Study Guide

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 2

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Book 2, Chapter 2

The Christmas Holidays

  • The narrator describes how the Tulliver house is very cheery at Christmastime.
  • But Tom notices that something seems a little off.
  • Turns out that Mr. Tulliver is in a terrible mood. Some man in the neighborhood, a Mr. Privart, is trying some new irrigation techniques and it’s interfering with Tulliver’s Mill, which runs on water power.
  • This new guy is also a client of Mr. Wakem, the evil lawyer.
  • Mr. Tulliver keeps ranting and Mr. and Mrs. Moss are confused by the whole thing.
  • Mr. Tulliver announces that he’ll make Tom an engineer so that he can figure out this irrigation business. Tom is rather alarmed by that announcement. He thought he’d run a mill just like his dad.
  • Mrs. Moss and Mrs. Tulliver agree that getting involved in lawsuits is a bad idea and they hope Mr. Tulliver won’t do it.
  • (Historical Context Lesson! In the early and mid-nineteenth century, the legal system in England was going through a lot of changes. It was becoming more like the modern legal system and lawsuits were becoming much more common. Lawsuits were a bit of a free-for-all, though. Lots of people got involved with them and lots of people lost all their money by the time the lawsuits were done. People often weren’t familiar with legal procedures in this period and many were screwed over by lawyers and the often highly inefficient and slow legal system. So Mr. Tulliver’s ill-advised involvement in lawsuits was actually fairly common. Other books published in this period dealt with the often disastrous effects of the English legal system, such as Charles Dicken’s Bleak House (1852), which is all about a legal case over a disputed will that lasts for decades.)
  • We learn that Mr. Tulliver has a history of getting involved in lawsuits and legal disputes. Mr. Tulliver’s own lawyer, Mr. Gore, isn’t really the best of lawyers. He actually sounds a bit like Barry, the world’s worst lawyer, from Arrested Development. Mr. Wakem is unfortunately a superstar lawyer, albeit an evil one.
  • At the end of his holidays Tom tells his dad that he heard a rumor: apparently Mr. Wakem is sending his son to study with Mr. Stelling.
  • Mr. Tulliver says it’s true and tells Tom to be nice to the son since he’s deformed. He says that Mr. Wakem obviously thinks Mr. Stelling is a good teacher, so it’s all cool really.
  • Tom is not looking forward to meeting a deformed Wakem.

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