The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss

by

George Eliot

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Maggie Tulliver Character Analysis

Maggie is Mr. Tulliver and Mrs. Tulliver’s passionate and high-spirited daughter and Tom’s younger sister. From a young age, she shows a marked aptitude for reading and learning—what her father calls “acuteness.” However, her intellectual abilities are largely underappreciated. Her brother thinks that all girls are “silly,” while her mother laments Maggie’s rebelliousness, messiness, and lack of concern for her clothes, hair, and household domestic tasks like sewing. Maggie’s aunts, Mrs. Deane, Mrs. Pullet, and Mrs. Glegg, think that she is a “contrary” child with peculiar habits. In this sense, most of the adults in Maggie’s life do not understand or encourage her intellectual interests, focusing instead on her lack of traditional feminine graces. When she is a child, she feels so rejected by her family and community that she tries to run away to the gypsies (who she thinks will have long black hair, like her, thus ensuring her acceptance among them). As an adult, Maggie finds herself similarly out of step with social convention. In an era when marriage was the ultimate goal of a woman’s life, Maggie goes against the societal grain by working independently as a governess and rejecting Philip’s marriage proposal. Most notoriously, she elopes with her cousin’s lover, Stephen Guest, but refuses to go through with the marriage due to her own moral scruples—a decision that makes her an outcast in town. This decision is typical of Maggie’s determination to abide by her own internal moral code rather than that of society. Tom is the emotional center of Maggie’s life, and her love for him is the motivation and principle that guides many of her decisions.

Maggie Tulliver Quotes in The Mill on the Floss

The The Mill on the Floss quotes below are all either spoken by Maggie Tulliver or refer to Maggie Tulliver. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of The Mill on the Floss published in 2015.
Book 1, Chapter 2  Quotes

“It’s no mischief much while she’s a little un, but an over-‘cute woman’s no better nor a long-tailed sheep—she’ll fetch none the bigger price for that.”

Related Characters: Mr. Tulliver (speaker), Maggie Tulliver
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

“I don’t want your money, you silly thing. I’ve got a great deal more money than you, because I’m a boy. I always have half-sovereigns and sovereigns for my Christmas boxes, because I shall be a man, and you only have five-shilling pieces, because you’re only a girl.”

Related Characters: Tom Tulliver (speaker), Maggie Tulliver
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Life did change for Tom and Maggie; and yet they were not wrong in believing that the thoughts and loves of these first years would always make part of their lives. We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it—if it were not the same earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers […].

Related Characters: Maggie Tulliver, Tom Tulliver
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

“Poor little wench! She’ll have nobody but Tom, belike, when I’m gone.”

Related Characters: Mr. Tulliver (speaker), Maggie Tulliver, Tom Tulliver, Mrs. Moss, Mr. Moss
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

“No; you couldn’t,” said Tom, indignantly. “Girls can’t do Euclid: can they, sir?”

“They can pick up a little of everything, I daresay,” said Mr. Stelling. “They’ve a great deal of superficial cleverness; but they couldn’t go far into anything. They’re quick and shallow.”

Related Characters: Tom Tulliver (speaker), Mr. Stelling (speaker), Maggie Tulliver
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

When they did meet, she remembered her promise to kiss him, but, as a young lady who had been at a boarding-school, she knew now that such a greeting was out of the question, and that Philip would not expect it. This promise was void, like so many other sweet, illusory promises of our childhood; void as promises made in Eden […] impossible to be fulfilled when the golden gates had been passed.

Related Characters: Maggie Tulliver, Philip Wakem
Page Number: 174-175
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 4, Chapter 1 Quotes

I share with you this sense of oppressive narrowness; but it is necessary that we should feel it, if we are to understand how it acted on the lives of Tom and Maggie—how it has acted on young natures in many generations, that in the outward tendency of human things have risen above the mental level of the generation before them, to which they have been nevertheless tied by the strongest fibers of their hearts.

Related Characters: Maggie Tulliver, Tom Tulliver
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 5, Chapter 2 Quotes

While Maggie’s life-struggles had lain almost entirely within her own soul, one shadowy army fighting another, and the slain shadows for ever rising again, Tom was engaged in a dustier, noisier warfare, grappling with more substantial obstacles, and gaining more definite conquests.

