Study Guide

The Mill on the Floss Book 2, Chapter 4

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Book 2, Chapter 4

‘The Young Idea’

  • Tom and Philip never really bond as the weeks go by, since they have very different personalities.
  • Philip is pretty moody and sensitive and Tom tends to bluster about and offend Philip without really meaning to do so.
  • Tom starts taking drawing lessons and is bummed since he is only allowed to draw nature scenes and and other stuff that he considers boring.
  • The narrator gives us a lengthy run down about the state of education in this period. Education was basically a crapshoot and people were really lucky to get a decent or a useful one. Tom was clearly not so lucky.
  • Mr. Stelling continues to think that Tom is a moron and sticks to his ineffectual method of teaching since he doesn’t know any other way to do it.
  • But luckily Philip takes some of the pressure off of Tom and Mr. Stelling is distracted by his one smart pupil.
  • With Philip’s help, Tom does pick up some things and starts maturing too.
  • Tom befriends a local named Mr. Poulter, who was a soldier back in the day.
  • Mr. Poulter criticizes the whole of military history and tells Tom stories about his own battle exploits.
  • Mr. Poulter also shows Tom his sword and Tom is duly impressed. Mr. Poulter agrees to show Tom some battle drills and Tom runs off to get Philip.
  • Tom bursts in and interrupts Philip while he’s playing the piano. Philip is annoyed and snaps at Tom. We learn that Philip doesn’t like Mr. Poulter, who is often rude to him.
  • Tom gets mad in return and yells at Philip and calls him a girl and insults his father. Ouch.
  • Tom storms back out and Mrs. Stelling comes in to check on Philip, who is crying.
  • Philip lies and says that he has a toothache and that’s why he is upset.
  • Tom meanwhile goes back out to watch Mr. Poulter. He begs Mr. Poulter to let him keep his sword for a few days and, responsible adult that he is, Mr. Poulter agrees.
  • Tom hides the sword in his room and is excited to show it to Maggie, who is coming to visit again next week before going off to a boarding school with Lucy.

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