Book Review: The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

This is the second book I've read written by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans.) It was just a few weeks ago that I'd read Silas Marner. Before reading Silas Marner I'd read my first book of Ernest Hemingway's Farewell To Arms. Hemingway's sentences are short and stiffly non-descriptive. Eliot's sentences contain as many as 76 words. Her writing is fluid, and evokes an emotional response. She creates a dramatic sweeping story with words, similar to an artist painting a picture on canvas. Her stories are not neat and tidy. They contain rural village life in 19th century Victorian England. Some of the characters are judgmental, pious, discriminating, and unyielding. The main characters tell me they felt misunderstood and unheard. They felt taken advantage of and discriminated against. From what I've read of George Eliot's life (Mary Ann Evans) she too felt the feelings of her main characters. She was not a religious person (not in my definition, she toyed with it.) Yet, she inserted into her stories ambiguity of humanity and or Christianity. In her writing I believe she was trying to work out in her own mind her thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Her stories were a blackboard analysis of her life.
My copy of The Mill on the Floss was published by Signet in 1965.
560 pages
19th Century/Victorian Period/England/A Victorian Summer Celebration/The Classics Club/British Literature

Mr. Tulliver owns a mill on a river in rural England. His wife is Bessy Tulliver. Their children are Tom and Maggie. When the story begins Tom had been away at a boarding school. He is 4 years older than Maggie. Their father makes a decision to send Tom to another school, one that will teach him to be a gentleman. Tom's first year at this new school is difficult, but by the second year he improves. Maggie meanwhile is of a personality that is spirited, emotional, intelligent, creative. She is unhappy at home with the small amount of education she has received. Their father, as is the custom in this century, provided the better education to the son. Maggie visits her brother at this new school, and soaks up the small amount of education she receives. Tom and Maggie love each other; yet Tom never fails to lecture Maggie on her disgraces and shortcomings. Tom is arrogant, hard, judgmental, superior. He has similar personality traits of his father's. Their father is sued and this embarks the family on a waiting game of what the result will be, the aftermath will be life-changing.

I'd written in my fist paragraph that George Eliot wrote long sentences that were emotionally driven, passionate, and dramatic. I believe she wrote stories that paralleled her own life. I also believe her stories had references that were not of a Christian belief, but could be confused as such. Instead they were of humanity and goodwill. In addition, I believe the authors writing style is philosophical and psychological. She is a studier of people, their personalities, decisions, responses, reactions. Tom Tulliver considered himself to be the hero that stepped up to the role of responsibility for the family. He then elevated himself above his sister that he saw as being too emotional and flighty. He judged her harshly because she was not like him. He considered himself to be the perfect role-model and Maggie should do as he said or face his wrath. Maggie on the other hand rebelled against the harsh environment. 
On page 48 we are given a symbolism on Tom and Maggie's life. 
"The wood I walk in on this mild May day, with the young yellow-brown foliage of the oaks between me and the blue sky, the white star-flowers and the blue-eyed speedwell and the ground ivy at my feet-what grove of tropic palms, what strange ferns or splendid broad-petalled blossoms, could ever thrill such deep and delicate fibres within me as this home-scene? These familiar flowers, these well-remembered bird-notes, this sky with its fitful brightness, these furrowed and grassy fields, each with a sort of personality given to it by the capricious hedgerows-such things as these are the mother tongue of our imagination, the language that is laden with all the subtle inextricable associations the fleeting hours of our childhood left behind them. Our delight in the sunshine on the deep-bladed grass today might be no more than the faint perception of wearied souls if it were not for the sunshine and the grass in the far-off years which still live in us and transform our perception into love."
Tom and Maggie Tulliver.


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