud to apologize. Mrs. Pullet agrees to drive over to Mrs. Glegg’s house and convince her not to call in the loan.
Mrs. Pullet claims that Mrs. Tulliver is her favorite sister, but this statement is comically based on appearances. She claims to love Mrs. Tulliver simply because they admire the same patterns, not because they share any deeper emotional bond. Indeed, her other comments about the Tulliver family, like her critiques of Tom, Maggie, and Mr. Tulliver, display a striking lack of compassion for her supposedly favorite sister.
Themes
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
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