The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 7: The Final Rescue: Chapter 1 - The Return to the Mill

Summary

Maggie returns to the mill on the fifth day after her departure. Tom has learned from Bob Jakin that Maggie was seen with Stephen at Mudport. He fully expects the worst — that she is not married. When Maggie comes to him for refuge, he angrily refuses to have her. He accuses her of using Philip as a screen to deceive Lucy, who is ill as a result and unable to speak to anyone. He will not shelter Maggie, for he wishes the world to know that he knows the difference between right and wrong.

Mrs. Tulliver is with Tom, and when she hears this she offers to go with Maggie. They go to Bob Jakin, who gives them lodging. Bob is perplexed that Maggie is not married, but for several days he asks no questions. Maggie at last asks him to bring Dr. Kenn to her, but Bob says that Mrs. Kenn has recently died, and the clergyman may not be going out. But talk-into to Maggie loosens Bob's tongue, and he offers to "leather" anyone who has offended Maggie. She declines the offer, saying that she has done wrong so often herself that she would not like to see anyone punished. This puzzles Bob, but he does not ask any other questions.

Analysis

Maggie's excuse to Tom is the same as she has always used: "I never meant to give way to my feelings." Tom is proved right in not having trusted her. Yet he appears at his worst here; his self-righteousness is loathsome. He says he will continue to provide for Maggie, but he has obviously forgotten the spirit of his father's injunction to care for her. He tells her, "I wash my hands of you for ever. You don't belong to me." Mr. Tulliver would never have acted so.

Bob Jakin's generosity again is a contrast. He has "the same chivalry towards dark-eyed Maggie, as in the days when he had bought her the memorable present of books." Bob is still the knight-errant who asks nothing for himself. Nevertheless, he is the one who puts the world's view of the situation: he is "sorely perplexed" as to how she and Stephen got away from each other; and he is unable to understand her feeling that "I shouldn't like to punish anyone, even if they'd done me wrong; I've done wrong myself too often." But although Bob's understanding of the matter is not much greater than anyone else's, he is far more sympathetic than the rest of the town is.

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