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The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot - Book Report/Review Example

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The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot is archetypical of the Victorian art of storytelling in that it captures the eternal spirit of free will. The plot of the novel deals with the tension between circumstances and the spiritual vitality that keeps the characters going…
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The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
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Download file to see previous pages Again, time is presented as a situational variable from the legal conflict over the mill in the beginning of the novel to the resolution in the end. This essay proposal is going to closely look into the role of time in The Mill on the Floss.
The lives of middle-class country people in England were not incorporated as an intellectual component of novel writing in the Victorian era. George Eliot broke the tradition by detailing the existences of middle-class country people. While some critics and readers found it fascinating to see the characters through the observant eyes of the novelist, some strongly expressed their resentment for such casting. Leslie Stephen of Cornhill Magazine stated that no English author had documented "the essential characteristics [of quiet English country life]". (Ordinary People's Lives 2005-2006) Like any able novelist, George Eliot too in The Mill on the Floss contrived a plot which has ample scope of multiple interpretations. In this sense, the art of novels demands the readers to have certain acumens for psychological understanding of human relationships and their manifold layers. As a central presence in almost every major relational thread in the novel, Maggie remains till date a remarkable woman character ever portrayed in English literature. Her affectionate and mutually dependant relationship with Tom, and her uncontrollable attraction for Philip and later on Stephen throw up into contention the implicit and passive nature of time. The main characters in the novel, Maggie and Tom in particular, are portrayed as mere pawns struggling to get over the haunted memories of their past lives. With Maggie, it is the lost memory of intellectual and ideal cravings she used to possess within herself in her younger days. In the course of time, the familiarity of circumstances abandons her, leaving her despondent and wistful. Her mental world is perpetually at flux due to the conflict between her awareness of social responsibilities and her subconscious desire for self-fulfillment. As for Tom, time's scythe affects his life in a different manner. The tender relation he shares with Maggie changes with time, due to factors that are beyond his control. The unrelenting pressures of life are manifested in the novel through the loss of their father's mill to his rival, and the social degradation of the Tullivers. Hence, both Tom and Maggie are compelled to adapt different coping mechanisms to overcome the adversities. Traces of changes in terms of their bonding can be found in his disdainful behavior toward Philip Wakem, Maggie's suitor. Moreover, Tom's refusal to pardon Maggie when she wants to return to the loving and caring refuge of her brother underlines the crude nature of time as portrayed in the novel. However, the theme of time is masterfully interwoven into that of destiny. The reunion of Maggie and Tom in the penultimate hours of the novel goes to show humankind's futile attempt to defy destiny. (Losey 69)
Time has been adapted as a "theme and procedure of subjective and novelistic consciousness at the very beginning of The Mill on the Floss and the past, for George Eliot, are always with us, always accessible, always the same." (Schleifer 69) These words are echoed in the last line of the novel, "In their death they were not divided." (Eliot et al. 522) So one can say that time acts like a leveler in the novel, unifying the two most powerful forces in the story in the end.
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