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 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the bazaar, Maggie makes a great impression in her white muslin dress and attracts many male customers to her stall, where she is selling mittens and hats that she has sewn. Lucy and Stephen observe as Mr. Wakem approaches Maggie, and Lucy whispers to Stephen that the family quarrel may soon be healed. Stephen notices that Philip seems to be watching Maggie very closely. Given the evidence of Lucy’s comment, Mr. Wakem’s approach to Maggie, and Philip’s odd behavior, Stephen begins to suspect that there is some romantic connection between Maggie and Philip.
Maggie’s plain sewing and plain clothes attract many customers, demonstrating her appeal again as a woman who subverts conventional gender expectations. Lucy is delighted by Mr. Wakem’s approach to Maggie because it seems to suggest forgiveness and reconciliation on the horizon. Unbeknownst to her, however, further grudges are brewing between Philip and Stephen, as Stephen begins to suspect the romantic nature of Maggie and Philip’s relationship.
Themes
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Stephen places a hand on Philip’s shoulder and says that Maggie looks very sullen today. Recognizing this as a ruse, Philip calls him a hypocrite and both men storm out of the bazaar. Maggie, meanwhile, is miserable at this strife. Seeing her tears, the local vicar, Dr. Kenn, approaches her table. He speaks gently to her and tells her he will always be available to help her, which Maggie finds very touching.
Philip calls Stephen a hypocrite because he recognizes that Stephen is only pretending not to like Maggie by calling her “sullen”—in fact, he has fallen in love with her and deceived Lucy. Despite Maggie’s distress at this in-fighting, Dr. Kenn’s compassion does a great deal to cheer her, demonstrating Maggie’s susceptibility to kindness and even one moment of compassion.
Themes
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
The narrator reflects that although Maggie’s vanity was gratified by all the attention she received at the bar, her sense of duty was stronger than her vanity. Consequently, that night, she tells Lucy that she has to leave to visit her aunt Mrs. Moss and then to take up a new position teaching at school. Lucy is hurt by Maggie's sudden departure, just when things seems to be working out between Maggie and Philip. Lucy asks whether Maggie doesn’t love Philip enough to want to marry him, but Maggie protests that her only reluctance is due to Tom’s opposition to the marriage.
Maggie seems to be using Tom’s stubbornness and the lack of forgiveness between the Tulliver and Wakem families as a way of justifying her own attraction to Stephen and lack of clarity about whether she wants to marry Philip. Just when it seems that there might be a way to get around the Tulliver-Wakem feud, Maggie’s feelings shift, suggesting that it is possible to grow out of the emotional attachments of childhood and adolescence.
Themes
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon