The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss


George Eliot

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The Mill on the Floss: Book 6, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

The next morning is very rainy, and the narrator remarks that lovers prefer rain because it gives them an excuse to visit the ladies they are courting. The narrator also observes that lovers prefer to sit either “slightly above or slightly below” the lady, since women are at once both worshipped and looked down on.
The narrator wryly comments on the way that conventional gender roles deny depth and complexity to women, making them either angels to be “worshipped” and looked up to, or subversive, fallen women who are “looked down on” for defying social norms.
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Related Quotes
Philip visits Lucy’s house and sees Maggie for the first time since their separation. In front of Lucy, they at first make only casual conversation. However, once they have a moment alone, they share a tender moment and clasp their hands. Maggie tells Philip that Tom has consented for them to see each other on social occasions. She explains that she will soon be taking up another position working at a girl’s boarding school. Philip asks whether there might be another alternative, but Maggie professes that it would be “intolerable” for her to rely on her brother for support.
Even Philip, who is normally more sympathetic to Maggie’s need for independence and self-definition, seems surprised that she would feel the need to find a job and earn an independent income. Although he respects Maggie intellectually—perhaps more than anyone else—it seems clear that his vision of a life with Maggie as his wife would not involve her working outside the home. In this sense, it seems that marriage with anyone would represent a certain confinement to particular social roles for Maggie.
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When Stephen arrives, Philip feels irritated by his “strong presence and bright voice.” Stephen and Maggie treat each other with ostentatious coldness to try to cover up their feelings. The group decides to play some music, and Stephen sings while Maggie sews. Maggie is highly sensitive to music, and she cannot conceal her strong emotional response to his singing. Philip notices Maggie’s impassioned expression and feels jealous.
Music has always moved Maggie, even when she was a young child. Her response to Stephen’s singing—which is not particularly accomplished—suggests that her life thus far has been lacking in artistic as well as intellectual stimulation. Again, her attraction to Stephen perhaps has less to do with him than the world of art and culture that he offers. 
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Philip sings “I love thee still,” which Maggie takes as an indication of his continuing feelings for her. However, while she finds this touching, the song brings her “quiet regret” rather than “excitement.” Stephen then sings a jaunty song that makes the whole room come alive. As he is performing, he notices that Maggie is in need of a footstool, which he casually puts at her feet. This simple courtly act delights Maggie, and Philip resentfully observes the expression on her face.
Philip's song hearkens back to an earlier and simpler time in his and Maggie’s relationship, reminding her that “I love thee still.” However, Maggie is now more experienced and knowledgeable than she was then. Her stay with the Deanes has opened up a world of feeling and experiences with men that make Stephen’s courtly gesture seem more appealing and “exciting” than Philip’s regretful song.
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Mr. Deane enters the room, putting an end to the music. He asks Philip about whether Mr. Wakem has gotten tired of farming, a line of inquiry that puzzles Lucy. That night, she pulls her father aside and asks why he is so suddenly interested in Mr. Wakem’s business ventures. Mr. Deane admits that Guest & Co is interested in buying back Dorlcote Mill, but makes her swear not to tell anyone about it. Thinking to help Maggie and Philip, Lucy tells her father that she thinks Philip will help persuade Mr. Wakem to sell the mill. She asks her father to do anything in his power to buy the mill, although she won’t reveal the reason why Philip would be willing to help. Mr. Deane is confused, but trusts in his daughter’s good intentions.
Even as the attraction between Maggie and Stephen grows stronger and more obvious, Lucy is still persuaded that Maggie loves Philip and wants to help them be together. In the possibility of buying back Dorlcote Mill, Lucy sees a possibility for reconciliation and forgiveness between the Tulliver and Wakem families. Her lack of suspicion about Maggie and her fiancé attests to Lucy’s warm and trusting nature, which leads her to think the best of people.
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