The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 2: School-Time: Chapter 6 - A Love-Scene

Summary

Tom "bore his severe pain heroically," but he dares not ask whether he will be lame. Philip is the only one who anticipates this fear, and pity makes him forgive Tom. He learns from Mr. Stelling that the injury is not permanent and brings the good news to Tom. After this Philip spends his free time with Tom and Maggie. He tells Tom stories, and the one Tom likes best is "about a man who had a very bad wound in his foot, and cried out so dreadfully with the pain that his friends could bear with him no longer, but put him ashore . . . ."

Once when they are alone in the library, Philip asks Maggie if she could love him if he were her brother. She answers that she could, because she would be sorry for him. When Philip blushes, Maggie feels her mistake. She says she wishes he were her brother. They promise not to forget one another. Maggie is struck by his fondness for her, and she kisses him, and promises to do so again whenever they meet.

When her father comes for Maggie, she tells him how much she loves Philip and says Tom does too. Tom admits that they are friends now, but he says they won't be once he leaves school. His father advises him to be good to Philip, who is "a poor crooked creature," but not to get too close to him. But once Maggie leaves, and Tom's wound heals, the two boys grow apart once more.

Analysis

Philip, when Tom is wounded, is much more considerate of Tom's feelings than Tom has been of his. His own deformity makes him aware of Tom's fear that he will be lame. Note too the story of Philocletes, which Philip says is "about a man who had a very bad wound in his foot, and cried out so dreadfully with the pain that his friends could bear with him no longer . . . ." Philip has changed the story for Tom's benefit, for in the original Philocletes was put ashore because his wound stank. The change gives Tom a chance to restore his pride, for, as he observes, "I didn't roar out a bit, you know."

Maggie's pity for Philip is reemphasized. She cares for him as she cares for Yap, who has a lump in his throat and is going to die. But she is also grateful that he cares for her. They are alike in valuing love of any sort.

Mr. Tulliver, in spite of his prejudice against lawyer Wakem, shows more feeling for Philip than Tom ever does. This compassion for people runs in the Tulliver family, and is seen most clearly in Mrs. Moss and Maggie. But none of it has passed to Tom.

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