Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Mill on the Floss

Go To
Tom and Maggie Tulliver.

The Mill on the Floss is a novel by George Eliot, which charts the Coming of Age of Maggie and Tom Tulliver, two siblings living in a fictional hamlet in Lincolnshire. The siblings' complex and at times strained relationship is further complicated when the family fortunes waver and Maggie - ever disapproved of for her "unladylike" temperament and pursuit of knowledge - finds herself yearning for an affection which her adored but stern brother withholds, only to find a kindred spirit in Phillip Wakem, son of the man both Tom and their father Edward hold responsible for the latter's misfortunes.

Often cited as Eliot's most autobiographical novel.

This work contains examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Tom Tulliver.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Tom is the beneficiary of Parental Favoritism, and frequently heaps scorn on his sister, but also enjoys her Big Brother Worship more than he cares to admit.
  • Amoral Attorney: John Wakem, according to Mr Tulliver's characterisation of the man, though he is not exactly an unbiased source.
  • Big Brother Worship: Characterises Maggie's relationship with her older brother.
  • Brainy Brunette: Bookworm Maggie, whose relatives regularly lament her dark hair and skin.
  • Break the Haughty: The loss of the lawsuit and the resultant bankruptcy comes as a huge shock to Edward Tulliver, to the point of sending him into an Angst Coma from which he never fully recovers.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Maggie insists upon learning to row so that Lucy and Stephen can relax together in their boat, which comes in handy when the Floss floods and she needs to save Tom from the second story of the family home.
  • Childhood Friend Romance
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Maggie
  • Double Standard: The differing treatment of Maggie and Stephen following their indiscretion (the former is considered Defiled Forever and made the target of gossip and ostracism, whereas the young man is thought of as a victim of a wiley, wayward woman) is thoroughly eviscerated.
  • Dumb Blonde: Elizabeth and Tom Tulliver are the Dumb Blondes to Maggie's Brainy Brunette.
  • Feuding Families: Sort of. The Tullivers and the Wakems, and even though it's pretty one-sided, it's one of the major obstacles to Maggie and Phillip's relationship.
  • Genius Cripple: Studious, artistic Phillip Wakem, who is a hunchback.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom
  • Good Shepherd: The local minister Dr Kenn through and through, who donates most of his income to charity and takes Grattan into his home when the boy accidentally shoots his mother, and later does the same for Maggie, after she is Convicted by Public Opinion.
  • Hidden Depths: Aunt Jane Glegg, as is discovered in a later chapter, appropriately named "Showing That Old Acquaintances Are Capable of Surprising Us".
  • I Have No Sister: Tom disowns Maggie after her apparent elopement with Stephen Guest.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Maggie's central motivation, made explicit by Word of God.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Before he confesses his love, this is Phillip's sentiment, as he doesn't believe Maggie will ever love him back. He resolves to be a friend, a guardian, a brother, or whatever else she will allow him to be... but it turns out she returns his feelings.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kezia, the "bad-tempered, good-hearted" maid to the Tullivers, who for all her scolding and for all that she has a Hair-Trigger Temper, chooses to stay with the family during Edward's illness, wages or no wages.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: By the standards of the time, Maggie and Phillip, certainly. Phillip is sensitive, timid and thoughtful, and sometimes described in feminine terms in the book, while Maggie is a spirited Tomboy with little ability to interpret others' emotions.
  • Oblivious to Love: Maggie is dumbfounded when Phillip confesses his love, as it simply never occurred to her to think of him as anything but a friend. He assumes at first that she is incapable of loving a "cripple" like him.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Several, one of which goes disastrously wrong.
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension: A flood is used to provide a dramatic climax to the novel, in which Tom and Maggie use a boat to try to save Lucy Deane and her family from the rising waters.
  • Silly Prayer: Tom Tulliver, unhappy at Mr Stelling's school, adds to his prayer the following: "And please to make me always remember my Latin." He pauses a little to consider how he should pray about Euclid and geometry, and then adds: "And make Mr Stelling say I sha'n't do Euclid any more. Amen."
  • Single-Target Sexuality: From childhood, Phillip only has eyes for Maggie, and he never finds another love after her death.
  • Thicker Than Water
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Maggie and her cousin Lucy Deane, respectively.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Maggie's dark eyes which "seem trying to speak kindly", according to Phillip. Later Stephen Guest and John Wakem also remark on their beauty.
  • Will They or Won't They?: They don't.