The Mill on the Floss
by George Eliot
Once upon a time, a man named Mr. Pullet swallowed a cough-drop. It was the fifth time he had done so (1.9.85). And this was one of the most exciting things that ever happened to him. Seriously, if this were a movie, Mr. Pullet would be a step or two up from "Random Background Extra Number Two." The man is just sort of there most of the time. He’s yet another uncle who is part of the hydra-like creature known otherwise as the Dodson clan.
Mr. Pullet is a perfect addition to the Dodson clan because he doesn’t really exhibit that much of an independent personality. This may be precisely the point to his character though. He isn’t all that interesting and he is largely a background figure. And in a family as large as the Dodsons, it makes sense that not everyone would be able to take the spotlight. Mrs. Glegg is usually cool with hogging it anyway. And Maggie always manages to steal it without even trying.
The traits Mr. Pullet does show seem to come right out of the Dodson rulebook. He may not have been born a Dodson, but he is one in spirit:
Uncle Pullet had seen the expected party approaching from the window, and made haste to unbar and unchain the front door, kept always in this fortified condition from fear of tramps who might be suposed to know of the glass-case of stuffed birds in the hall and to contemplate rushing in and carrying it away on their heads. (1.9.13)
This attitude is reminiscent of Aunt Glegg, who enjoys spying on her neighbors and freaking out over strangers (like Bob Jakin) popping up in her yard, since they may be there to murder her. Uncle Pullet too can make irrational judgments with the best of them. And we aren’t even going to touch his Norman Bates decorating scheme with the case of stuffed birds. Yikes.
When Mr. Pullet is front and center, he is awkward. The Dodsons as a whole are rather socially inept, which is pretty funny, given how much the Dodsons represent society as a whole with their tendency towards prejudicial judgment, gossip, and strict rules. Mr. Pullet might just beat them all out for the prize of Most Awkward Character though. Check out this scene with Tom, who thinks his Uncle Pullet is a bit of a loser:
Now Mr. Pullet never rode anything taller than a low pony, and was the least predatory of men, considering firearms dangerous as apt to go off themselves by nobody’s particular desire. So that Tom [...] had described uncle Pullet as a nincompoop [...].
The only alleviating circumstance in a tete-a-tete with uncle Pullet was that he kept a variety of lozenges and peppermint drops about his person, and when at a loss for conversation, he filled up the void by proposing a mutual solace of this kind. (1.9.44-5)
Mr. Pullet may be mostly in the background, but, when the narrator opts to showcase him, it generally results in some hilarious commentary. He might be one of the most mocked characters in the entire book.
While Mr. Pullet tries at least, but the whole human interaction things is just a bit much for him at times. He should probably just have another cough-drop.