The Mill on the Floss
by George Eliot
The Mill on the Floss Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Who exactly is the narrator? At the beginning the narrator speaks in the first person and seems to "remember" Maggie and the other Tullivers. Is the narrator an independent character, is it Eliot herself, or something else entirely?
- The narrator tells us that Tom’s and Maggie’s destinies are hidden since they are a matter of always-evolving circumstances rather than character traits. In this novel, are characters’ futures a matter of circumstance, a matter of character, or a combination of the two?
- The novel has a very vague ending and doesn’t provide any details about the other characters lives. Why do you think the novel ended this way, and what sort of effect does this conclusion have on the narrative as a whole?
- Eliot gives us a lot of very complex characters in the novel, many of whom aren’t entirely good or bad. Who would you classify as a protagonist, or a hero, and an antagonist, or a villain? On the other hand, are there actually any real heroes or villains in this book at all? Is everyone sort of a mixture of the two?
- We get a lot of hints about the flood before it actually happens. Do you think fate played a role in Tom’s and Maggie’s deaths?
- The Mill on the Floss has a fairly odd narrative structure. Eliot focuses in very careful detail on a certain incidents and then she jumps forward years at a time in the narrative. What is significant about the scenes that Eliot choses to focus on in detail? Are there any similarities in content or themes in these scenes and chapters?
- On a related note, what sort of effect do the gaps of time have on the narrative overall?
- What do you think of Tom Tulliver? Is he a sympathetic character at all?
- There are a number of chapters that have the same title, such as "A Love Scene" and "Boy and Girl." Is there anything significant about these repeating titles? Do the different sets of similarly titled chapters and volumes have anything in common?
- Religion is an important issue in the book on which the narrator and different characters comment. What sort of role does religion or spirituality more generally play in the lives of the major characters, such as Maggie and Tom?
- The book places a huge emphasis on the significance of the past and Maggie especially seems to give a greater weight to past events and past relationships over newer ones. Is this a good attitude to have? Can newer relationships ever fully supplant, or replace, older bonds here?