The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss


George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 3, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Tom, Maggie, Mr. Glegg, and Mrs. Moss go upstairs to look through Mr. Tulliver’s chest and try to find the note for the money he loaned to the Moss family. The sound of the chest lid slamming shut wakes Mr. Tulliver, who has a brief moment of lucidity. He tells Tom to pay his debts—especially fifty pounds owed to Luke—and not to call in the money from his sister, and he apologizes to Mrs. Tulliver for leaving her poorly off. He also asks Tom to punish Wakem for what he’s done to the family.
Mr. Tulliver’s instructions to Tom demonstrate the best and worst of his character. On the one hand, he is extremely and stubbornly loyal, choosing to prioritize repayment to the family servant, Luke, and to protect his sister from his creditors. On the other hand, he is similarly stubborn in being unable to forgive Mr. Wakem, demanding that Tom take revenge rather than moving on and focusing on rebuilding the family finances.
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Mr. Tulliver slips back into his coma, but Tom is now determined upon two courses of action: to repay the money to Luke, even from his and Maggie’s own savings, and to destroy the note for the loan to Mrs. Moss. The narrator observes that Tom is much sharper on matters like this than Latin and geometry.
Tom takes Mr. Tulliver’s wishes very seriously, demonstrating the similarity in their characters. Both are very principled but tend to be rigid and uncompromising, preferring to hold a grudge rather than forgive.
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