The Mill on the Floss

by: George Eliot

Book Fifth, Chapters IX, X, and XI

Summary Book Fifth, Chapters IX, X, and XI

Analysis

Chapter IX, set at the St. Ogg's bazaar, opens with slight foreshadowing of the tenor of events to come. Maggie is depicted from the viewpoint of onlookers, especially female, and we are told that the evident attraction felt for her by many men will be remembered harshly after future events. The backdrop of St. Ogg's society has remained present for most of Book Sixth, but here it begins to seem hypocritical and menacing for the first time. The chapter's title, "Charity in Full Dress," satirically points to this hypocritical quality and alludes to the lack of generosity in a society that will only practice charity when it is convenient and colorful to do so. This same lack of generosity, and its accompanying unwillingness to put oneself in the place of others, will be turned against Maggie in the chapters to come, we are told.

Chapter IX practices a novelistic convention—bringing all of the characters together in a public arena. The publicness of the space, of course, affects their behavior and sometimes puts it in relief. Thus Maggie's inner troubled state becomes outwardly apparent at the bazaar, and Philip's inner neediness toward Maggie becomes physically apparent as we find that he has been sitting in a position to watch her all day. Finally, the public space makes Stephen and Maggie's interactions seem all the more conspiratory and illicit. Through these heightened emotions, as experienced in front of crowds of people, revelations are made—Philip guesses Stephen's attraction to Maggie, (though he is still unsure of her response) and Stephen guesses Philip's attachment to Maggie.

This section of Book Sixth also marks the first tacit acknowledgment between Stephen and Maggie of their mutual attraction. On the one hand, Maggie's intentions seem pure—she has arranged for another job to take her away from her temptation quickly—she tells Dr. Kenn in Chapter IX, "Oh, I must go." On the other hand, Maggie is depicted as inviting a certain level of attachment with Stephen. When Stephen kisses her arm in the conservatory, Maggie is not angry because he has betrayed Lucy, but because he has thought her less honorable, more available, than Lucy. It is her pride that is gratified by Stephen's announcement to her of his love at the Mosses'.

In the chapter at the Mosses', Stephen is subtly depicted as self-centered and unaware of his elitism. We are told that "[h]e spoke almost abruptly, as if his errand were too pressing for him to trouble himself about what would be though by Mrs. Moss of his visit and request." Stephen does not address Willy Moss by name but merely orders him to hold his horse. Maggie might miss this attitude, but we certainly do not. It is a foreshadowing of the differences between Maggie and Stephen—Maggie will feel more strongly the feelings of others.

The extremely linear narrative of The Mill on the Floss insures that causes and effects can be seen through and related to each other. This mode of narrative is appropriate to the moral concerns of Eliot's novel. Thus, when Maggie has a meeting with Philip after she has renounced Stephen for the first time, and before he comes to see her at the Mosses', Maggie can tell Philip in all honesty that no one has claims on her but Tom.