Sunday Afternoon Reads - "The Mill on the Floss" by George Eliot

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George Eliot wrote Mill on the Floss and the debate has always been as to what extent the novel is autobiographical. Mill on the Floss focuses on a girl (and then woman) that defies expectations of society, shadowing what history we know of a certain Ms Marian Lewes.

The protagonist of the novel is Maggie Tulliver, a dark, gypsy-like child brought up by parents that one would probably consider middle-class. She's contrasted in nature by her cousin Lucy - a perfectly angelic and demure young lady - and by her brother Tom, who lacks the quick wit and intellect that society finds so unbecoming in Maggie.

The earlier part of the story revolves around the relationship of the Tulliver family with another family, the Wakems. It follows a dramatic interplay between the children/adolescents that shows how feuds between families can affect the lives of their children without adults ever being aware of the repercussions. It also seems to confront the varying definitions of what it means to act in a moral way.

A moment I found adorable in the earlier part of the novel is after Maggie gets in trouble at her aunts. She decides to run off and join the gypsies that she is so frequently compared to and strolls into their encampment full of big ideas that she is going to civilise the gypsies and become their queen. The reality doesn't live up to her dream and she is delivered back home to her father who doesn't know what he would do without his "little wench". It seemed relatable to me; the little girl with the big dreams that aren't as wonderful in real life as they were in her head - and I'm my daddy's "little wench" too!
The novel moves on (as life does too) to adult responsibilities and the awkward passion of love. It touches on a subject that interests me, the sexual politics of the time and what it means to be fallen. The storyline wraps up in a rather dramatic fashion that seemed unsatisfactory at the time, but in hindsight was the perfect end to the crafted tale that George Eliot had constructed. While we wish that Prince Charming may come and save the heroine of the day, the reality is that this doesn't always happen.
This novel managed to avoid the downfall of many other books by providing story arcs within the first half of the novel; this provided me with satisfaction that the story was moving forward while also supplying us with important character background information. There were a few minor points in which I felt that the text laboured too heavily on a point, although this may be due to reading the novel now, rather than while bound in a corset in the Victorian era - I'm sure at that time curled fronts would have been of great importance to me. If you are relatively new to reading the classics, I'd suggest this to start you on your journey - it's a great "gateway" book :D
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like my kind of thing. I love classics