The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 6: The Great Temptation: Chapter 9 - Charity in Full-Dress

Summary

On the day of the bazaar Maggie helps Lucy in a booth selling "certain large plain articles." These include gentlemen's dressing gowns, which become the center of much attention. The notice thus drawn to Maggie insures that it will later be recalled that there was something "rather bold" about her. Stephen purchases nothing from Maggie until Lucy asks him to. Mr. Wakem speaks to Maggie quite amiably, and he is just leaving as Stephen comes up. Both Maggie and Stephen feel triumphant that they have been able to disregard one another, but Maggie's imminent departure makes "self-conquest in detail" unnecessary. Still, they feel unable to avoid one another now. As they are speaking, Stephen notices Philip watching them. He goes to speak to him, but Philip angrily calls him a hypocrite. Stephen goes off to another room to be alone with his emotions, while Maggie sits struggling with herself.

Maggie is approached by Dr. Kenn, who observes that there is something wrong. He offers his services if he can help. Maggie says nothing, but she is feeling that her choice would be to "have Stephen Guest at her feet." She longs for that life of ease, but she cannot accept it for herself. Philip has said nothing to her, although Lucy has told her that Tom will regain the mill. Now Lucy tries to dissuade her from going to visit her aunt Moss. Instead, Maggie says that she must go, for she is soon going to take a new position as a teacher. Lucy protests that there is now nothing to keep her and Philip apart, but Maggie reminds her that there is Tom's feeling. Lucy promises to speak to Tom, and asks if Maggie truly loves Philip. Maggie says that she would choose to marry him, if it were not for Tom.

Analysis

Local society is treated in some depth in order to give a background against which the main characters may be seen. Society's view of Maggie is emphasized, and future events are foreshadowed by the hint of a later change in that view: " . . . it is possible that the emphatic notice of various kinds which was drawn towards Miss Tulliver on this public occasion, threw a very strong and unmistakeable light on her subsequent conduct in many minds then present."

The author spells out her conception of how Stephen is to be regarded: "Stephen was not a hypocrite — capable of deliberate doubleness for a selfish end . . . ." The explanation is offered as an antidote to Philip's jealous beliefs.

Dr. Kenn, on this first appearance, makes no definite impression. He is obviously perceptive; his "ear and eye took in all the signs that this brief confidence of Maggie's was charged with meaning." But he draws no conclusions from it other than that "she has some trouble or other at heart." Now, as later, Dr. Kenn is strictly a foil for Maggie's emotions and position.

The fruits of Maggie's early life may be seen in her reactions now. She longs for a life of luxury and culture, "but there were things in her stronger than vanity — passion, and affection, and long deep memories of early discipline and effort, of early claims on her love and pity . . . ." Her character now is clearly a product of what we have seen of her childhood, and we are not surprised at her wish to get away from Stephen. Yet, as always, she cannot suppress her emotions entirely, and so she is forced to use Tom's prejudice against Philip as an excuse to delay Lucy's plans.

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