Family is at the core of The Mill on the Floss. Most of the book’s characters are somehow related, and the sibling relationship between Tom and Maggie is arguably the most important one in the book. Family is something inescapable, with positive and negative results, for the characters here. As frustrating and as painful as family relations often are, they are ultimately binding and unavoidable. Family duty is a powerful guiding principle here as well, to the point where it often completely overshadows individual desires. This book even questions whether people do, or can, exist outside of their families, and whether or not it’s possible to have an identity separate from the family.
Maggie uses her commitment to family and family duty as an excuse to get her out of emotional or confusing situations, like her relationship with Philip.
As dysfunctional as the Dodson clan often is, they are actually a strong and loving family overall.