Related Characters: Maggie Tulliver, Tom Tulliver
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 5, Chapter 4 Quotes

“But it isn’t for that, that I’m jealous for the dark women—not because I’m dark myself. It’s because I always care the most about the unhappy people: if the blond girl were forsaken, I should like her best. I always take the side of the rejected lover in the stories.”

Related Characters: Maggie Tulliver (speaker), Philip Wakem
Related Symbols: Maggie’s Hair
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 5, Chapter 5 Quotes

“But you have always enjoyed punishing me—you have always been hard and cruel to me: even when I was a little girl, and always loved you better than any one else in the world, you would let me go crying to bed without forgiving me. You have no pity: you have no sense of your own imperfection and your own sins.”

Related Characters: Maggie Tulliver (speaker), Tom Tulliver, Philip Wakem
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 6, Chapter 7 Quotes

But the rain is to be depended on. You gallop through it in a mackintosh, and presently find yourself in the seat you like best—a little above or a little below the one on which your goddess sits (it is the same thing to the metaphysical mind, and that is the reason why women are at once worshipped and looked down upon), with a satisfactory confidence that there will be no lady-callers.

Related Characters: Maggie Tulliver, Lucy Deane
Page Number: 378
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 6, Chapter 8 Quotes

“We don't ask what a woman does—we ask whom she belongs to. It's altogether a degrading thing to you to think of marrying old Tulliver’s daughter.”

Related Characters: Mr. Wakem (speaker), Maggie Tulliver, Mr. Tulliver, Philip Wakem
Page Number: 394
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 7, Chapter 2 Quotes

If Miss Tulliver, after a few months of well-chosen travel, had returned as Mrs. Stephen Guest, with a post-marital trousseau, and all the advantages possessed even by the most unwelcome wife of an only son, public opinion, which at St. Ogg's, as elsewhere, always knew what to think, would have judged in strict consistency with those results.

Related Characters: Maggie Tulliver, Lucy Deane, Stephen Guest
Page Number: 453
Explanation and Analysis:
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Maggie Tulliver Character Timeline in The Mill on the Floss

