The Mill on the Floss
How we cite our quotes:
"Now, which’ll you have Maggie - right hand or left?"
"I’ll have that one with the jam run out," said Maggie, keeping her eyes shut to please Tom.
"Why, you don’t like that, you silly. You may have it if it comes to you fair, but I shan’t give it you without. Right or left - you choose now." (1.6.23-5)
Even as children, Tom had a very definite sense of justice and what made a choice fair or not. Interestingly, Maggie chooses here as she wants, and does not originally abide by Tom’s rules of fairness. Maggie will continue to conflict with Tom’s "rules" later in life too as she develops her own views of what is fair and what isn’t.
"Then I hope you’ll help me to do it, uncle," said Tom, earnestly. "If my father shouldn’t get well, I should be very unhappy to think anything had been done against his will, that I could hinder. and I’m sure he meant me to remember what he said that evening. I ought to obey my father’s wish about his property." (3.3.96)
For Tom, choice is always a question of duty, and is thus not much of a question at all. Family duty comes first for him, and Tom is always confident that he’s doing the right thing. In a way, Tom has only ever made one choice: to do his duty and to do what’s is right. Everything after that is simply "doing" things rather than choosing.
There were times when poor Tulliver thought the fulfillment of his promise to Bessy was something quite too hard for human nature: he had promised her without knowing what she was going to say - she might as well have asked him to carry a ton weight on his back. (3.9.1)
Mr. Tulliver is suffering the consequences of a rather hasty choice he made to promise his wife "anything," which in this case involved his going to work for Mr. Wakem. Tulliver’s actions here – making a blind decision and then quickly regretting it - is a running trend in this book.