The Mill on the Floss
by George Eliot
The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 14 Summary
- The two go to sleep but Maggie has disturbing dreams involving Lucy and Philip.
- When she wakes up she knows that she has to leave Stephen, since eloping with him is wrong.
- But she is conflicted yet again – is Maggie ever not conflicted?
- Maggie can’t decide what the right thing to do is. She feels that eloping is wrong but she loves Stephen and doesn’t want to hurt him.
- Maggie decides that she’s already hurt people close to her but she can avoid hurting them even more if she leaves Stephen now and doesn’t go through with marrying him.
- Stephen wakes up after Maggie and starts to get worried about what she’s going to do.
- The crew drops the couple off at the lovely-sounding town of Mudport.
- Maggie tells Stephen that she’s leaving him.
- Stephen melodramatically tells her he’d die without her.
- He drags Maggie off to an inn so they can talk.
- But as they are walking off she thinks she sees someone she knows. Uh-oh.
- Maggie and Stephen have it out in the inn.
- Stephen begs Maggie not to leave him and Maggie explains her reasoning, saying that she can’t marry him with the doubts that she has. She refuses to do something that is morally wrong and hurtful in order to gratify her own selfish desires at the expense of other people.
- Stephen’s counter-argument is that the damage has already been done. Lucy and Philip are already hurt and that it would be worse now to deny his and Maggie’s love and live a lie.
- Both make very strong arguments and go round in circles for a long time. The issue is complicated further by the fact that Maggie is reluctant to hurt Stephen and often wavers in her resolve to leave him.
- Stephen gets increasingly agitated and tells Maggie that she’s treating him badly and that he’s wiling to sacrifice things for her.
- Maggie insists that she must listen to her conscience, which is telling her that marrying Stephen would be wrong.
- Stephen insists that they need to act in the present moment since the past can’t be changed. It’s impossible to avoid hurting others now.
- Maggie finally begs Stephen to let her go, saying she can’t and won’t hurt Lucy and Philip even more and do something that she feels is wrong.
- Maggie naively hopes that by confessing everything the people close to her will forgive her lapse of judgment. Stephen calls her out on this, saying that this will be huge social scandal and she’s foolish to think otherwise.
- Finally Stephen gives up and tells her to leave.
- Maggie is totally heartbroken and she makes her way back to St. Ogg’s.
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