The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss


George Eliot

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Themes and Colors
Memory and Childhood Theme Icon
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Women’s Roles and Social Pressures Theme Icon
Tolerance and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Mill on the Floss, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Memory and Childhood

Although The Mill on the Floss covers about fifteen years in the lives of its protagonists, siblings Tom and Maggie Tulliver, the story constantly hearkens back to their childhood. In the novel, seemingly trivial incidences in those early years later take on new significance. Maggie’s conflict with Tom and her desire for his love and acceptance, for instance, is a thread that continues from their early lives at Dorlcote Mill, through their school years…

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Knowledge and Ignorance

The narrator of The Mill on the Floss describes St. Ogg’s, the town where Tom and Maggie Tulliver grew up, as a place where “ignorance was much more comfortable than at present”—meaning the reader’s present is a more “enlightened” age. Throughout the novel, both Tom and Maggie struggle with the smallness of their home town and its provincial, narrow-minded values. The less bookish Tom eventually manages to find a respected place for himself in this…

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Women’s Roles and Social Pressures

Even as a little girl, Maggie Tulliver is considered “contrary” and un-ladylike by her relatives. She speaks out of turn, reads too much, and engages in acts of rebellion like cutting off her hair. Her behavior is often contrasted unfavorably with that of her cousin, Lucy Deane, a model of perfect Victorian femininity. Lucy is sweet, obedient, and conventionally pretty, all of which are qualities valued in women in Victorian society. As Maggie…

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Tolerance and Forgiveness

The community depicted in The Mill on the Floss is a small one, and old grudges die hard. Many of the families living in the town of St. Ogg’s have done so for generations, and people feel a strong sense of loyalty to their community and traditions. Often, this cleaving to tradition can take the form of intolerance towards those who deviate from social norms or who are thought to have shamed or betrayed their…

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