The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 6: The Great Temptation: Chapter 7 - Philip Re-enters

Summary

The next morning is rainy, and Lucy expects Stephen to come earlier. But instead it is Philip who comes. He and Maggie meet with inward agitation. After some "artificial conversation" Maggie tells him that Tom has consented to their being friends, but that she will soon go away "to a new situation." After he begs her to stay and she insists on going, Philip tells her she is returning to renunciation to find "an escape from pain." The love in Philip's face makes Maggie conscience-stricken; she wonders whether he is remembering what she does, the thing he once said about "a lover of Lucy's." But when Philip asks if something is wrong, she says not.

Stephen arrives just then, Philip is oppressed by his "bright strong presence and strong voice." Stephen and Maggie are barely polite to each other, and each is hurt by the other's coldness. To brighten the situation Lucy suggests music. Philip plays the piano as he and Stephen sing. Maggie cannot help feeling moved by the music. Lucy requests more, and Philip, "not quite unintentionally," begins to play "I love thee still," a song he has sung to Maggie before. It makes Maggie feel "regret in the place of excitement." But when Stephen begins to sing, Maggie is "borne along by a wave too strong for her." After some minutes Maggie walks across the room for a footstool. Stephen fetches it for her, and the glance they exchange is "delicious to both." Philip sees it and he feels "a vague anxiety."

Mr. Deane comes in, and the music breaks off. He asks Philip about his father's farming. Lucy is curious at this, and that night at dinner she asks him about it. Her father tells her that the firm may wish to buy the mill. He asks her to say nothing about it. Lucy says that if he will allow her to speak to Philip, she believes she can make certain that Mr. Wakem will sell the mill. Since Mr. Deane sees little chance otherwise, he agrees.

Analysis

Several things help ease the reader's acceptance of Maggie's new love. When Philip reenters, even Lucy "could not resist the impression that her cousin Tom had some excuse for feeling shocked at the physical in congruity between the two . . . ." Even Philip's good points are weakened: his "resolute suppression of emotion" is indicated by a "high, feeble voice." The physical comparison is favorable to Stephen, and the imagery is too.

During the singing, "when her soul was being played on," it is chiefly Stephen's voice which affects Maggie. Philip's "pleading tenor had no very fine qualities as a voice." When Stephen sings directly to her, she is "borne along by a wave too strong for her." (When, in Chapter 13, she goes with Stephen to marry him, she will be both literally and metaphorically "borne along by the tide.")

In the midst of this first meeting, Maggie remembers what Philip had once said "about a lover of Lucy's." This is a reminder of the earlier meeting (Book V, Chapter 4) where he jested that she would "avenge the dark women in your own person, and carry away all the love from your cousin Lucy." Philip immediately recognizes that Maggie and Stephen are in love, but he will not allow himself to believe it yet. Nevertheless, he is oppressed by Stephen's presence and strength. But if Philip's weakness is emphasized, so is his honor. He will not believe the worst, and he refuses to speak of love because "it would have seemed to him like reminding Maggie of a promise." As his suitability as a match for Maggie is degraded, his clear understanding and knowledge of human nature are emphasized. In the end, it is he who enables us to see Maggie — and himself — most clearly.

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