The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss

by

George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 5, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Walking in the Red Deeps, the woods near the mill, Maggie encounters Philip Wakem, who is now twenty-one years old. Philip confesses that he has thought of her often since their last meeting as children, and now finds her very beautiful. He asks her if she still reads, as she used to when she was a little girl, but Maggie says that she has tried to part with everything she cared about as a child.
Maggie links the end of her intellectual ambitions to the end of her childhood. When she was younger and life seemed hopeful, she loved to read. Now, however, she has renounced books because they are a painful reminder of a world of learning and stimulation that is no longer accessible to her.
Themes
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Philip gives Maggie a book and asks if he can come and walk with her in the woods sometimes. Maggie declines on the grounds that the hatred between their families would make it impossible for them to be friends. Philip protests that Maggie should not “starve her mind” by denying herself friendship, company, and intellectual stimulation. They end the conversation without resolving the question of whether they will keep meeting like this, although Philip is determined to see Maggie again.
Maggie thinks of her intellectual self-denial as Christian patience and submission to the will of God. Philip, by contrast, sees this choice as a kind of “starvation.” His choice of words suggests Philip values the world of art and books so much that to live without such knowledge would be a form of painful deprivation comparable to physical starvation.
Themes
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon