The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss

3.9 20
by George Eliot

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"One of George Eliot's best-loved works, The Mill on the Floss is a portrait of the bonds of provincial life as seen through the eyes of the free-spirited Maggie Tulliver, who is torn between a code of moral responsibility and her hunger for self-fulfillment. Rebellious by nature, she causes friction both among the townspeople of St. Ogg's and in her own family,…  See more details below


"One of George Eliot's best-loved works, The Mill on the Floss is a portrait of the bonds of provincial life as seen through the eyes of the free-spirited Maggie Tulliver, who is torn between a code of moral responsibility and her hunger for self-fulfillment. Rebellious by nature, she causes friction both among the townspeople of St. Ogg's and in her own family, particularly with her brother, Tom. Maggie's passionate nature makes her a beloved heroine, but it is also her undoing." The Mill on the Floss is a luminous exploration of human relationships and of a heroine who critics say closely resembles Eliot herself.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As one comes back to [Eliot's] books after years of absence they pour out, even against our expectations, the same store of energy and heat, so that we want more than anything to idle in the warmth."
—Virginia Woolf
Mary Wilson Carpenter Queen's University
"This edition of George Eliot's most passionate novel about a woman's life is accompanied by a selection of contemporary materials that demonstrate the surprisingly radical context of the author's views at this point in her career. Oliver Lovesey has selected brief, eminently readable portions from Eliot's own translations, essays, and reviews that will educate the reader in the 'real' George Eliot—a woman of amazing education herself, and of profoundly original thought that transcended the conventions of her time. The edition also includes the full text of the author's poem, 'Brother and Sister,' a parallel narrative of Eliot's childhood that is crucial to the reader's understanding of the novel, as well as other very useful selections from historical documents and contemporary reviews of the novel."
Jacob Korg University of Washington
"This edition is a splendid presentation of George Eliot's most autobiographical novel. The long and generous introduction dispels some of the myths about the author's life, traces subtle relations between the novel and the moral complexities Eliot faced in Victorian society, places the novel in the context of her life's work, and offers valuable analyses of the novel's style and structure. Footnotes throughout the text helpfully explain dialect words, obsolete expressions and literary allusions. Excerpts from George Eliot's critical writings, added as appendices, give insight into some of the ideas about fiction, religion, and the place of women in society that entered into the writing of The Mill on the Floss."

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Penguin Classics Series
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Product dimensions:
5.09(w) x 7.76(h) x 1.14(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Chapter 1
Outside Dorlcote Mill

A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its green banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks its passage with an impetuous embrace. On this mighty tide the black ships—laden with the fresh-scented fir-planks, with rounded sacks of oil-bearing seed, or with the dark glitter of coal—are borne along to the town of St. Ogg’s, which shows its aged, fluted red roofs and the broad gables of its wharves between the low wooded hill and the river brink, tinging the water with a soft purple hue under the transient glance of this February sun. Far away on each hand stretch the rich pastures, and the patches of dark earth, made ready for the seed of broad-leaved green crops, or touched already with the tint of the tender-bladed autumn-sown corn. There is a remnant still of the last year’s golden clusters of beehive ricks rising at intervals beyond the hedgerows; and everywhere the hedgerows are studded with trees: the distant ships seem to be lifting their masts and stretching their red-brown sails close among the branches of the spreading ash. Just by the red-roofed town the tributary Ripple flows with a lively current into the Floss. How lovely the little river is, with its dark, changing wavelets! It seems to me like a living companion while I wander along the bank and listen to its low placid voice, as to the voice of one who is deaf and loving. I remember those large dipping willows. I remember the stone bridge.

And this is Dorlcote Mill. I must stand a minute or two here on the bridge and look at it, though the clouds are threatening, and it is far on in the afternoon. Even in this leafless time of departing February it is pleasant to look at—perhaps the chill damp season adds a charm to the trimly-kept, comfortable dwelling-house, as old as the elms and chestnuts that shelter it from the northern blast. The stream is brimful now, and lies high in this little withy plantation, and half drowns the grassy fringe of the croft in front of the house. As I look at the full stream, the vivid grass, the delicate bright-green powder softening the outline of the great trunks and branches that gleam from under the bare purple boughs, I am in love with moistness, and envy the white ducks that are dipping their heads far into the water here among the withes, unmindful of the awkward appearance they make in the drier world above.

The rush of the water, and the booming of the mill, bring a dreamy deafness, which seems to heighten the peacefulness of the scene. They are like a great curtain of sound, shutting one out from the world beyond. And now there is the thunder of the huge covered waggon coming home with sacks of grain. That honest waggoner is thinking of his dinner, getting sadly dry in the oven at this late hour; but he will not touch it till he has fed his horses,—the strong, submissive, meek-eyed beasts, who, I fancy, are looking mild reproach at him from between their blinkers, that he should crack his whip at them in that awful manner as if they needed that hint! See how they stretch their shoulders up the slope towards the bridge, with all the more energy because they are so near home. Look at their grand shaggy feet that seem to grasp the firm earth, at the patient strength of their necks, bowed under the heavy collar, at the mighty muscles of their struggling haunches! I should like well to hear them neigh over their hardly-earned feed of corn, and see them, with their moist necks freed from the harness, dipping their eager nostrils into the muddy pond. Now they are on the bridge, and down they go again at a swifter pace, and the arch of the covered waggon disappears at the turning behind the trees.

