The Mill on the Floss

by: George Eliot

Philip Wakem

Philip Wakem is perhaps the most intelligent and perceptive character of The Mill on the Floss. He first appears as a relief to Maggie's young life—he is one of the few people to have an accurate sense of, and appreciation for, her intelligence, and Philip remains the only character who fully appreciates this side of Maggie. Philip himself is well read, cultured, and an accomplished sketcher. Philip's deformity—a hunched back he has had since birth—has made him somewhat melancholy and bitter. Like Maggie, he suffers from a lack of love in his life. His attraction to Maggie is, in part, a response to her seemingly bottomless capacity for love. Philip's gentleness, small stature, and sensitivity of feelings cause people to describe him as "womanly," and he is implicitly not considered as a passionate attachment for Maggie. It is Philip who urges Maggie to give up her unnatural self-denial. He recognizes her need for tranquility but assures her that this is not the way to reach it. Through the remainder of the novel, Philip seems to implicitly offer Maggie the tranquility that she seeks—we imagine that Maggie's life with Philip would be calm, happy, and intellectually fulfilling.