The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss


George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 6, Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

That night, Maggie dreams of St. Ogg rowing the Virgin Mary in a boat, just like in the legend. However, when she looks closer, she sees that the Virgin is Lucy, and the boatman is Tom. She wakes up horrified by the wrong she has done to people who she loves and cares for.  When they arrive in Mudport, she tells Stephen that she is going to leave him now and return to St. Ogg’s. Stephen argues fervently with her, telling her that he will die first, and that she is ruining both their happiness. Maggie tells him calmly that she could not enjoy a happiness that was based on denial of her duty and what she believes is right.
Thus far, Stephen and Maggie's trip in the boat has disempowered her and taken away her ability to make an independent choice, even when her role as a woman has often made that difficult. By telling Stephen that she wants to return to St. Ogg’s and doesn't wish to marry him, Maggie regains her agency in the situation and restores her own moral compass. Stephen tried to pressure Maggie into marriage by taking the choice out of her hands, but she refuses to give up her free will and independence.
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Stephen points out that the wrong is already done, and that it is “madness” for Maggie to go back to St. Ogg’s without marrying him, given what people will say. Maggie declares that she plans to confess everything and beg for forgiveness. In despair, Stephen finally tells her to leave him. Maggie boards a coach for York and then back to St. Ogg’s.
Stephen thinks it is “madness” for Maggie to return to St. Ogg’s because he knows that people will assume that they have slept together outside of marriage. Maggie will thus become a “fallen woman,” since she has transgressed social norms around sex and gender by going somewhere alone with Stephen.
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