The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss


George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 3, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

The next day, Tom rides into St. Ogg’s to ask his uncle Mr. Deane if he can help him find a job. Tom admires Mr. Deane’s success at Guest & Co and hopes that he might also attach himself to a company in which he could also rise in the ranks. On the way, however, he has an unpleasant encounter with a few men at a pub who accuse him of looking down on others because of his gentlemanly education. Furthermore, when Tom sees Mr. Deane, his uncle is less than impressed by his schooling in Latin and says Tom will only get a job if he has accounting and bookkeeping skills. It’s no use for someone like him to know Latin, Mr. Deane says, so the expensive education Mr. Tulliver paid for was a waste.
Ironically, Mr. Tulliver’s fixation on getting Tom a good education does not have the desired payoff. Mr. Tulliver gave Tom a gentlemanly education in subjects like Latin and geometry, whereas what Tom really needed was a practical education—one suited for the realities of a life in business. Unlike Mr. Stelling, Mr. Deane values practical skills like accounting and bookkeeping. Outside the schoolroom, then, the hierarchy of different forms of knowledge turns out to be very different. Latin turns out not to be very relevant at all in this alternative system of value.
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At home, Tom tells Maggie sadly that Mr. Deane said he was too young and ill-educated to find a good position. Maggie lightheartedly offers to teach Tom bookkeeping, but Tom reacts severely, telling her that she should stop “putting [herself] above people,” as she does with their aunts and uncles. Maggie runs away in tears. The narrator observes that Maggie thinks books are full of love and kindness, but finds the real world sadly lacking in those qualities.
Tom's rebuke to Maggie that she is “putting [herself] above people” suggests that he now has little tolerance for her intellectual ambitions. As Tom and Maggie grow into adulthood, Tom becomes more severe in policing her behavior in her expected role as a daughter and sister.
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