Study Guide

The Mill on the Floss Book 1, Chapter 2

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Book 1, Chapter 2

Mr. Tulliver of Dorlcote Mill, Declares His Resolution about Tom

  • Mr. Tulliver announces that he wants Tom to get a good education. He thinks Tom’s current school is terrible and wants to send him to a better one so that he can become something cool one day, like an engineer or a surveyor.
  • Mr. Tulliver does not want Tom to be a lawyer though, because lawyers are evil. But Tom will need a good education to deal with lawyers. Apparently, in this period lawyers roamed the earth like zombies, causing problems and stealing people’s money. Only the power of a good education could combat them.
  • Mr. Tulliver also notes that "Old Harry" created the lawyers. (OK, explanation: Old Harry is the devil. In this time period people had lots of nicknames for the devil since they often didn’t like to run around saying "Satan," generally for superstitious reasons. So we get "Old Harry" instead. Another common devil nickname is "Old Scratch," which is featured in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and The Devil and Tom Walker by Washington Irving. This concludes your Historical Context Lesson. Back to our scheduled program.)
  • Mrs. Tulliver is down with this plan, but she thinks Mr. Tulliver should talk things over with her sisters, Mrs. Pullet and Mrs. Glegg.
  • Mr. Tulliver shoots that idea down.
  • Mrs. Tulliver defends her family and reiterates that Tom can go somewhere to school as long as it’s not too far away.
  • Mr. Tulliver continues to talk about Tom’s education and Mrs. Tulliver starts talking about household matters – neither are really listening to the other.
  • After a bit, Mr. Tulliver decides that he’ll run his plans for Tom by Mr. Riley, who is an informed individual apparently.
  • But there is a problem: Mr. Tulliver is worried that Tom is a bit dumb and won’t succeed at school. He is sad that his daughter got all the brains.
  • Mrs. Tulliver laments that her daughter is always getting into trouble and she’ll probably fall in the river and drown one day. If this were a movie, music of doom would now start playing.
  • While Mr. Tulliver defends his daughter, Mrs. Tulliver complains about her physical appearance (the kid’s hair won’t curl) and her crazy antics.
  • Mrs. Tulliver wishes that her niece, Lucy, was her kid instead – Lucy looks more like her than her own kid.
  • Maggie comes running inside and is very messy. She complains loudly about having to sew and do chores. Mr. Tulliver finds this hilarious, and Mrs. Tulliver complains some more.

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