The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 6: The Great Temptation: Chapter 10 - The Spell Seems Broken

Summary

There is a dance at Park House, Stephen's home. Maggie at first refuses to dance, but at length the music persuades her, even though her partner is "the horrible young Torry." Stephen has not asked her to dance, for he feels Philip's attachment to her to be "another claim of honour"; but the sight of her with Torry is too much for him to resist. He makes his way to her and asks her to walk out with him. Maggie says little but in the conservatory she reaches for a rose, and Stephen impulsively kisses her arm. She indignantly darts from him. Stephen follows to ask her forgiveness, but Maggie sends him away.

Maggie feels that this moment has set her free from the possibility of treachery to Lucy.

The next morning Maggie is to go to visit aunt Moss. Philip comes before she leaves. He reminds her of their earlier days. When she tells him she is going away, he asks if they can ever come together again. She replies that only Tom separates them now. Philip persists, asking if that is the only reason. She says it is, and believes it. But despite Philip's faith in Maggie, he is unable to be completely happy with her answer.

Analysis

"The horrible young Torry" is here only a personification of masculine reaction to Maggie in St. Ogg's society. He is not a person, but a stage property useful in furthering the action. Later he will be made symbolic of St. Ogg's reaction to Maggie's elopement.

Maggie's emotional reactions are still immature. She goes to extremes easily. Stephen's kiss is to her "a horrible punishment . . . come upon her for the sin of allowing a moment's happiness that was treachery to Lucy, to Philip — to her own better soul." This reaction is exactly like that by which she later renounces Stephen. It is a moral reaction, but one founded on her own conception of morality. She will not do anything that will bring pain to others, and her idea of pain to others is an extreme one. But, as always, Maggie overrates her own powers of renunciation. She believes that "this scorching moment . . . had delivered her from the possibility of another word or look that would have the stamp of treachery towards that gentle, unsuspicious sister." The author hints plainly that it had not.

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