The timeline below shows where the character Maggie Tulliver appears in The Mill on the Floss. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 2 
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...Tom will become a professional businessman and set up shop in St. Ogg’s. Tom’s sister (Maggie) is far cleverer. Mr. Tulliver is concerned about this, since he believes that cleverness won’t... (full context)
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When Maggie comes into the parlor, Mrs. Tulliver reproaches her for going to close to the river... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3
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...trying to inherit the family farm too soon. At the sound of her brother’s name, Maggie stands up from her book and protests that Tom would never do any “mischief” to... (full context)
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Mr. Tulliver proudly tells Mr. Riley about Maggie’s reading abilities, although he also worries that a woman has “no business wi’ being so... (full context)
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...Mr. Riley responds that Stelling is a gentleman who can prepare Tom for any trade. Maggie asks Mr. Riley how far away Tom will have to go, and Mr. Riley reassures... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
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Maggie wants to go with Mr. Tulliver to fetch Tom from school, but Mrs. Tulliver protests... (full context)
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Maggie runs outside and enters the mill, where she loves to slide up and down the... (full context)
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Luke comforts Maggie and invites her to visit him and his wife in their cottage. While there, Mrs.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
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Maggie and Mrs. Tulliver stand outside to greet Tom on his return from school. Tom tells... (full context)
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Maggie cries and runs upstairs to the attic, where she thinks of hiding and starving herself.... (full context)
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The next day, Maggie and Tom go down to the Round Pool to go fishing. Maggie asks Tom to... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
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...for a visit from her sisters, Deane, Pullet, and Glegg. She complains that Tom and Maggie are awkward around their aunts and uncles, and so are unlikely to get any inheritance... (full context)
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Whenever their Dodson relatives arrive, Tom and Maggie tend to run away for the day. Today, they sit under a tree eating jam... (full context)
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...should be punished. Tom always tends to believe he has done the right thing, whereas Maggie always wishes she had done something different. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7
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...Mr. Tulliver of wasting all the family money on lawsuits, leaving nothing for Tom and Maggie. (full context)
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...so, since she married a “gentleman farmer” and lives a life of leisure. Mrs. Tulliver, Maggie, and Tom all prefer Mrs. Pullet to the bad-tempered Mrs. Glegg. Mrs. Pullet, for her... (full context)
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...Tulliver thinks it’s a shame that her own daughter doesn’t have such pretty blonde curls. Maggie greets Lucy warmly, but doesn’t like the attentions of Mrs. Glegg, who talks to the... (full context)
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Mrs. Tulliver tells Maggie to go upstairs and brush her hair. Maggie goes to the attic with Tom and... (full context)
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Tom persuades Maggie to come down to dinner, but she soon regrets it, since Mrs. Tulliver shrieks, and... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
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...run-down parish. Mrs. Moss appears with a few of her eight children and inquires after Maggie, of whom she is particularly fond, since Maggie takes after their side of the family.... (full context)
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...Mr. Tulliver rides away from the farm, but before he’s gotten far, he thinks of Maggie—“Poor little wench! She’ll have nobody but Tom, belike, when I’m gone”—and feels pity for his... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
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Back at the house, Maggie has a difficult morning. In preparation for the visit to Garum Firs, Mrs. Pullet’s farm,... (full context)
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...her polished stairs and floors), which ruins the children’s fun. Mrs. Pullet takes Mrs. Tulliver, Maggie, and Lucy, into her “best room” to show them her extravagant new bonnet. She even... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
When the women come downstairs, Mr. Pullet plays everyone a song on his music-box. Maggie is overwhelmed by the beauty of the music and enthusiastically hugs Tom, spilling his cowslip... (full context)
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...favorite sister—since they liked the same fabric patterns, spots rather that stripes—but that Tom and Maggie are rude, and Mr. Tulliver is squandering the family’s money. Mrs. Tulliver tearfully asks Mrs.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 10
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...outside to play, Tom continued to give preference to Lucy because he was annoyed with Maggie. He invited Lucy to look at the pond with him and left Maggie behind. When... (full context)
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...wretched mother,” Mrs. Tulliver goes outside to find her children, and Tom informs her that Maggie is missing. After a search around the house, they decide that she must have walked... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 11
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Maggie decides to run away from home and join the gypsies in Dunlow Common, an open... (full context)
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Walking through the fields, Maggie encounters a little boy and a woman with a baby, who invites her to join... (full context)
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Two men come into the tent, and Maggie asks to go home to Dorlcote Mill. One of the men takes her home to... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 1
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...girl but longs for a friend closer to his own age. He is pleased when Maggie arrives for a two-week visit, promising to help him learn his geometry and Latin. Maggie... (full context)
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Tom admits that Maggie’s visit really did help him improve at his lessons. He counts the days eagerly until... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
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...in exchange for his sword, so that Tom can play at being a soldier when Maggie arrives for her visit. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
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...when necessary, namely because Philip can’t forgive Tom for calling his father, Wakem, a rogue. Maggie, on the other hand, finds Philip very intelligent and interesting. Philip, too, is struck by... (full context)
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Tom brings Maggie upstairs to show her his new sword. He makes her close her eyes while he... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6
