The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 6: The Great Temptation: Chapter 12 - A Family Party

Summary

At the end of the week Maggie goes to visit aunt Pullet. A party is being held there to celebrate Tom's acquisition of the mill. Lucy comes early in order to talk to Maggie and to convince aunt Pullet that she should donate some things to Tom and his mother to make their housekeeping easier. Mrs. Pullet finally agrees to give up some of her linen, but she says she will not save any for Maggie as the girl insists on "going into service." Maggie's employment is a sore point with her family, who all wish her to come live with them now that she is "capable of being at once ornamental and useful." Mrs. Glegg is indignant that Maggie does not do her duty to her aunts but "settles to go away" without their knowledge. However, she is unwilling to have Maggie come stay with her, as that would involve opening another room. Instead, she insists that Maggie visit her every morning.

Tom is welcomed warmly, and reminded that he owes his success to the good example of his mother's family,

Lucy contrives to have Tom drive her home with his mother after the party. She counts on this chance to get his consent for Maggie to marry Philip. But all she accomplishes is to make Tom think that Maggie is going to change one "perverse resolve . . . into something equally perverse, but entirely different . . . ." Tom refuses his blessing, although he says Maggie may do as she likes.

Analysis

The excellence of characterization of the Dodson sisters is partly due to the code which underlies their individual natures, for while each has her own peculiarities, they are recognizably in character at all times through their family similarities. Mrs. Glegg is the one in whom the code is most strict, but she is also the most sensible. She tells her sister that "locking in and out" is going too far: "You go beyond your own family. There's nobody can say I don't lock up; but I do what's reasonable, and no more." This is largely true. She is strict, but she has fewer silly mannerisms than the rest of the family.

Note the recurrence of references to the importance of a proper death and of the "key" images.

Lucy's suggestion to Tom that Maggie be allowed to marry Philip is of course refused, "notwithstanding Lucy's power over her strong-willed cousin." This is the last reference to Tom's special love for her. The earlier hints lead only to this. It may be taken as a special illustration of his character that his idea of right is stronger even than this love. It is perfectly in accord with the author's analysis of Tom here: "strength of will, conscious rectitude of purpose, narrowness of imagination and intellect, great power of self-control, and a disposition to exert control over others." In all ways he is the opposite of Maggie.

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After the lawsuit and Tom arrives home from school, what does he find his mother most concerned with?




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