The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss


George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 6, Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Before Maggie leaves, she attends a grand dance at Stephen’s house. Although Stephen pretends to be indifferent to her, he feels jealous when he sees her dancing with other men. Finally, they find a moment to be alone together in the conservatory. Trying to avert her eyes from Stephen, Maggie reaches up to smell a rose. Stephen seizes her arm and kisses it, but Maggie quickly snatches it away, asking what right he has to insult her. She runs from the room, increasingly convinced that she must renounce Stephen—since their happiness will cause pain to others.
When Stephen kisses Maggie, she asks why he thinks he has the right to “insult” her, suggesting that a respectable unmarried woman should feel insulted by this gesture. However, this reaction seems more a product of social convention than Maggie’s actual feelings, since she has clearly developed a romantic attraction to Stephen. In this sense, Maggie is torn between socially sanctioned conventions around sex and gender and her own inclinations.
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Philip steals out to Maggie’s carriage before she leaves for Mrs. Moss’s house. He asks her again why she has to go away, when it looks as if Guest & Co will be able to buy back the mill. She tells him that she could never marry him without Tom’s approval. Philip asks whether that is the only reason why they have been kept apart, and Maggie firmly tells him yes—although Philip still isn’t quite satisfied.
Maggie still cares about Philip, as demonstrated by her reluctance to hurt him. However, her attachment now seems more nostalgic and related to the shared memories of their time at the Red Deep. For Maggie, those romantic feelings have faded, whereas for Philip, those feelings still motivate his life and behavior.
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