Now I can turn my eyes towards the mill again, and watch the unresting wheel sending out its diamond jets of water. That little girl is watching it too: she has been standing on just the same spot at the edge of the water ever since I paused on the bridge. And that queer white cur with the brown ear seems to be leaping and barking in ineffectual remonstrance with the wheel; perhaps he is jealous, because his playfellow in the beaver bonnet is so rapt in its movement. It is time the little playfellow went in, I think; and there is a very bright fire to tempt her: the red light shines out under the deepening grey of the sky. It is time, too, for me to leave off resting my arms on the cold stone of this bridge. . . .

Ah, my arms are really benumbed. I have been pressing my elbows on the arms of my chair, and dreaming that I was standing on the bridge in front of Dorlcote Mill, as it looked one February afternoon many years ago. Before I dozed off, I was going to tell you what Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver were talking about, as they sat by the bright fire in the left-hand parlour, on that very afternoon I have been dreaming of.

chapter ii Mr. Tulliver, of Dorlcote Mill, Declares His Resolution About Tom

“What I want, you know,” said Mr. Tulliver—“what I want is to give Tom a good eddication; an eddication as’ll be a bread to him. That was what I was thinking of when I gave notice for him to leave the academy at Ladyday. I mean to put him to a downright good school at Midsummer. The two years at th’ academy ’ud ha’ done well enough, if I’d meant to make a miller and farmer of him, for he’s had a fine sight more schoolin’ nor I ever got: all the learnin’ my father ever paid for was a bit o’ birch at one end and the alphabet at th’ other. But I should like Tom to be a bit of a scholard, so as he might be up to the tricks o’ these fellows as talk fine and write with a flourish. It ’ud be a help to me wi’ these lawsuits, and arbitrations, and things. I wouldn’t make a downright lawyer o’ the lad—I should be sorry for him to be a raskill—but a sort o’ engineer, or a surveyor, or an auctioneer and vallyer, like Riley, or one o’ them smartish businesses as are all profits and no outlay, only for a big watch-chain and a high stool. They’re pretty nigh all one, and they’re not far off being even wi’ the law, I believe; for Riley looks Lawyer Wakem i the face as hard as one cat looks another. He’s none frightened at him.”

Mr. Tulliver was speaking to his wife, a blond comely woman in a fan-shaped cap (I am afraid to think how long it is since fan-shaped caps were worn—they must be so near coming in again. At that time, when Mrs. Tulliver was nearly forty, they were new at St. Ogg’s, and considered sweet things).

“Well, Mr. Tulliver, you know best: I’ve no objections. But hadn’t I better kill a couple o’ fowl and have th’ aunts and uncles to dinner next week, so as you may hear what sister Glegg and sister Pullet have got to say about it? There’s a couple o’ fowl wants killing!”

“You may kill every fowl i’ the yard, if you like, Bessy; but I shall ask neither aunt nor uncle what I’m to do wi’ my own lad,” said Mr. Tulliver, defiantly.

“Dear heart!” said Mrs. Tulliver, shocked at this sanguinary rhetoric, “how can you talk so, Mr. Tulliver? But it’s your way to speak disrespectful o’ my family; and sister Glegg throws all the blame upo’ me, though I’m sure I’m as innocent as the babe unborn. For nobody’s ever heard me say as it wasn’t lucky for my children to have aunts and uncles as can live independent. Howiver, if Tom’s to go to a new school, I should like him to go where I can wash him and mend him; else he might as well have calico as linen, for they’d be one as yallow as th’ other before they’d been washed half-a-dozen times. And then, when the box is goin backards and forrards, I could send the lad a cake, or a pork-pie, or an apple; for he can do with an extry bit, bless him, whether they stint him at the meals or no. My children can eat as much victuals as most, thank God.”

“Well, well, we won’t send him out o’ reach o’ the carrier’s cart, if other things fit in,” said Mr. Tulliver. “But you mustn’t put a spoke i the wheel about the washin’, if we can’t get a school near enough. That’s the fault I have to find wi’ you, Bessy; if you see a stick i’ the road, you’re allays thinkin’ you can’t step over it. You’d want me not to hire a good waggoner, ’cause he’d got a mole on his face.”

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Mill on the Floss 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story though sad and gloomy is addictive at the same time. I could not keep my eyes off the pages through a larger part of the story. I read with much intrest the passages used to describe subtle emotions. Undoubtedly, George Eliot has complete mastery to communicate feelings with as much ease as leisure talk. The similies are superb, and when combined with the feeling of finding some part of the novel corresponding with your own views, makes one wonder with amazement over the fact that the novel written so long ago could hold true even today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Geoge Eliot's rhetoric prowess is beyond ones speculation. The scenic depiction of the medival England adds elegance to this peice of marvel. The changing instinctions of a girl to woman is portrayed very elegantly and reveals the subtle difference in the attitudes which diffrentiates a woman from girl. Maggie is such a philanthrophic heart which a man strives to have as his beloved. The Tom Boyish 'Tom' is portrayed eqaully well. The noble 'Philip Wakem' exhibits those qualities which portrays a perfect gentleman. It is quite hard to beleive this peice of literature as a fiction. No wonder George Eliot is one of the greatest writers this world has ever seen... No wonder artists are born and not made...
Guest More than 1 year ago
George Eliot has a way of making life appear magical and despairing at the same time. Maggie Tulliver suffers tremendous trials and greivances yet everyone can't help fall in love with her. She leads a pitiable, confused life , yet she is filled with such passion for it(life) that she never once gives up despite all of the burdens she is forced to carry. Overall- a glorious story of the conflicts between love and loyalty, passion and responsibiltiy, luxury and reputation. It's one of those books that you know needs to be shared but you can't help wanting to keep it's sparkle all to yourself. (At least thats the way I feel) The only tragedy for me was that it ended; it was really long but I just wanted it to go on and on forever. Call me sentimental, but wouldn't this make a great movie? Really! When you're done reading the book, E-amil me and help me write a script...
Guest More than 1 year ago
'wild and natural'maggie always trying to be right but falls in some crises and the last of all her misfortunes is most drastic.its tragedy and shows that what fate does to a man is not in his power to change.but its a lovely story with tinges of bitterness here and there and the end is extremely tragic,one can't anticipate in the gloom of hopelessness any ray of hope,but it came certainly and removed all the earthly sorrows and miseries at my thinking the end should be like this and i compare thier death to the end of all misfortunes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was somewhat disappointed with this book. Maggie is frustratingly helpless, and Tom is an inflexible hypocrite. Although I realize that women had little power in Victorian times, Maggie is extremely passive. She doesn't do ANYTHING! Things simply happen to her. Eliot could have changed that during the end, but Maggie just floats along, like she was pretty much doing all her life.
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
Maggie Tulliver, who is age seven when the story opens, lives at Dorlcote Mill on the River Ripple at its junction with the River Floss near the village of St. Ogg’s in England, with her father, who owns the mill, mother, and older brother Tom. The novel spans a period of ten to fifteen years, beginning with Tom’s and Maggie’s childhood and including her father’s ongoing battles with a lawyer named Wakem, the Tullivers’ consequent bankruptcy resulting in the loss of the mill, and Mr. Tulliver’s untimely death. Tom has been in school with Philip Wakem, the lawyer’s hunchbacked, sensitive, and intellectual son, and Maggie has grown fond of Philip, seeing him secretly. To help repay his father’s debts, Tom leaves his schooling to enter a life of business, but in his hatred of the Wakems, he forbids Maggie’s seeing Philip, and she languishes in the impoverished Tulliver home, renouncing the world after reading Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. Some years later, Tom has been successful and able to restore the family’s former estate. Lucy has been away teaching school but returns to visit with her cousin, Lucy Deane. Her acquaintance with Philip is renewed and he still loves her, but Stephen Guest, a young socialite in St. Ogg's who is Lucy’s fiancé, is also attracted to her. Maggie enjoys the clandestine attentions of Stephen, but when he substitutes for the sick Philip in taking her on a boat ride and proposes that they stop in Mudport, and get married, she rejects him and makes her way back to St. Ogg's, where, rejected by her brother Tom and almost everyone else except her mother, Tom’s friend Bob Jakin and his family, in whose home she takes lodgings, and the minister, Dr. Kenn, who engages her as governess for his children, she lives for a brief period as an outcast, though she does reconcile with both Philip and Lucy. When the flood comes, Maggie sets out in one of Bob’s boats to rescue Tom, and together they head to rescue Lucy, but their boat capsizes and the two drown in an embrace, thus giving the book its Biblical subtitle, “In their death they were not divided.” I have always liked Eliot’s Silas Marner because it is, in the final analysis, a tale of redemption. However, The Mill on the Floss is not primarily a tale of redemption. In fact, the book is somewhat autobiographical in that it reflects the disgrace that the author herself felt while involved in a lengthy relationship with a married man, George Henry Lewes, although there are differences. No actual immorality is portrayed in the book, and towards the end, Maggie does make the right choice. Biblical quotations and allusions abound throughout, but I am not sure that the book represents a truly Biblical worldview. Many of Eliot’s observations about the nature of people and society are interesting, with some of which you may agree and others you may not, but occasionally her social commentary goes on and on to the point of becoming boring. Like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in the right hands The Mill on the Floss could be used to teach a good lesson on not being judgmental, but due to the “titillating” nature of the story I would recommend that it not be inflicted on anyone under age eighteen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the very sad story of a young woman, Maggie Tulliver,who lives in a small English village. She must choose between her family and the man she loves. She is very unhappy because she does not know what to do.
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