097 by Sandip Sarang by WNudkeoO


									The Mill on the Floss
      As a Novel
The Varieties of Love

        Dr. Sandip Sarang
           (Lecturer in English)

              The Mill on the Floss As a Novel
               The Varieties of Love Theme

 It may be tempting to call The Mill on the Floss a poignant
    and tragic love-story of Maggie and her involvement with
    two gentlemen.
   But more clearly, it is a novel about the failure of human
    relationships, particularly in love as opposed to social
    custom and morality.
   George Eliot was here portraying a love knot or tangle
    which is inextricably linked with larger issues like
    respectability, duty; class, and values of different cross
    sections of the English Society.
   The complexity of Maggie's relations can best be judged by
    observing and analysing the limitations or boundaries of
    love in different contexts.
   Broadly speaking, The Mill on the Floss presents three type
    of variations on the love theme:
 The brother-sister theme.
 Maggie's relationship with Philip Wakem oscillating
    between renunciation and indulgence.
   Finally the Maggie-Stephen episode which is based purely
    on passion and sexual attraction.
   The difference between these relationships is marked in
    the sense that Maggie's growth in terms of intellectual and
    religious development alters successively the nature of
    these relations.
   She is the common factor in the complex web of change
    and growth, her willfulness, childhood histrionics and
    affectionate possessiveness to renunciation, tolerance and
   Maggie is raised to the level of those from whom much is
   She is one of those who seek perfection.
   Her returns to it make her one of the most interesting
    cases among George Eliot's characters.
   Her story is problematic and turns The Mill on the Floss
    into a problem novel.
 The brother-sister theme is the one that overlaps the rest of
    such relationships.
   The love of Tom and Maggie is rooted in the soil, in their
    life at Dorlcote The Mill on the Floss where they can
    imaginatively look back to an invisible past and its
   The language of childhood love and its quick mercurial
    nature is reflected in the contrast between Maggie's
    imaginative and reflective nature and Tom's practicality.
   Apart from her deep sense of possession and love for Tom.
    Maggie always looks for an object for idolatory and
   In this relationship it is Tom. and to some extent
    Mrs.Tulliver who predicts a "death by the water" for Maggie
    due to her irresponsible acts and wilful temper.
   Tom's rebukes have a similar effect in that Maggie reacts to
    them either furiously or with extreme sentimentality.
   George Eliot herself had been having like relationship with
    her brother and regretted his indifference for almost in her
    whole life.
 It is not clear whether Maggie's love, passion and admiration for
    Tom is purely out of a protective feeling or feminine crush, or it
    has some extra filial attachment.
   George Eliot nowhere hints at the idea of sex or incest.
   But Maggie's depression, her missing Tom while he is at
    school, his slightest rebuke at her folly, and his finally trying to
    make her-laugh or reconcile indicate her strong desire to be
    near him and to be admired and cared for by him.
   She carries this childhood need which develops as a complex
    into her adolescence and adulthood.
   The results of this wilfulness and impetuosity prove disastrous.
   Behind this personal disaster and misfortune of Maggie are
    factors which are beyond her control.
   The falling apart of Tom and Maggie is also in part due to the
    respective role assigned by society to the man and the woman
    or the conflict of duties.
   When Mr. Tulliver loses his property, falls off the horse, is sick
    and humiliated, Tom has to go out and retrieve the family
   Maggie has nothing else but her golden memories and
    romantic memories to bank upon or to fret about.
 The economic loss, the Dodson, Tulliver code of conduct,
    the social pressures and restraints underline the flux and
    confrontation between Tom. and Maggie.
   While Maggie's instinct is of revolt and freedom.
   Tom, like the Dodsons believes in triumphing over destiny
    the hard way but also submits before fate and events.
   Tom-Maggie relationship, the fabric of emotional and
    passionate life amidst placed surroundings, settled and
    economic comfort is destroyed due to the loss of law suit
    which uproots Tom and alters Maggie's whole way of
   Her growth from adolescence to womanhood is marked by
    this depression, loneliness and the increasing alienation
    from Tom.
   The emotional outlet is now blocked and she feels stifled
    for want of love and attention.
   There is also George Eliot’s special treatment of crises and
   She, either implicity or through authorial comment gives an
    impression of inevitability.
 Her characters, Maggie in particular, make a moral
    possibility of love. Happiness and imaginative life is
    conveyed through the imagery of the river, its enchantment,
    its powers, its isolation, its languor and above all, its air of
    free movement.
   The central contrast of Tom and Maggie is always part of
    personal relationship.
