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The Mill on the Floss

George Eliot

Book Fifth, Chapters IV, V, VI, and VII

Book Fifth, Chapters I, II, and III

Book Sixth, Chapters I, II, III, and IV

Summary

Chapter IV

It is a year later, and Maggie and Philip have been meeting regularly in the Red Deeps. On this day Maggie gives returns a book to Philip, which he has lent her and announces her determination to read no more books in which the blond women "carry away all the happiness." Philip teases Maggie that she would like to carry away all the love from her blond cousin Lucy. They continue to discuss love, and Philip begins to drop hints of his own love for Maggie and wish for her to love him, and Maggie finally understands. Maggie is shocked and begins to adjust her understanding of their last year together. Philip asks her if she loves him. Maggie explains simply that she loves no one better but begs that they not discuss it further as she reveals her lingering fear that their meetings will lead to "evil." Philip's company has already led her to want more from the world and become weary of her home and her parents. Philip entreats Maggie to think only of their love.

Maggie and Philip near the end of their walk. Philip fears that Maggie loves him only as a brother. Maggie agrees that her happiness with him is as great as the happiness she felt as a child, when Tom was good to her. As they part, Maggie is caught up in the moment, and her words express more than she feels—she agrees that she would like to be always with Philip and make him happy and stoops to kiss his "pale face that was full of pleading, timid love—like a woman's." Maggie leaves feeling truly happy, feeling that "if there were sacrifices in this love, it was all the richer and more satisfying."

Chapter V

The day after Maggie's last meeting with Philip, her aunt Pullet comes to tea at the Tullivers'. The table conversation shifts from Lucy Deane's beauty to Philip Wakem, whom Mrs. Pullet reports having seen "a-scrambling out o' the trees and brambles at the Red Deeps." Maggie, sitting across from Tom, blushes deeply and is unsure if Tom notices.

Tom did notice and remembers hearing Mrs. Tulliver scold Maggie for walking in the clay at Red Deeps, but his mind refuses to accept the possibility that his sister would seek the company of a deformed man. The next afternoon, Bob Jakin mentions having seen Philip Wakem on the mill side of the river. Tom, convinced, confronts Maggie on her way out of the house. Tom questions her, and Maggie explains everything, including their vows of love. Tom makes Maggie swear on a Bible never to see Philip again, or he will tell their father of her deceit. Maggie insists that she see Philip once more, and Tom brings Maggie to Red Deeps to meet Philip. Tom berates Philip and insults his deformity. Philip stands by his good intentions to Maggie and accuses Tom of being incapable of understanding what he feels for Maggie.

Tom pulls Maggie away and Maggie confronts Tom about his cruel words to Philip and his continual enjoyment in punishing her. Tom reminds Maggie that his actions have brought the family goodness, while Maggie's actions have brought no one good. Tom leaves for appointments, and Maggie goes to her room to mourn. Yet the end of the chapter wonders about the cause of a "certain dim background of relief in the forced separation from Philip."

Chapter VI

Three weeks later, Tom comes home early from work in a good mood. He triumphantly tells his father of the money of Uncle Glegg's on which he has traded and that he now has three hundred and twenty pounds return. Their debts will finally be fully paid. Mr. Tulliver breaks into sobs.

Tom explains that Mr. Tulliver is to meet the creditors tomorrow at the Golden Lion. Mr. Tulliver triumphs at the realization that Wakem must know of the publicized event. He tells Tom that Tom must make a speech to the creditors and make his father proud and, in turn, make Wakem ashamed of his own crooked son. Mr. Tulliver stays up late savoring his triumph with Tom. He wakes up with a start in the morning from a dream, presumably about Wakem—"I thought I'd got hold of him."

