The Mill on the Floss
The Mill on the Floss
by George Eliot
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The Mill on the Floss Theme of Art and Culture

Given how depressing most of the characters’ lives are in The Mill on the Floss, it make sense that they look for some sort of amusement and entertainment. And art and culture, be it literature, music, or painting, definitely fit the bill. But art and culture are more than mere entertainment here. Art and culture, music in particular, often represent something profound and meaningful, something that is better than most characters’ everyday existences. Philip and Maggie in particular take solace, or comfort, in culture and the arts, using them as an emotional outlet and as a refuge from the worries and concerns they have in their daily life.

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. Music is an extremely important symbol in this book, representing everything from love to Maggie herself. What are some of the most important ways that music is used in the book?
  2. Philip is shown to be quite cultured – he’s artistic, musical, well-read, etc. Do Philip’s cultural talents and interests help him to cope with hardships? Do you think that art and culture are seen as remedies for suffering in this book?
  3. Maggie loves reading and books. What do books and works of fiction represent for Maggie?
  4. Philip tells Maggie that he is very scattered and thinks it’s good to have a single passion on which to focus, while Maggie thinks it’s good to have multiple talents and interests. Who do you agree with here?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The novel argues for the important role of culture and the arts in people’s lives – without things like literature, art, and music, people lead very limited, unimaginative, and often sad lives.

For Maggie, the arts, particularly music, are closely linked to love and romance.

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