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...Tom recovers from his injury, Philip feels compassion for him and sits with Tom and Maggie often, telling them stories from Greek tragedies. This thaws the enmity between them, and Tom,... (full context)
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When Mr. Tulliver comes to collect Maggie and take her to school, she tells him that she loves Philip. Mr. Tulliver says... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7
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Once Maggie goes to school, she rarely sees Philip. She sometimes sees him on the streets of... (full context)
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Maggie, now thirteen, comes to visit Tom at Mr. Stelling’s. She tells Tom that Mr. Tulliver... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 1
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Mr. Tulliver writes a letter to Maggie at boarding school asking her to come home. He then goes to see his lawyer,... (full context)
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Mr. Tulliver is only able to recognize Maggie out of all his family members. Mrs. Tulliver’s sisters take this misfortune as a judgment... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 2
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Tom and Maggie find the bailiff in their house, come to repossess everything they own to pay Mr.... (full context)
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The way Tom and Mrs. Tulliver are speaking about Mr. Tulliver angers Maggie, and she runs upstairs to sit at her father’s bedside. Tom comes up and sits... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
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...dependent on her family for everything and should be “humble.” Furthermore, Mrs. Glegg demands that Maggie and Tom should come into the room as well, so that they can also humble... (full context)
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...use his education. Tom points out, however, that if they plan to support him and Maggie, it might be better for them just to pay the debt now and save his... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
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Tom, Maggie, Mr. Glegg, and Mrs. Moss go upstairs to look through Mr. Tulliver’s chest and try... (full context)
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...upon two courses of action: to repay the money to Luke, even from his and Maggie’s own savings, and to destroy the note for the loan to Mrs. Moss. The narrator... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 5
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At home, Tom tells Maggie sadly that Mr. Deane said he was too young and ill-educated to find a good... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 6
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...financial struggle. Tom refuses to take his money, but thanks him and shakes his hand. Maggie comes in and is horrified to see that most of the family’s books have been... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 8
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...despairs of ever overcoming her husband’s stubbornness and hatred of Wakem. As he talks with Maggie and Tom, Mr. Tulliver appears lost in the past, confusing events from several years ago... (full context)
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Maggie and Tom tell Mr. Tulliver that he is now a bankrupt, but Tom promises to... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 9
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...to take revenge and “make him and his feel it, if ever the day comes.” Maggie begs Tom not to sign the Bible, but Tom agrees to do as his father... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 1
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...depict this “oppressive narrowness” in order to understand the forces that have shaped Tom and Maggie's lives. (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 2
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...at her misfortune; Mr. Tulliver is sullen and uncommunicative. Tom has little to say to Maggie anymore, since all of his energies are now devoted to financial success and paying back... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 3
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...a visit from Bob Jakin, Tom’s childhood friend. Bob brings a package of books for Maggie, concerned that the family have had to sell most of their books. Maggie is touched... (full context)
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As she looks through Bob’s package, Maggie finds a book by Thomas a Kempis, a fifteenth-century Christian writer. Maggie is very moved... (full context)
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Inspired by these Christian writings, Maggie adopts an attitude of submission and self-denial. She reads only theological books and spends her... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 1
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Walking in the Red Deeps, the woods near the mill, Maggie encounters Philip Wakem, who is now twenty-one years old. Philip confesses that he has thought... (full context)
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Philip gives Maggie a book and asks if he can come and walk with her in the woods... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 2
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The narrator observes that Maggie’s struggles have all been internal, whereas Tom’s battles have been outside of himself and thus... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 3
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Maggie meets Philip again in the Red Deeps, determined to tell him that it is impossible... (full context)
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...chance” in the woods again. The narrator notes that although Philip had little hope that Maggie would ever return his feelings, he couldn’t resist rationalizing his decision to continue seeing her,... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 4
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A year later, Maggie and Philip are still meeting in the woods to exchange books and talk. Maggie tells... (full context)
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Philip confesses that he is in love with Maggie and hopes she could love a man whom “other women were not likely to love.”... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 5
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At tea with the Dodson sisters, Mrs. Pullet mentions Philip’s name, and Maggie blushes. Tom sees this and becomes suspicious. That afternoon, he follows Maggie and confronts her... (full context)
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Tom then walks Maggie to the Red Downs, where he confronts Philip. Tom threatens Philip with dire punishments if... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 6
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...finally earned enough money to pay off the family debts. Mr. Tulliver, Mrs. Tulliver, and Maggie are overwhelmed with joy. Tom explains that Mr. Deane has organized a dinner at a... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 7
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...horse, and Mr. Tulliver begins flogging him brutally. He only stops when Mrs. Tulliver and Maggie run out of the house and pull him off Mr. Wakem. (full context)
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After this incident, Mr. Tulliver collapses and falls very ill. Maggie, Tom, and Mrs. Tulliver rush to his bedside. Barely able to speak, Mr. Tulliver tells... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 1
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...“belle of St. Ogg’s”—is the perfect wife for him. Lucy tells Stephen that her cousin Maggie is coming to stay, but decides to play a trick on him: she tells him... (full context)
