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The Mill on the Floss

George Eliot

Book Third, Chapters VII, VIII, and IX

Book Third, Chapters IV, V, and VI

Book Third, Chapters VII, VIII, and IX, page 2

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Summary

Chapter VII

Mr. Tulliver is still not fully conscious, and the sale of the house and mill is rapidly approaching. Mrs. Tulliver and the children have hope that uncle Deane and his company, Guest & Co., will buy the mill and keep Mr. Tulliver as manager. They fear, though, that Mr. Wakem decide to bide on the mill since he now holds the mortgage on it.

Mr. Deane has also found Tom a temporary warehouse job. Tom life is grim—he goes to the warehouse all day, then takes bookkeeping lessons at night. He's also recently realized that, besides the sale of the house, mill, and furniture, his father owes still more debts and is therefore truly bankrupt.

Deciding to take action herself, Mrs. Tulliver goes into town to see Mr. Wakem without telling anyone. She entreats Mr. Wakem not to bid on the sale of the house and mill, because Guest & Co. Plan to buy it and keep her husband on as manager. Mr. Wakem is short with Mrs. Tulliver and resolves after showing her out to buy the mill and house and keep Tulliver on as manager, although the idea of purchasing the property had not occurred to him before Mrs. Tulliver came to see him. Mr. Wakem's actions do not necessarily make him an evil man. In the course of her visit, Mrs. Tulliver inadvertently revealed several incentives for Wakem to buy the property, including Mr. Tulliver's hatred for Wakem, and the intentions of Wakem's rivals, Guest & Co., to buy it themselves. Wakem plans to keep Tulliver on as manager, in part because Tulliver's humiliation will increase knowing that Wakem has made a charitable gesture toward him and partly because Wakem understands that Tulliver is an honest miller.

Chapter VIII

Wakem has bought the property and stopped by to present to Mr. Deane and Mr. Glegg his willingness to keep Tulliver on as miller. Mr. Tulliver is unaware of this, as his memory is still vague. The doctor orders that Tulliver should walk downstairs in hope that his memory will catch up. Maggie and Tom try to explain to him what is happening with his affairs, and Mr. Tulliver's pain is renewed upon learning again that he is bankrupt. Maggie and Tom are careful not to reveal that Wakem now owns the property. Mrs. Tulliver enters into the conversation bemoaning her poor luck. Mr. Tulliver promises to do anything he can to make amends. Mrs. Tulliver requests that he be respectful toward Wakem, revealing that Wakem has bought the property. Mr. Tulliver is upset, and Tom offers support, saying that his father shouldn't be made to work under Wakem. Mr. Tulliver moans that "[t]his world's been too many for me."

Chapter IX

Mr. Tulliver struggles with his hatred for Wakem and his promise to Mrs. Tulliver to make amends. Tulliver walks around his property with Luke and remembers scenes from his childhood spent on the same property. Mr. Tulliver has a great attachment to his home, and he and Luke discuss the dislike of new places and people. At home that night, Mr. Tulliver seems to be working something over in his mind. He gets anxious for Tom's arrival and tells Maggie to get the family Bible. When Tom arrives home, Mr. Tulliver calls him in. Tulliver vows in front of his family to fulfill his promise to Mrs. Tulliver and work under Wakem, but he also vows not to forgive Wakem. He makes Tom write in the family bible that Wakem will not be forgiven and that "I wish evil may befall him," and he signs his own name, Tom Tulliver. Maggie protests, but Tom insists on carrying out his father's orders.

Analysis

Though it is not foregrounded, one of the main plot points of Book Third is the Tulliver's loss of their furniture and threatened loss of their home. Mrs. Tulliver is mocked in Chapters II and III of Book Third for her panic about the impending sale of her linens and china, a panic that seems to far outweigh her concern for her sick husband. Despite this satire, however, the genuine emotional importance of objects is often stressed in this section of the novel. The painfulness of losing objects is first explored in Book Second when Tom happily returns to his home and its familiar objects after having briefly "lost" them while away at school. The narrator points to the centrality of objects to one's earliest consciousness: "objects became dear to us before we had known the labour of choice and where the outer world seemed only an extension of our personality: we accepted and loved it as we accepted our own sense of existence and our limbs." In Book Third, Chapter IV, the narrator speaks of the language of familiar objects: "All long-known objects, even a mere window fastening or a particular door-latch, have sounds which are a sort of recognized voice to us." In the same way, Maggie's reaction to the loss of the family's books expresses the sincere pathos of losing childhood things: "the end of our lives will have nothing in it like the beginning!" Through oblique narrative discussion and singular plot moments like Maggie's discovery of the loss of books, or Bob's sentimental attachment to his pocketknife, Book Third gestures clearly to the sadness of the loss of the Tullivers' household goods.

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