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Victorian novel, tragedy
The unnamed narrator was alive for Maggie Tulliver's life and is narrating the events many years later.
Point of view
The narrator speaks in the first person at selective points of narration but for all else, narrates as though third-person omniscient.
The tone can vary from lightly satiric when dealing with lesser characters, to elegiac or only slightly ironic when dealing with main characters.
St. Ogg's in English midlands (real life model for the Floss was the Trent in Lincolnshire)
Maggie must choose between her inner desire toward passion and sensuous life and her impulse toward moral responsibility and the need for her brother's approval and love.
Incurious Tom is sent to school, while Maggie is held "uncanny" for her intelligence. Mr. Tulliver's pride and inability to adapt to the changing economic world causes him to lose his property in a lawsuit against Lawyer Wakem and eventually die as the result of his fury toward Wakem. To Tom's dismay, Maggie becomes secretly close to Wakem's sensitive crippled son, Philip.
At the age of nineteen, Maggie visits her cousin Lucy and becomes hopelessly attracted to Lucy's wealthy and polished suitor, Stephen Guest, and he to her. Stephen and Maggie are inadvertently left to themselves for a boatride. Stephen rows them further down river than planned and tries to convince Maggie to elope with him.
Maggie parts with Stephen, arguing that they each cannot ignore the claims that Lucy and Philip have on them. Maggie returns to St. Ogg's several days later and is met with repudiation from the entire town and from Tom. Philip and Lucy contact Maggie and forgive her. The Floss floods, and Maggie seizes a boat and rows to the Mill to save Tom. Their boat is capsized by floating machinery, and Tom and Maggie drown in each other's arms.
As the story is being told in the past tense, the narrator often alludes to future circumstances when describing the present moment. An example of this is the narration of the figure of Maggie at the St. Ogg's bazaar in Chapter IX of Book Sixth, when the narrator alludes to the future attitudes of the women of St. Ogg's toward Maggie in light of her "subsequent conduct." The use of the Floss to symbolize Maggie's destiny throughout the novel also foreshadows her eventual drowning.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Mill on the Floss!