The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss

by

George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Tom returns to school, Mr. Stelling informs him that he has a new companion—Philip Wakem, the fifteen-year-old son of the lawyer Wakem. When Tom first sees Philip in the study, he thinks that Philip is rather pale and puny, and dislikes the idea of having a humpbacked boy as a companion. However, he sees that Philip’s drawings are very good, which inclines Tom to like him. Philip also offers to help Tom with his Latin lessons. Tom confides that he hates Latin, but Philip says that it’s “part of the education of a gentleman.”
Philip’s comment that Latin is part of “the education of a gentleman” points to the way that certain forms of knowledge are valued and associated with higher class standing. To be a “gentleman” is to lead a life that does not involve manual labor and thus to study subjects that might seem esoteric and lofty, like Latin. Philip feels very comfortable in a “gentleman’s education,” while the more working-class Tom struggles with those subjects.
Themes
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Philip loves his studies and enjoys the stories of the Greeks in The Odyssey, which he promises to tell Tom. Feeling intimidated by Philip’s knowledge, Tom asks him if he wants to go fishing—an area where Tom knows he is superior—but Philip says he thinks fishing is a waste of time.
Tom tries reassert himself by emphasizing his skills at activities requiring practical knowledge— like fishing—in contrast to the bookish knowledge of the schoolroom.
Themes
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon