The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 1: Boy and Girl: Chapter 11 - Maggie Tries to Run away from Her Shadow

Summary

Maggie has not gone home, but has decided to run away to the gypsies. She has often been told she is like a gypsy, and she expects they will be glad to have her and respect her for her knowledge. She meets two tramps in the lane, and one of them begs a sixpence from her. After that she crosses the fields to avoid meeting strangers. She does not know where she is, but hopes to come to a common where she expects to find the gypsies. While walking down a wide lane she comes upon a small camp. There is only one tent, with two women and several children. Maggie is happy enough with her friendly reception, but she wishes they "had not been so dirty." Maggie tells them she has come to live with them and teach them "a great many things," and the two women question her about her family and her home.

Maggie soon tires and demands her tea, but she is very dissatisfied with the dry bread and bacon she is offered. She begins to feel lonely, and this increases to terror when two men arrive. They talk to the two women about Maggie, and one of them examines the contents of her pocket and keeps her silver thimble. Then they fall to eating the stew which has been cooking over the fire. The women try to coax Maggie to eat, but she cannot. She says she had better go home and come again another day. She wants to go alone, but one of the men insists on taking her on his donkey. Her fear becomes less, however, when she sees a sign pointing to St. Ogg's. Just as they reach a crossroad she sees her father coming on his horse. He pays the gypsy for returning Maggie and takes her up with him. "Mr. Tulliver spoke his mind very strongly when he reached home that evening," and Maggie is never reproached for running away.

Analysis

Here Maggie's imagination and Tom's matter-of-factness are contrasted in another way. Maggie has a romantic view of gypsies, but Tom is closer to the truth in thinking that "gypsies were thieves, and got hardly anything to eat." Already Tom is much better prepared for the realities of the world. He does not need an experience like Maggie's to open his eyes.

In running away to the gypsies, Maggie is motivated mainly by desire for admiration, especially admiration of her cleverness. She is somewhat conceited about her learning, but has no very clear idea of how the world, and the gypsies, will receive her. Yet, when she sees her mistake, she goes further than necessary in repentance: she "sometimes thought that her conduct had been too wicked to be alluded to." She is the only character so far who has shown any tendency to self-blame.

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