The Mill on the Floss
Book Fifth, Chapters IX, X, and XI
It is the day of the St. Ogg's bazaar, and many men visit Maggie's stall to ask about her goods, a detail which will be remembered by the women of St. Ogg's unfavorably in the future. Stephen is paying much attention to Lucy in this public setting. Mr. Wakem visits Maggie's booth and pleasantly buys goods from her, speaking generally, but significantly, about Philip. Stephen comes to Maggie's booth late in the day, and Maggie appears agitated, looking up at Philip, who is sitting in the corner observing them. Stephen follows her look, seeing Philip, and realizes the attachment between Philip and Maggie.
Stephen approaches Philip and makes nervous talk about his own antipathy to Maggie, and Philip calls him a "hypocrite." The two part. Meanwhile, Maggie sits at her stall in despair at the thought that life was always "bringing some new source of inward strife." Dr. Kenn, seeing the pain on Maggie's face, visits her stall. Dr. Kenn's presence is soothing to Maggie, and she explains to him that she must soon leave St. Ogg's again. Dr. Kenn senses the urgency behind this need.
We learn that Lucy has reported to Maggie that the mill can be reclaimed by Tom, thanks to Philip. Maggie has not spent time with Philip lately, leaving her alone to struggle internally with her feelings for him. After the bazaar, Maggie tells Lucy that she is leaving in two days to see her aunt Moss and then is taking up a governess position at the end of the month. Lucy is hurt and confused about why Maggie would leave now that there are no obstacles between Maggie and Philip. Maggie explains that Tom still objects. Lucy offers to speak with Tom, but Maggie insists she must leave St. Ogg's and "leave some time to pass." Lucy asks Maggie if she does not love Philip enough to marry him, but Maggie responds that she would choose to marry Philip because it would be "the best and highest lot" for her.
The night before she leaves for Mrs. Moss's, Maggie attends a dance at Stephen's house. Stephen does not ask Maggie to dance as he cannot think of her without thinking of Philip, too, now that he senses the attachment between them. But as Maggie begins to dance a country-dance, Stephen begins to hunger for her closeness. After the dance, he approaches her and suggests they go for a walk. In the conservatory, looks and silences make up a "moment of mute confession" between them, and there is a sad resignation that they will soon part for good. Maggie reaches to pick a rose, and Stephen impulsively kisses her arm. Maggie is instantly hurt and angry that he would think so lightly of her. Yet Maggie is also relieved that her prideful reaction to Stephen's insulting gesture will make it easier for her to renounce him and face her duty.
The next morning Philip visits Maggie before she leaves for the Mosses'. Maggie is affectionate to Philip like they had used to be, but she tells him that she must go away again. She explains that she cannot do anything against Tom's will. Philip, suspicious, asks her if this is the only reason they cannot be together, and Maggie answers affirmatively and believes it.
Maggie has been at her aunt Moss's for four days, when Stephen rides up to the house. Stephen claims to have a message for Maggie, and they walk out of the Mosses' yard together. Maggie angrily berates Stephen for pressing himself upon her. Philip, in turn, berates Maggie for her lack of feeling for the suffering he feels, "mad with love" for her and trying to resist, while she treats him as though he were a "coarse brute." He explains that he would give her his hand in marriage if he could and that he has repented his rash action in the conservatory, but it was committed because he "loves [her] with his whole soul." Maggie forgives him immediately but is reluctant to indulge him affection. They walk further, and Maggie urges him to think of Lucy and explains her own attachment to Philip. Stephen argues that if she loves him as much as he loves her, then it wouldn't be wrong for them to marry. He argues that they are neither formally bound to Lucy or Philip. Maggie agrees that their feelings for each other are strong but explains that when "such feelings continually come across the ties that all our former life has made for us" then they should be renounced. Maggie agrees to give him one kiss before they part, and then she hurries back to the Mosses' where she cries in her aunt's arms.
Chapter IX, set at the St. Ogg's bazaar, opens with slight foreshadowing of the tenor of events to come. Maggie is depicted from the viewpoint of onlookers, especially female, and we are told that the evident attraction felt for her by many men will be remembered harshly after future events. The backdrop of St. Ogg's society has remained present for most of Book Sixth, but here it begins to seem hypocritical and menacing for the first time. The chapter's title, "Charity in Full Dress," satirically points to this hypocritical quality and alludes to the lack of generosity in a society that will only practice charity when it is convenient and colorful to do so. This same lack of generosity, and its accompanying unwillingness to put oneself in the place of others, will be turned against Maggie in the chapters to come, we are told.
Chapter IX practices a novelistic convention—bringing all of the characters together in a public arena. The publicness of the space, of course, affects their behavior and sometimes puts it in relief. Thus Maggie's inner troubled state becomes outwardly apparent at the bazaar, and Philip's inner neediness toward Maggie becomes physically apparent as we find that he has been sitting in a position to watch her all day. Finally, the public space makes Stephen and Maggie's interactions seem all the more conspiratory and illicit. Through these heightened emotions, as experienced in front of crowds of people, revelations are made—Philip guesses Stephen's attraction to Maggie, (though he is still unsure of her response) and Stephen guesses Philip's attachment to Maggie.
This section of Book Sixth also marks the first tacit acknowledgment between Stephen and Maggie of their mutual attraction. On the one hand, Maggie's intentions seem pure—she has arranged for another job to take her away from her temptation quickly—she tells Dr. Kenn in Chapter IX, "Oh, I must go." On the other hand, Maggie is depicted as inviting a certain level of attachment with Stephen. When Stephen kisses her arm in the conservatory, Maggie is not angry because he has betrayed Lucy, but because he has thought her less honorable, more available, than Lucy. It is her pride that is gratified by Stephen's announcement to her of his love at the Mosses'.
In the chapter at the Mosses', Stephen is subtly depicted as self-centered and unaware of his elitism. We are told that "[h]e spoke almost abruptly, as if his errand were too pressing for him to trouble himself about what would be though by Mrs. Moss of his visit and request." Stephen does not address Willy Moss by name but merely orders him to hold his horse. Maggie might miss this attitude, but we certainly do not. It is a foreshadowing of the differences between Maggie and Stephen—Maggie will feel more strongly the feelings of others.
The extremely linear narrative of The Mill on the Floss insures that causes and effects can be seen through and related to each other. This mode of narrative is appropriate to the moral concerns of Eliot's novel. Thus, when Maggie has a meeting with Philip after she has renounced Stephen for the first time, and before he comes to see her at the Mosses', Maggie can tell Philip in all honesty that no one has claims on her but Tom.
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