As the main character of The Mill on the Floss, Maggie Tulliver will get the most in-depth psychological realist examination of the kind used to explain Mr. Riley above. Yet, in these opening three chapters, Maggie is introduced through the opinions and eyes of others, usually her parents. The Tullivers' discussion of Maggie in Chapter II actually serves more to pinpoint their individual characters—Mr. Tulliver as good-natured and practical and Mrs. Tulliver as superficial and dim-witted—than to render Maggie's character in depth. Here in these initial chapters, the figure of Maggie seems ominous through the eyes of others. Mr. Tulliver, though proud of Maggie's intelligence, has morose predictions about the future of a clever girl and seems to feel superstitious and intimidated toward Maggie's talents at times. Mrs. Tulliver directly relates Maggie to both untamed nature—she is a "wild thing"—and madness—she is a "Bedlam creatur." Finally, Maggie is associated with the devil in Chapter III, not only through her possession and knowledge of "The History of the Devil" by Defoe. Maggie's discussion of the devil's black and red coloring recalls her parents' discussion about her own coloring and descriptions of her dark hair, skin, and eyes.

In Chapter IV we get a closer look at Maggie and see that her world consists of oversensitive experiences of the world. Maggie feels pain and happiness more drastically for being a child and even more for her active imagination and knowledge of books, both of which inflect her perception of the world. For example, part of Maggie's attraction to the Mill involves the personal histories that she invents for the animals that live there, and Maggie feels her own guilt about neglecting Tom's rabbits more fully when she connects it to the parable of the Prodigal Son. The narrator is sympathetic with Maggie, yet also creates distance, by emphasizing the sinister quality of her voodoo doll and her unthinking neglect of Tom's rabbits. Less morally ambiguous is Luke, whose words are often presented as aphorisms of wisdom or unknowing foreshadowings of events to come.