The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss

by

George Eliot

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

Summary
Analysis
When Maggie makes her first appearances in St. Ogg’s “good society,” she is much admired for her beauty. However, fashionable people tend to find her rather unsophisticated, since she is inexperienced in the social world and completely ignorant of “coquetry” or how to act around men. Maggie, for her part, very much enjoys partaking in Lucy’s leisured life and rediscovering pursuits such as horse-riding and playing the piano.
The narrator points out that what excites Maggie about her new life is not so much the admiration she receives, but the exposure to a world of art, music, and culture that had previously been denied to her. Maggie’s life at Dorlcote Mill was intellectually under-stimulating, so life with Lucy is a welcome change.
Themes
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
One evening, Stephen visits the house while Lucy is out preparing for the charity bazaar. He tells Maggie that he has come to drop off some sheet music for Lucy, but stays for a while to talk with Maggie. The atmosphere between them is tense, until Stephen mentions Philip’s name, at which point Maggie quickly busies herself with her sewing. Perceiving that he may have offended her, Stephen invites Maggie for a walk in the garden. They stroll arm and arm, saying nothing. When Stephen leaves, he realizes that he is in love with Maggie. As he sits in the billiard room, he contemplates her eyes, which he thinks are filled with “delicious opposites.”  Maggie, for her part, struggles with her feelings and wishes she was back in the Red Deeps with Philip, when everything seemed simpler.
Stephen thinks that Maggie's eyes are filled with “delicious opposites,” suggesting that he is drawn to her because he finds her interestingly different from other women. He values Lucy because she is straightforward, whereas he values Maggie precisely because she is not—suggesting that he may not actually want the sort of woman that social pressures dictate he should want. Maggie, on the other hand, is experiencing a transformation from ignorance of the world of men and courtship to newfound knowledge. Her desire to be back in the Red Deeps with Philip points to a wish on her part to return to that place of ignorance and innocence.
Themes
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon