The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss

by

George Eliot

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Mill on the Floss can help.

Tom Tulliver Character Analysis

Tom is Mr. Tulliver and Mrs. Tulliver’s son and Maggie’s older brother. He does not share her intellectual abilities and bookish qualities, but he is skilled at practical tasks like building, fishing, and working on the Tulliver family property, Dorlcote Mill. His father sends him to study with Mr. Stelling, with the aim of giving him “a good eddication” that will give Tom a chance at succeeding in business. However, Tom is ill-suited for studies in Latin and geometry. Tom is highly moralistic and has a well-developed sense of right and wrong, which he imposes on those around him. He tends to treat Maggie harshly when she does something that he deems a violation of his moral code, which is often. Tom has a difficult and traumatic initiation into adulthood when Mr. Tulliver goes bankrupt and later dies, leaving Tom responsible for the family’s finances. Tom swears on the family Bible that he will take revenge against Mr. Wakem, the lawyer who spitefully ruined them. Tom becomes obsessed with making his fortune, paying the family debts, and buying back Dorlcote Mill, which he eventually does. However, his success comes at a high personal cost: he becomes exhausted, stubborn, and even harsher in his judgments of Maggie. He rejects Maggie after her failed elopement with Stephen Guest, telling her he renounces her as his sister. However, brother and sister are reconciled at the end of the novel, when Maggie rescues Tom from a disastrous flood and the pair die in an embrace.

Tom Tulliver Quotes in The Mill on the Floss

The The Mill on the Floss quotes below are all either spoken by Tom Tulliver or refer to Tom 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 3 Quotes

“I want him to know figures, and write like print, and see into things quick, and know what folks mean, and how to wrap things up in words as aren’t actionable. It’s an uncommon fine thing […] when you can let a man know what you think of him without paying for it.”

Related Characters: Mr. Tulliver (speaker), Tom Tulliver, Mr. Wakem, Mr. Riley
Page Number: 22
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 3 Quotes

“It’s part of the education of a gentleman,” said Philip. “All gentlemen learn the same things.”

Related Characters: Philip Wakem (speaker), Tom Tulliver
Page Number: 154
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 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:
Get the entire The Mill on the Floss LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Mill on the Floss PDF

