The Mill on the Floss

by: George Eliot

Tom Tulliver

As a child, Tom Tulliver enjoys the outdoors. He is more suited to practical knowledge than bookish education and sometimes prefers to settle disputes with physical intimidation, as does his father. Tom is quite close to Maggie as a child—he responds almost instinctively to her affection, and they are likened to two animals. Tom has a strong, self-righteous sense of "fairness" and "justice" which often figures into his decisions and relationships more than tenderness. As Tom grows older he exhibits the Dodson coolness of mind more than the Tulliver passionate rashness, though he is capable of studied cruelty, as when he upbraids Philip Wakem with reference to Philip's deformity . Repelled by his father's provincial, small-minded ways and the mess these ways caused the family, Tom joins the ranks of capitalist entrepreneurs who are swiftly rising in the world. Tom holds strict notions about gender—his biggest problem with Maggie is that she will not let him take care of her and make her decisions for her. Tom's character seems capable of love and kindness—he buys a puppy for Lucy Deane, and he often ends up reconciling with Maggie—but the difficult circumstances of his young life have led him into a bitter single- mindedness reminiscent of his father.