The Mill on the Floss
by George Eliot
The Mill on the Floss Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
But if Tom had told his strongest feeling at that moment, he would have said, "I’d do just the same again." This was his usual mode of viewing his past actions; whereas Maggie was always wishing she had done something different. (1.6.87)
This is one of the best distinctions between Tom’s and Maggie’s characters. Their differing attitudes towards the past sheds a lot of light on their respective personalities. Tom is confident and decisive, while Maggie is compassionate and always worries about her actions and decisions.
Every one of those keen moments has left its trace and lives in us still, but such traces have blent themselves irrevocably with the firmer texture of our youth and manhood; and so it comes that we can look on at the troubles of our children with a smiling disbelief in the reality of their pain. Is there any one who can recover the experience of his childhood, not merely with a memory of what he did and what happened to him [...] but with an intimate penetration, a revived consciousness of what he felt then [...]? (1.7.71)
This section gives a good run-down of the book’s views on memory and the significance of the past in forming a person’s character. Childhood in particular leaves lasting traces within a person’s personality, even if they can’t fully recapture the emotional intensity or reality of childhood as an adult. Memory, though powerful, is often very elusive, or hard to fully grasp.
It is a town "familiar with forgotten years." (1.12.2)
The line "familiar with forgotten years" is a quote from The Excursion by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth, like Eliot, was really interested in themes of memory and the past and he often explored those subjects in his poetry. Eliot uses this line here to describe the town of St. Ogg’s, which is in may ways stuck in the past even as it is modernizing and changing with things like industry.