The Mill on the Floss
by George Eliot
Mr. Deane is a bit like the little guy on the Monopoly game, the guy with the top hat and the mustache and the monocle who pretty much screams "Businessman." Granted, Mr. Deane probably isn’t sporting a monocle or a top hat. He is however, a businessman. In fact, Mr. Deane is almost exclusively defined by the fact that he is a successful businessman.
Mr. Deane has some other roles in the book of course. He is yet another Dodson uncle. He is also the father to Lucy Deane and as such is placed in contrast with the other fathers in the book: Mr. Tulliver and Mr. Wakem. Mr. Deane would probably be the one to earn a Number One Dad mug though. He’s affectionate and kind towards his daughter, and he’s also a good and supportive uncle to his nephew Tom.
But Mr. Deane’s personal roles are all filtered through his primary function as a businessman. Business is central to Mr. Deane’s identity and his own sense of self. As such, we very rarely see Mr. Deane outside of his office. The majority of his scenes take place at his office or at the bank with Tom. And in these scenes with Tom, Mr. Deane is always talking business. He’s sort of appointed himself as Tom’s professional mentor, and, as such, Tom is forced to endure (or gets to experience, depending on your viewpoint) Mr. Deane’s patented Ten Miles in the Snow Speeches. What on earth are those? Well, we’ll let Mr. Deane explain:
"Ay, ay, sir," said Mr. Deane, spreading himself in his chair a little, and entering with great readiness into a retrospect of his own career. "But I’ll tell you how I got on: it wasn’t by getting astride a stick and thinking it would turn into a horse if I sat on it long enough. I kept my eyes and ears open sir, and I wasn’t too fond of my own back." (3.5.36)
Mr. Deane continues this speech for another couple of pages, telling Tom about the importance of hard work, how the world is changing, and how he worked really hard and pulled himself up by his bootstraps, so to speak. It’s the equivalent of the types of stories older people stereotypically tell about how things were "back in their day" and how they totally had to work harder and suffer more than you and walk ten miles in the snow everyday, sonny. Mr Deane isn’t quite that over-the-top, but he’s getting there.
What’s really interesting about Mr. Deane’s business advice is how positive it is overall. Mr. Deane isn’t simply greedy. His business views emphasize hard work and responsibility, which are good qualities to foster, or develop. As a result, Mr. Deane represents the more positive side of the modern capitalist business world in this book.