Tom Tulliver Character Timeline in The Mill on the Floss

The timeline below shows where the character Tom 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 
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Mr. Tulliver tells his wife, Mrs. Tulliver, that he wants their son, Tom, to get a better education than Mr. Tulliver himself had received. He doesn’t want to... (full context)
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Mr. Tulliver admits that Tom isn’t the brightest child in the family, although he hopes Tom will become a professional... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
...thinks Old Harry (the devil) created lawyers. He asks for advice about where to send Tom to school, since he wants his son to set up in a profession on his... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Mr. Riley suggests that Mr. Tulliver send Tom to study with Stelling, a parson with a Master of Arts degree from Oxford, who... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Maggie wants to go with Mr. Tulliver to fetch Tom from school, but Mrs. Tulliver protests that it is too rainy for a girl to... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
...doesn’t need to know anything more than what earns his daily bread. Maggie admits that Tom isn’t much of a reader either, although she loves him dearly and hopes they will... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Maggie and Mrs. Tulliver stand outside to greet Tom on his return from school. Tom tells Maggie that he has a present for her:... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...where she thinks of hiding and starving herself. Meanwhile, at tea downstairs, Mr. Tulliver asks Tom where Maggie is and chides him to be good to her. He knows Maggie would... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
The next day, Maggie and Tom go down to the Round Pool to go fishing. Maggie asks Tom to put a... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...in preparation 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... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Whenever their Dodson relatives arrive, Tom and Maggie tend to run away for the day. Today, they sit under a tree... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Tom and Bob walk along the river with the Tullivers’ dog, Yap, to go rat-catching. They... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...she accuses Mr. Tulliver of wasting all the family money on lawsuits, leaving nothing for Tom and Maggie. (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...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 part, thinks... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...tells Maggie to go upstairs and brush her hair. Maggie goes to the attic with Tom and cuts off her hair, hoping that she won’t have to hear any complaints and... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Tom persuades Maggie to come down to dinner, but she soon regrets it, since Mrs. Tulliver... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Mr. Tulliver sends the children outside so he can announce his decision regarding Tom’s education to the family, explaining that he wants Tom to go into business rather than... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...since Maggie takes after their side of the family. Mrs. Moss says that she hopes Tom will always care for his sister, just as Mr. Tulliver has always cared for her.... (full context)
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...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 own sister. He returns to the Moss... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...clothes, which make her uncomfortable and irritated. While building card houses with the other children, Tom praises Lucy’s house and calls Maggie “stupid.” Maggie knocks over Tom’s house of cards, which... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...and says that she hopes the women will remember this bonnet when she’s dead. Meanwhile, Tom talks downstairs with Mr. Pullet, whom Tom thinks is rather stupid but very rich. (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
...on his music-box. Maggie is overwhelmed by the beauty of the music and enthusiastically hugs Tom, spilling his cowslip wine and infuriating the Pullets for disturbing their spotless house. (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...always her 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... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 10
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...Lucy appears in the doorway smeared with mud. When the children went outside to play, Tom continued to give preference to Lucy because he was annoyed with Maggie. He invited Lucy... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...Felling like a “truly 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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 1
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
At King’s Lorton, the house of Mr. Stelling, Tom is miserable. He had enjoyed playing with the other boys at his old school, but... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Tom does not understand Mr. Stelling’s jokes—like a pun on the Latin word for “roast beef”—which... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Because the Stellings don’t want to pay for a second nurse, they use Tom to watch their oldest child, Laura. Tom plays with the little girl but longs for... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Tom admits that Maggie’s visit really did help him improve at his lessons. He counts the... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 2
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
...dispute unfolds, the Tullivers learn that Wakem is also sending his son to school with Tom, to study with Mr. Stelling. Despite his rage at Wakem, Mr. Tulliver is secretly pleased... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
When Tom returns to school, Mr. Stelling informs him that he has a new companion—Philip Wakem, the... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
...and enjoys the stories of the Greeks in The Odyssey, which he promises to tell Tom. Feeling intimidated by Philip’s knowledge, Tom asks him if he wants to go fishing—an area... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
As they settle in to their lessons together, Tom and Philip maintain an uneasy friendship. Tom likes Philip’s stories and his help with Latin,... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Tom begins taking drilling lessons with Mr. Poulter, an old soldier who fought with the Duke... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
After their fight, Tom and Philip speak to each other only when necessary, namely because Philip can’t forgive Tom... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Tom brings Maggie upstairs to show her his new sword. He makes her close her eyes... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
As Tom recovers from his injury, Philip feels compassion for him and sits with Tom and Maggie... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...school, she tells him that she loves Philip. Mr. Tulliver says that it’s fine for Tom and Maggie to be kind to the boy, but tells them to remember that he... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...Worse, Mr. Tulliver initiates the lawsuit against Mr. Pivart, who Wakem represents. Mr. Tulliver tells Tom to avoid Philip at school. Tom, meanwhile, comes to the end of his school days,... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Maggie, now thirteen, comes to visit Tom at Mr. Stelling’s. She tells Tom that Mr. Tulliver has lost the lawsuit with Mr.... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 1
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...on the family, since they have always disliked Mr. Tulliver. Maggie, meanwhile, goes to fetch Tom from school and tells him that Wakem now has a mortgage on Dorlcote Mill. Tom... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 2
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tom and Maggie find the bailiff in their house, come to repossess everything they own to... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