Chapter VII

Sitting at the Golden Lion the next day, Mr. Tulliver seems his old self. Tom makes a brief speech of which Mr. Tulliver is quite proud. After the party, Tom remains in town to take care of business, and Mr. Tulliver heads home, hoping to meet Wakem in the street. At the gates of Dorlcote Mill, Tulliver does meet Wakem, who scolds him about a farming method. Mr. Tulliver becomes furious and proclaims that he'll "serve no longer under a scoundrel." As Wakem tries to pass, Tulliver spurs his horse, and Wakem's horse throws Wakem from the saddle. Tulliver jumps off his horse and flogs Wakem with a riding whip. Maggie rushes out of the house and holds her father back. Luke arrives and helps Wakem back onto his horse, as Wakem vows that Tulliver will "suffer for this."

After Wakem's departure, Tulliver becomes faint and goes to bed. Tom arrives home triumphant, becomes gloomy again upon hearing the awful news of his father's violence. The next morning, Mrs. Tulliver awakens Tom and Maggie to tell them she has sent for a doctor and that their father is asking for them. Tulliver charges Tom with the task of getting the old mill back in the family and caring for Mrs. Tulliver and Maggie. Tulliver announces that he doesn't forgive Wakem, and his last words before death are "This world's … too many … honest man … puzzling…. " Maggie asks Tom to forgive her, and they hold each other and weep.

Analysis

The second part of Book Fifth moves quickly with events: Maggie's declaration of love for Philip, Tom's discovery of Maggie and Philip's meetings, Tom's repayment of the Tulliver debt, Mr. Tulliver's death. This section of the novel also works to cement the particular difficulties of Maggie's relationships with both Tom and Philip that will underlay their interactions for the rest of the novel.

In Chapter IV of Book Fifth, Philip's admission of love to Maggie takes her by surprise. The new, less innocent tint that this puts on their meetings of the last year works to increase Maggie's guilt about their secrecy and secure a quicker agreement to Tom's ultimatum. Though Maggie returns Philip's love in declaration, doubt is cast upon the romantic quality of this love. When Maggie and Philip first met as children, her love for him was compared to her love for deformed animals—she loved them more because she found that they appreciated and returned her love more than healthy animals. Here, Maggie's love has matured but still is not portrayed as the love of one equal to another. Maggie's love for Philip still involves some level of pity but now also reflects her newfound desire for self-denial. Loving Philip and devoting herself to his happiness would imply making a sacrifice, putting his happiness before her own. While Maggie does not see herself and Philip as equals, the narrative also reflects this difference. Philip has been described as "womanly" several times throughout Book Fifth, and the narrative implies that his love for Maggie involves neediness rather than romantic desire. Finally, Maggie is portrayed as too young and inexperienced to know the difference between romantic love and other love and thus to be able to distinguish her love for Philip as the latter. When Philip fears that Maggie loves him only as a brother, Maggie agrees that she does, because for Maggie, her love for Tom is the pinnacle of her career of loving—it represents the ideal to her. Chapter IV opens with Maggie scorning the conventional scenes of love in which the blond haired woman wins the man, yet Maggie's unconventional acceptance of Philip's love is not fully endorsed by the narrative commentary.

Tom's angry scolding of Maggie in Chapter V shifts the terms of Maggie's internal debate slightly. While before, Maggie was at war about whether to stick to her tranquil plan of self-denial or to experience the fullness of life through her meetings with Philip, Tom now reminds her that it is her "duty" to stay away from Philip. Thus the terms of Maggie's internal debate shift to an argument between her duty to her family and her selfish love of what Philip offers her. Though Tom's terms change Maggie's internal struggle slightly, Tom's authority over Maggie is somewhat undermined by his cruel treatment of Philip. Soon, however, the death of Mr. Tulliver insures that Maggie will be mindful of family duties much more efficiently than Tom could have done. In death, with his admonitions to bring down the Wakem family still ringing, Mr. Tulliver's will seems much more compelling than when he was alive.

Finally, Book Fifth contains several allusions to the growing beauty of Maggie's cousin Lucy Deane. Philip's statement in Chapter IV that Maggie would like to "carry away all the love from your cousin Lucy" foreshadows the events of the end of the novel.

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