It is said that George Eliots style of writing deals with much realism.

Eliot, herself meant by a realist to be an artist who values the truth
of observation above the imaginative fancies of writers of romance or
fashionable melodramatic fiction. (Ashton 19) This technique is artfully
utilized in her writings in a way which human character and relationships are
dissected and analyzed. In the novel The Mill on the Floss, Eliot uses the
relationships of the protagonist of the story, Miss Maggie Tulliver, as a medium
in which to convey various aspects of human social associations. It seems that
as a result of Maggies nature and of circumstances presented around her, that
she is never able to have a connection with one person that satisfies her
multifaceted needs and desires. Maggie is able, to some extent, to explore the
various and occasionally conflicting aspects of her person with her
relationships between other characters presented in the novel. From an early
age, Maggie needs approval from men…Maggie is not shown in any deep
relationship with a female friend. (Ashton 83) A reader can explore into
Maggie Tullivers person and her short development as a woman in four primary
male associations: her fatherMr. Tulliver, her brotherTom Tulliver, her
friend and mentorPhilip Wakem and her dangerous passion with Steven Guest.

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Maggie unconditionally loves her father although he has been the unconscious
root of many of her misfortunes. Toms and Maggies young lives are
blighted by the gloom, poverty, disgrace and death of their father…Maggie is
obliged by her fathers failure to leave school…It is the misfortune of a
clever girl denied any activity other than domestic. (Ashton 50) In the time
period of the setting of the novel, women were regarded as male property, to
take care of household matters and without skill, originality and intelligence
of a man. Mr. Tulliver cared deeply for his daughters future but
inadvertently oppressed Maggie through his views of women. This idea is
represented in his dialog with Mr. Riley of Maggies unnatural
intelligence: Its a pity but what shed been then ladshed
habeen a match for the lawyers, she would. Its the wonderfulst
thing. (Eliot 68) Mr. Tulliver by nature was stubborn, opinionated and led
his family to disgrace as a result. However, there is a close bond between him
and Maggie for which he had always protected her and favored her over Tom, as
much as would permit in that age. Maggie always felt a responsibility to please
her father and to never cause him any grievances. She was loyal to him at times
that he seemed to not return her affection How she wished that her father
would stoke her head, or give her some sign that he was soothed by the sense
that he had a daughter who loved him! (Eliot 371) When her father was in the
lowest point of self-ruin and was under the scrutiny of the family, Maggie took
upon the position of the protector and loyally defended her protector. Her
father had always defended and excused her, and her loving remembrance of his
tenderness was a force within her that would enable her to do or bear anything
for his sake. (Eliot 284) Maggies brother, Tom, is the person of whom she
was the most fond of. She turned the cheek on some of his unkind actions toward
her in the realization of a strong, unbreakable bond. This excerpt from
Brother and Sister (Ashton 90) portrays the type of relationship Maggie
and Tom Tulliver have. He was the elder and a little man Of forty inches, bound
to show no dread, And I the girl that puppy-like now ran, Now lagged behind my
brothers larger tread. Every episode in the early chapters show Maggies
high hopes of pleasure being dashed by disagreements with Tom. (Ashton 75)
Tom indeed was of opinion that Maggie was a silly little thing: all girls
were silly…still he was very fond of his sister and always meant to take care
of her. (Eliot 92) Even with this mutual love, Tom is extremely harsh of
Maggie, whose only concern is to please him and maintain closeness with him
throughout their lives. In many instances, Tom would feel his authority being
threatened by Maggie and bear insensitive punishments upon her. He shows his
rage and after his own personal interpretation and feeling, giving Maggie no
chance to defend herself. The worst punishment he could evoke upon Maggie is to
estrange himself from her and banish him from their home. This action in their
troubled relationship causes Tom to be callous and harsh and raises the
possibility for Maggie to be isolated in the world. You will find no home
with me…You have been a curse to your best friends…I wash my hands of you
forever. You dont belong to me! (Eliot 612) Till the dire years whose
awful name is change Had grasped our soul still yearning in divorce, And
pitiless shaped them in two forms that range Two elements which sever their
lifes course. This excerpt taken from the same poem is significant of the
divided views and paths of these two siblings. The only thing Maggie desired was
to have no cloud between herself and Tom. (Eliot 577) Despite all of the
hardships that Tom had inflicted in Maggie, the possibility of his danger during
the flood sparked the natural protective nature in Maggie as she laboriously
fought the river to Toms house in a small boat. As seen before in times of
great dispair, they put aside their differences and forgave each other without
saying a word. In their unfortunate ending, their mutual love was shown as an
embrace never to be parted (Eliot 655) Tom and Maggie must be reconciled
in Death, where they could not be in life. (Ashton 92) One of the major
arguments between Tom and Maggie resulted in her friendship with Philip Wakem.