The way Tom and Mrs. Tulliver are speaking about Mr. Tulliver angers Maggie, and she runs upstairs to... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...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 themselves and... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...her initials going out into the world outside the family. The aunts and uncles tell Tom that he must work hard now and use his education. Tom points out, however, that... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...that if Mr. Tulliver goes bankrupt, they will be obliged to pay the money anyway. Tom says that he doesn’t want to take money from Mrs. Moss, because he knew that... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Tom, Maggie, Mr. Glegg, and Mrs. Moss go upstairs to look through Mr. Tulliver’s chest and... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Mr. Tulliver slips back into his coma, but Tom is now determined upon two courses of action: to repay the money to Luke, even... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 5
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
The next day, Tom rides into St. Ogg’s to ask his uncle Mr. Deane if he can help him... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
At home, Tom tells Maggie sadly that Mr. Deane said he was too young and ill-educated to find... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 6
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...and everyone is in a bad mood. But at tea-time, a visitor comes to see Tom in the study. It is Bob Jakin, the local boy whom Tom had fought with... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 7
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
...steam power, and keep Mr. Tulliver on as manager. He also finds a job for Tom in the warehouse, as well as helping him get evening lessons in bookkeeping. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 8
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...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 with the... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Maggie and Tom tell Mr. Tulliver that he is now a bankrupt, but Tom promises to pay back... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 9
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
When Tom gets home, Mr. Tulliver calls him into the parlor. He explains that although he’s decided... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 1
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
...necessary to depict this “oppressive narrowness” in order to understand the forces that have shaped Tom and Maggie's lives. (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 2
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...is miserable. Mrs. Tulliver is bewildered 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... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 3
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
One day, the Tullivers receive a visit from Bob Jakin, Tom’s childhood friend. Bob brings a package of books for Maggie, concerned that the family have... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 2
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
The narrator observes that Maggie’s struggles have all been internal, whereas Tom’s battles have been outside of himself and thus he can gain more “definite conquests.” Tom... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Tom decides to ask Mr. Glegg to provide the startup funds to invest in the shipping... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 5
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
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 while she... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Tom then walks Maggie to the Red Downs, where he confronts Philip. Tom threatens Philip with... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 6
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
A few weeks later, Tom tells the family that he has finally earned enough money to pay off the family... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 7
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...gives a speech in which he thanks God for the aid of his good son, Tom. He even regains some of his old talkativeness, explaining to his fellow diners that he... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
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 Tom... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 3
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
...to come and stay. Maggie explains that she can’t see Philip because she swore to Tom that she wouldn’t meet him again without his permission. (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 4
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Maggie goes to visit Tom at Bob Jakin’s house, where Tom is now lodging after the loss of Dorlcote Mill.... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 5
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Mr. Deane calls Tom into his office and applauds him for doing so well at Guest & Co for... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Mr. Deane promises to consider Tom’s suggestion and to explore the possibility of buying Dorlcote Mill. However, he expresses some skepticism,... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 7
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 8
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...tells Philip about her scheme to get Guest & Co to buy Dorlcote Mill for Tom, thus hopefully soothing some of the enmity between the Tullivers and Wakems. Hoping that this... (full context)
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...base motive, and that in any case, Maggie is not responsible for Mr. Tulliver or Tom’s behavior. Mr. Wakem retorts that “we don't ask what a woman does—we ask whom she... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...a daughter-in-law, and even to sell the mill. However, he draws the line at forgiving Tom. (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 9
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...to want to marry him, but Maggie protests that her only reluctance is due to Tom’s opposition to the marriage. (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 10
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
...to buy back the mill. She tells him that she could never marry him without Tom’s approval. Philip asks whether that is the only reason why they have been kept apart,... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 12
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...will give Mrs. Tulliver, who is also returning to the mill to keep house for Tom. Mrs. Glegg and Mrs. Pullet very much disapprove of Maggie “going into service” and working... (full context)
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Lucy finds a way to have a private conversation with Tom. She tells him that Philip loves Maggie, hoping that Tom will be softened by the... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 13
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...so many years of pain. Lucy notices that Maggie seems depressed, but attributes this to Tom’s continuing opposition to her marriage to Philip. Hoping to bring Maggie and Philip together, Lucy... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 14
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Book 7, Chapter 1
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...from St. Ogg’s with Stephen, Maggie returns to Dorlcote Mill, hoping to find sanctuary with Tom. When Tom sees her, however, he is prepared for “the worst that could happen—not death,... (full context)
Book 7, Chapter 3
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...has taken to harshly castigating anyone who speaks ill of her niece. She even confronts Tom, but Tom is too stubborn to revise his prior position. She tells Mrs. Tulliver that... (full context)
Book 7, Chapter 5
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
...She runs upstairs to wake Bob and tell him to evacuate his family. Thinking of Tom at Dorlcote Mill, she runs to Bob's boat and picks up an oar. Before Bob... (full context)
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...top of Dorlcote Mill, which is flooded up to the first story. She shouts for Tom, whose head appears at the window. Tom explains that Mrs. Tulliver is safe at her... (full context)
Conclusion
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...Tulliver family 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... (full context)