Study Guide

The Mill on the Floss Book 6, Chapter 4

By George Eliot

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Book 6, Chapter 4

Brother and Sister

  • Maggie goes to see Tom the next day. Tom is renting a room from Bob Jakin.
  • Bob is now married and his mother also lives with them.
  • Bob’s wife is very tiny and very sweet and she is happy to see Maggie.
  • Bob comes in to say hello to Maggie. He is as cheerful and as talkative as ever.
  • Bob brags about his wife and notes that his business is going well.
  • He is worried about Tom though: Tom works all the time and doesn’t seem to have any friends or fun.
  • Bob also suspects that Tom is lovesick – he mentions that Tom bought a girl a dog for Christmas but he now seems in a worse mood than ever.
  • The dog in question is Lucy’s dog, Minny. Maggie is surprised to think that Tom might have a crush on Lucy, but then dismisses the idea as silly.
  • (Historical Context Lesson! Yes, it was considered OK to marry your cousin back in the day. Moving right along.)
  • Tom comes in and Bob leaves so they can talk in private.
  • Maggie gets right to the point: she wants Tom to absolve her of her promise to not see Philip anymore.
  • Tom proves that he can hold a grudge like no one can. He is really cold to Maggie and tells her that if she wants to start speaking to Philip again, he won’t talk to her anymore.
  • (FYI: There’s a discrepancy, or a difference, in the timeline here. The novel has a few of these errors actually. Tom tells Maggie that he made her promise to not see Philip a year ago. But a few chapters ago, Lucy says that it’s been two years since Mr. Tulliver died. Given some other upcoming references, it seems that the two years is correct. We can assume Tom is just estimating or is speaking carelessly here.)
  • Maggie explains to Tom that she is only asking because Lucy plans to invite Philip over and she doesn’t want things to be awkward, especially since she is a guest at Lucy’s house.
  • Tom tells Maggie that he doesn’t trust her at all. He complains that Maggie is reckless and irresponsible. Tom is upset that Maggie has been working as a governess too: he wanted her to go live with Aunt Pullet or Aunt Glegg.
  • Maggie tells Tom that they are very different and that he really can’t judge for her.
  • Tom begs to differ since he is apparently always right and all-knowing to boot. He then goes on a spiel about how evil the Wakems are and how Maggie always makes bad decisions.
  • Maggie is both angry and humiliated.
  • Maggie tells Tom that he is being harsh and that he ought to be nicer to her since she is his sister. He shouldn’t assume what she will do in the future either.
  • The two decide to drop the subject and Tom says that he doesn’t mind if she sees Philip at Lucy’s house, but only there.
  • The two joke around some and Maggie leaves.

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