Tom furiously hated Philip as a result of his father, Mr. Wakem, which Tom
regarded as an accomplice to his fathers and his familys downfall. Maggie
was given strict orders to stay clear of all Wakem accompaniments. However,
good-natured Maggie saw goodness in Philip that he was not associated with his
fathers actions. They developed a close friendship where Philip resultantly
developed a deep love for Maggie that exceeded the bounds of their comradeship.

Philip is from their schooldays a brotherly figure for Maggie, a loving
substitute for Tom…Maggie’s feelings for him will fall short of passion;
though he is a more satisfactory brother figure. (Ashton 92) In this
relationship, Maggie finds the love she has yearned for from her own brother,
however it is complicated from external issues and irrational thought of a lover
status by Philip. Philip provided education and moral support for Maggie during
their time together and she regarded him very dear. Philip can relate to
Maggies inferior status as a woman because he has been plagued by a physical
deformity and therefore is inferior to society. He is marganalized by his
deformity as women are marginalized by their gender. (Carlisle 7) As their
relationship progressed, it is threatened by another force: the appearance of
Steven Guest. Steven Guest can provide the aspect of passion for Maggie that
Philip cannot provide. In their first interaction Steven felt an instant
attraction for her, as she for him. For one instant Stephen could not conceal
his astonishment at the sight of this tall, dark-eyed nymph with her jet-back
coronet of hair, the next, Maggie felt herself, for the first time in her life,
receiving the tribute of a very deep blush and a very deep bow from a person
towards she herself was conscious of timidity. (Eliot 484) Steven complicates
Maggies life because his attraction is also irrationalhe is courting her
loving and dear cousin. Maggie is aware of the danger in these passions and
takes great effort not to partake in them, on an external display. Maggie stated
that she would rather take death than to participate in temptations that could
hurt so many people: Herself, Steven, Lucyher cousin and Philip. How little
she did not know of the disastrous effects it would have on a more broad scale.

As time progresses, both Steven and Maggie find it more difficult to hide such
attractions for each other and eventually Steven makes a thoughtless gesture
that the two of them should be together…forever. Maggies conscious and her
inability to directly cause grief to her loved ones overcomes her strong sexual
attraction for Steven and the prospects of a free life with him. This action
causes the complexities of their relation to be exposed to the general public,
the public to pass ill judgment on her and begins the second major dispute
between her and her and Tom. Steven is said to be a catalyst in the primary
drama between brother and sister (Ashton 52) This is an accurate statement
because tension was already established between Maggie and Tom and if it were
not for Steven, it would have been another thing to cause further conflicts.

It is perhaps worth remarking that he is the literary descendant to other
energetic, simple, sexually powerful men in novels who create quite complex
problems for women whose alternative lovers are perhaps more sensitive. (Byatt
690) Despite of her short and problematic life, Maggie Tulliver has the
opportunities to explore various aspects of her personality and womanhood in her
variety of relationships especially with male characters. She was able cherish
the forgiving love of a father, which made so much impact on her life. She was
able to experience virtually unpressured friendship and intellectual stimulation
from her beloved friend Philip. She experienced a glimpse of sexual identity and
attraction with her relations with Steven Guest that unfortunately caused them
both much pain. Maggie was also allowed to experience the type of love that can
exist between siblings, despite all of their disagreements, Maggie and Tom were
able to realize that their bond was deeper than could have been imagined. George
Eliot artfully created such relationships in this novel in a successful method
to analyze and probe into the complexities of human interaction. This comes
along with the message that it may be possible to have everything that one may
want in life, just not all at once or at the same time.

Works Cited Ashton, Rosemary. The Mill on the Floss: A Natural History.

Twaynes Masterwork Studies. Boston, G.K. Hall ; Co. 1990 Byatt, A.S.

The Placing of Steven Guest. Appendix, The Mill on the Floss, Middlesex,
Blays Ltd, St Printing; Penguin Classics. 1979 Carlisle, Janice. The Mirror
In the Mill on the Floss; Toward Reading of Autobiography Discourse. Studies
in the Literary Imagination. Vol 23:Issue 2. EBSCO Masterfile Premier 1990
Edinborough and London. Brother and Sister The Legend of Jubal and Other
Poems. London, Blackwood 1874 Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. Middlesex,
Penguin English Library, 1979.

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