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...Simbad. The narrator reflects that Lucy genuinely enjoys pleasing others—it makes her happy to give Maggie her best room, for instance. Lucy is generous and doesn’t tend to treat other women... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 2
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When Maggie arrives, Lucy tells her all about Stephen, blushingly observing that he is very handsome. There... (full context)
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Lucy mentions that Philip Wakem sometimes comes to sing with them. Maggie tells her that she always liked Philip and has no objection to seeing him. Just... (full context)
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Stephen, Maggie, and Lucy discuss Dr. Kenn, the local vicar, a very pious man who gives away... (full context)
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...take a boat on the river, secretly hoping that this will allow him to touch Maggie’s hand. The narrator denies that Stephen has fallen in love with Maggie at first sight,... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 3
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That night, Maggie struggles to fall asleep. She finds her mind very stimulated, not necessarily by  Stephen, but... (full context)
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Lucy confesses that she loves Stephen, and prompts Maggie to reveal her secrets as well. Maggie tells Lucy the story of her romance with... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 4
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Maggie goes to visit Tom at Bob Jakin’s house, where Tom is now lodging after the... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 6
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When Maggie makes her first appearances in St. Ogg’s “good society,” she is much admired for her... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 7
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Philip visits Lucy’s house and sees Maggie for the first time since their separation. In front of Lucy, they at first make... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 8
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...the enmity between the Tullivers and Wakems. Hoping that this will allow him to marry Maggie, Philip seizes the opportunity to talk to his father. He asks Mr. Wakem to come... (full context)
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Philip shows Mr. Wakem two drawings he has made of Maggie as a girl and as a young woman. He confesses that he has loved Maggie... (full context)
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...attic, however, he is in a much calmer mood. He reflects that he has seen Maggie in church and thinks she is very beautiful. He muses that she must be fond... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 9
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At the bazaar, Maggie makes a great impression in her white muslin dress and attracts many male customers to... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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The narrator reflects that although Maggie’s vanity was gratified by all the attention she received at the bar, her sense of... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 10
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Before Maggie leaves, she attends a grand dance at Stephen’s house. Although Stephen pretends to be indifferent... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 11
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After Maggie has been at Mrs. Moss’s for four days, Stephen arrives and asks to speak with... (full context)
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...to give her up, if that’s what she wants, but asks for one kiss first. Maggie returns to Mrs. Moss’s house in tears. She tells her aunt that she wishes she... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 12
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...mill to keep house for Tom. Mrs. Glegg and Mrs. Pullet very much disapprove of Maggie “going into service” and working as a teacher, when she could remain at home with... (full context)
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...a way to have a private conversation with Tom. She tells him that Philip loves Maggie, hoping that Tom will be softened by the return of Dorlcote Mill. Tom, however, is... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 13
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Over the next few days, Maggie experiences a great internal struggle. She is tempted by the possibility of seizing some happiness... (full context)
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...distressed and ill to go on the boat, and Stephen offers to take his place. Maggie protests, but eventually agrees to go out on the boat alone with Stephen. She allows... (full context)
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Eventually, Stephen and Maggie pass a steamer boat on route to Mudport, the nearest large town. They pay for... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 14
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That night, Maggie dreams of St. Ogg rowing the Virgin Mary in a boat, just like in the... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Book 7, Chapter 1
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Five days after her departure from St. Ogg’s with Stephen, Maggie returns to Dorlcote Mill, hoping to find sanctuary with Tom. When Tom sees her, however,... (full context)
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...Tulliver  exclaims, “you’ve got a mother!” and packs her things to leave Dorlcote Mill with Maggie.  They go to Bob Jakin, who takes them in. Bob shows Maggie his baby daughter,... (full context)
Book 7, Chapter 2
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The narrator observes ironically that if Maggie had returned to St. Ogg’s as Stephen’s wife, the world might have judged her quite... (full context)
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Hoping to find some way to earn her living, Maggie visits Dr. Kenn, who had been kind to her before. She tells him everything, and... (full context)
Book 7, Chapter 3
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...and ask for her help. Surprisingly, the usually judgmental Mrs. Glegg is very much on Maggie’s side. Having also read the letter that Stephen sent Lucy, she believes that Maggie is... (full context)
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Mrs. Tulliver passes on the news to Maggie that Lucy has gone to the seaside for her health, but is feeling much better.... (full context)
Book 7, Chapter 4
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Dr. Kenn works hard on Maggie’s behalf to try to find her some employment, but finds that no respectable woman in... (full context)
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Maggie learns that Lucy is going to the seaside with Stephen’s sisters. However, before Lucy leaves,... (full context)
Book 7, Chapter 5
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Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
A few weeks later, Maggie is up late at night and can’t sleep. The narrator relates the terrible heavy rains... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Maggie kneels to pray, but as she does so, she feels a pooling of water at... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Finally, Maggie sees the top of Dorlcote Mill, which is flooded up to the first story. She... (full context)
Conclusion
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...graveyard is quiet again. Philip, Stephen, and Lucy often visit the grave marking Tom and Maggie’s burial place. Philip always visits alone, whereas Stephen and Lucy visit together (they have since... (full context)