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 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At tea with the Dodson sisters, Mrs. Pullet mentions Philip’s name, and Maggie blushes. Tom sees this and becomes suspicious. That afternoon, he follows Maggie and confronts her while she is on her way to the Red Downs to see Philip. Maggie admits that she and Philip have been meeting secretly. Tom is furious, and demands that she swear on the family Bible never to see Philip again—or he will tell Mr. Tulliver everything. Maggie agrees to swear on the Bible.
Tom makes Maggie swear on the family Bible to renounce Philip. Significantly, this is the same ritual that Mr. Tulliver used to make Tom swear to take revenge on the Wakems. In both cases, the family Bible reminds Tom and Maggie of their obligations to the generations of Tullivers who have lived at Dorlcote Mill and owned this very Bible, suggesting that the ties to the past are more important than present desires.
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Tom then walks Maggie to the Red Downs, where he confronts Philip. Tom threatens Philip with dire punishments if he should ever try to speak or write to Maggie again, and taunts him for his physical disability. After this distressing interview, Maggie reproaches Tom for his cruelty, pointing out that he has always seemed to enjoy punishing her and being in the right. Tom is still cold, telling her that she must obey his wishes, since she has no power in the world, and he is the head of the family.
Maggie aptly diagnoses Tom’s moral flaw: he is always convinced that he is right, and so he tends to be harsh and unforgiving when people violate his ethical standards. She points out that he has always treated her this way, even in childhood, when small infractions—like forgetting to feed his rabbits—would be met with coldness and a refusal to forgive.
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