Compassion can be very hard to come by in The Mill on the Floss. Most characters seem more inclined to hold grudges, plot revenge, maintain prejudices, and spread rumors. The feelings of other people are often not considered. Yet, people lacking in compassion aren’t presented as evil or even all that bad in this book. Compassion and the ability to forgive other people are hard qualities to maintain. And a lot of characters rationalize their lack of compassion and forgiveness. Tom sees his loyalty to his father as a good reason to maintain a grudge against the Wakems, for instance. Compassion and forgiveness are depicted as qualities worth fighting for, however.
Mr. Tulliver’s desire for revenge against Mr. Wakem is misguided, since Mr. Wakem was only doing his job and wasn’t setting out to deliberately ruin the Tullivers’ lives.
Tom’s inability to forgive Maggie her sins, or what he perceives to be her sins, results from the fact that he loves her as much as he does.