The Mill on the Floss
by George Eliot
Mr. Glegg is married to Mrs. Glegg, who isn’t exactly an easy woman with whom to get along. And Mr. Glegg doesn’t always manage to get along with her. However, even when he gets mad at her, he sticks with her. The two have a bizarre, argumentative relationship that seems to really work. Granted, Mrs. Glegg confuses Mr. Glegg all the time:
And his second subject of meditation [the first being the exciting world of natural history] was the "contrariness" of the female mind, as typically exhibited in Mrs. Glegg. That a creature [...] maintained in the highest respectability without any trouble of her own, should be normally in a state of contradiction to the blandest propositions and even to the most accommodating concessions, was a mystery in the scheme of things." (1.12.7)
But being confused, whether by a spouse/love interest, a family member, a moral dilemma, or life in general, is pretty much a requirement to be a character in this novel. So Mr. Glegg fits right in here. He also fits well into the Dodson clan. Which is a bit problematic. The narrative often refers to the Dodsons collectivity, as if they were some sort of mass, singular entity. The Dodsons themselves often function collectively, though – the aunts and uncles frequently show up places en mass, which can make it difficult to distinguish between them. But each aunt and uncle is a unique character that plays a certain role in the text. And, if every family member has a certain role to play in the family, then Mr. Glegg’s is that of the friendly uncle.
He is arguably one of the nicest of the Dodsons, and he’s also one of the least judgmental. He especially supports Tom during some difficult periods. He backs Tom up with Tom wants to stick with his father’s wishes regarding the Moss’s debt. He also helps Tom in a business venture that eventually allows Tom to pay off his family debts.
Uncle Glegg’s kindness and understanding have definite limits, though. He can be judgmental, as we often see in his attitude towards Maggie. He’s also stingy with his money and can be ruthlessly practical. Like so many complicated characters in this book, Mr. Glegg has moments of compassion and good humor balanced out with moments of frustratingly judgmental and unhelpful behavior. In this respect he is a dynamic character that shouldn’t be oversimplified as just another Dodson uncle, or as the uncle who’s often in a good mood.