   It is understood in the novel in the fairly explicit critique of
    social problem of education and work.
   The theme of tragic personal division which is only healed
    in death as life could never do, strongly emphasizes the
    brother-sister relation.
   It is this relation and the indestructible form of love rather
    than the formal opposition of two ways of life which is
    prominent throughout the book.
   This love relationship has an urgency and an elemental
    simplicity so that it plays on natural instincts and emotions.
   Maggie’s attraction for Philip is rooted in her intense
    sympathy and pity for those one cares for.
   This is a form of love in which frustration and defeat are
    obvious to both Maggie and Philip.
 Maggie knows she is caught between her love and
    commitment to be warm to Philip
   Nobody else in the world knows the futility of his dream of
    Maggie’s possession.
   The relation is caught between a fiery family feud.
   Tom’s moral stance and his severe reprimand of Philip’s
    ungentlemanly conduct pose a clash between the personal
    and the familial.
   Perhaps the most successful mentor and rescuer is Philip.
   His understanding and love for Maggie are perfectly in
   He is one of George Eliot’s characters who convince us of
    his humanity as his power of moral criticism.
   His elation with Maggie has a strong didactic element,
    though practically it does little for Maggie.
   He recognizes her need, her constraints and all the
    consequent dangers.
   He sees to that, the irony of her temptation by Stephen lies
    in the very fact of Stephen’s unworthiness.
   For him a relationship is based on partial hope of success
    of that “better side” of Maggie’s nature.
 It remains a hope because Maggie’s emotional vulnerability
    is strong in time of stress and agitation.
   Philip like Stephen, feeds Maggie’s sensibilities.
   He tempts her too, but more through pity and his tragic lot.
   Maggie’s inexperience is nowhere more ironically and
    calmly presented than in the account of this love she feels
    for Philip.
   She breaks in to her dream of renunciation which is just as
    romantic as her earlier dream of love beauty and glamour.
   The friendly and relaxed gentleness of Maggie’s relation
    with Philip meets its contrast in the uneasy embarrassment
    of the early stages of her relationship with Stephen.
   Before she meets Stephen she thinks that her belief that
    she loves Philip, is another of her illusions.
   But later the thought of Philip and her eagerness to meet
    him makes her realize that after all she does love Philip in
    quite another way.
 The last phase of Maggie’s love-her strong temptation is
    portrayed mostly in terms of sexual attraction.
   It is also the part where one finds Maggie falling from her
    earlier status.
   While, Maggie’s love for Tom is nourished by the rivers,
    streams, nature and childhood dreams.
   Her relation with Philip is based on understanding,
    sympathy and balance.
   The encounter with Stephen is sudden and dramatic.
   It is carried on in a different world of music, fashion,
    affected society and its manners.
   This change in social terms, is also a new opening for
    Maggie’s yearning for love.
   She is now once again carefree, which makes her lose her
    balance earlier than one expects.
   The strong attraction of Maggie and Stephen is shown as
    violent rapid which is entirely reconcilable with sexual
    tension and superficiality.
   Structurally, too, the novel is hastily done with her return
    from Mudport her social rejection, her last temptation and
    her death.
 George Eliot continuously shows her characters in the free
    and active process of ‘making’ themselves though always
    in the context of social influences and human collision or
   In Maggie’s case her encounter with Stephen has elements
    of fantasy and dream.
   He has handsome personality, richness and artificial
    manners and grace.
   The difference between her childhood and adolescence is
   Now her sexual desires are the stronger having entered
   She is equipped with a chance in a series of temptations:
   She is tempted to Philip, first resists, then refuses, then
   Then comes the stronger temptation by Stephen.
   Both are temptations to betray a loyalty rooted in the family
    and her childhood.
 With Stephen she first resists, then capitulates, then
    resists and renounces him.
   She oscillates between Tom’s rebukes and her rejection of
   This is a pattern of Maggie’s desire and her renunciation.
   But now she is ‘more than drift’, for her the drift means
    not only uncontrollable desire.
   But also an alienation from the family, society, honour
    and her earlier resolutions.
   In the end, after she has tried to live with her despair, and
    a life without Stephen she longs for death which is
    answered in the form of the flood.
   The flood engulfs Tom and Maggie and there is a calm
    only of the grave.
   After her tempestuous and impetuous relationship, her
    final call for renunciation is answered not by any human
    mentor or teacher but the Nature itself.
Tom and Maggie being overwhelmed by the flood from
              The Mill on the Floss.

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