The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 6: The Great Temptation: Chapter 4 - Brother and Sister

Summary

Tom is lodging with Bob Jakin. When Maggie goes to visit him, she is met by Bob's wife. The woman is excited to meet Maggie. She rushes off to the back of the house to find Bob, who tells Maggie that Tom is "glumpish" and sits at home staring at the fire except when he is at work. Bob believes that Tom has "a soft place in him," for he has made a great effort to find a black spaniel. This is the dog which was presented to Lucy. Maggie is doubtful that this signifies that Tom is in love.

When Tom comes in, he speaks coldly. Maggie asks to be absolved of her promise not to see Philip, and Tom agrees, still more coldly. Maggie tells him it is for Lucy's sake, but Tom says that she will have to give up her brother if she begins to think of Philip as a lover. He says he has no confidence in her. Maggie finds this cruel and cannot keep back her tears. Tom speaks more kindly then, telling her that she lacks judgment and will not be guided. He says he did not wish her "to take a situation," but would have supported her as a lady and that he can never feel certain of what she will do. Maggie says in return that she has given up Philip, and will be only his friend. It is unreasonable of Tom to condemn her for faults not yet committed, Tom admits at last that it would be best for her not to object to seeing Philip.

Analysis

Maggie considers Bob's hint that Tom is in love with Lucy "perhaps a mere fancy of Bob's too officious brain"; and in fact the reference leads nowhere. The only further development is Lucy's certainty that she can get Tom to agree to a marriage between Maggie and Philip. This reference may be the vestige of a plot development which the author decided not to use.

Tom's attitude to Maggie is still one of stern righteousness, rather than generous love. He says, "I wished my sister to be a lady, and I would always have taken care of you, as my father desired, until you were well married." He remembers his father's injunction, but he cannot comprehend its spirit. He lacks the generosity his father showed toward Mrs. Moss. He sees "caring for" Maggie in terms of money and obedience, not love. (This may be contrasted to Bob Jakin's generosity to Maggie after Tom turns her out.)

Nevertheless, Tom sees a side of Maggie's character which is easy to overlook. The author calls it "that hard rind of truth which is discerned by unimaginative, unsympathetic minds." Because Tom is so unsympathetic, we are disinclined to accept his judgment that Maggie "would be led away to do anything"; but later he is seen to be right.

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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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