The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss


George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 5, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

The narrator observes that Maggie’s struggles have all been internal, whereas Tom’s battles have been outside of himself and thus he can gain more “definite conquests.” Tom is increasingly successful in business and has gained the respect of his Dodson aunts and uncles. One evening, Tom encounters Bob Jakin, who offers to include Tom in a business venture involving shipping goods to foreign ports. Tom is enthusiastic about the idea, but Mr. Tulliver refuses to release the family’s small savings in order to invest in the venture.
Both Tom and Maggie have faced challenges after the family bankruptcy, but because of their respective genders, their struggles are of a very different nature. Tom has had to earn money to pay back the family debts—a difficult task, but one that has measurable progress. Maggie, on the other hand, is trapped in a static state, unable to take any concrete action in the world because there are so few jobs open to women.
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Tom decides to ask Mr. Glegg to provide the startup funds to invest in the shipping business. When Tom and Bob visit the Gleggs, Bob not only convinces Mr. Glegg to invest in the shipping business, but even gets the notoriously stingy Mrs. Glegg to purchase some cloth and linen from his knapsack. Tom is very pleased with this outcome, convinced that his fortunes will continue to grow. He congratulates himself on having worked hard in order to deserve these rewards.
As the Tulliver fortunes start to turn around, Tom is quick to attribute his success to his own hard work. However, this conviction that he alone is responsible for these rewards makes him intolerant towards others whom he perceives as less deserving and hard-working. This is a flawed understanding of success, since in fact Tom also had help along the way—from Bob Jakin, for instance.
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