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Themes

Love goes hand in hand with suffering, which is pretty much par for the course in The Mill on the Floss. Everything goes hand in hand with suffering here. Love in particular causes people pain, and it is always a matter of choice. Characters, especially Maggie, always have to choose between love for their family, romantic love, loving others, loving the self. Love is a matter of time too – who someone loves first, loves longest, and loves best is always an issue. Maggie in particular is consumed with a need for love in all its forms. Love is everything to Maggie.

Questions About Love

  1. The narrator lets us know that Maggie feels a sense of relief every time she is somehow prevented from furthering her relationship with Philip. How do you think Maggie really felt about Philip? Was she in love with him, or did she view him as a friend or even as a brother?
  2. Did Maggie do the right thing by not marrying Stephen? Were her reasons for not marrying Stephen good ones, or were they misguided?
  3. Maggie experiences a religious awakening after reading Thomas à Kempis, who preaches that self-love is a bad thing and that people should strive to love others besides themselves. Do you think this is a good philosophy? Does Maggie interpret this philosophy in a good way or not?
  4. It is repeated throughout the book that Maggie longs for love above all other things and that she has a huge capacity to love. What do you think Maggie’s definition of love would be?

Chew on This

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

Maggie’s intense love for her family, particularly her brother, is a destructive force that causes her to make bad decisions that are harmful to herself and to people close to her, like Philip.

Love is inherently, or fundamentally, painful in The Mill on the Floss.

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