Characters in The Mill on the Floss

Instructor: Debbie Notari
In this lesson, we will analyze the main characters in George Eliot's novel, 'The Mill on the Floss.' This tragic story illustrates how difficult it was for women in the 1800s.

Character Analysis

In this lesson, we will look at each main character in The Mill on the Floss and see how they intertwine with one another and the plot of the story.

1. Maggie Tulliver: Beautiful and dark-skinned, vivacious Maggie Tulliver lives with her two parents near Dorlcote Mill, which her father owns at the beginning of the story. However, through some poor investments, he loses both the mill and ownership of their home partially due to the scruples of a local lawyer named Mr. Wakem.

Maggie loves her family, but receives marginal love in return. In fact, Tom, the brother she adores, criticizes her quite often and eventually disowns her when he believes she has compromised herself. Maggie hungers for the approval of her family so much that she gives up the love of her life to please them. In the end, she dies trying to save the brother who rejected her. Maggie represents women of the 1800s who have few to any rights. She is a symbol of suffering.

2. Tom Tulliver: Tom isn't as intellectual as Maggie, and is less ambitious. He is deeply humiliated by his father's bankruptcy, and works hard to buy back the mill. He is also influenced by his father's hatred of Mr. Wakem to the point that he refuses to bless his sister's relationship with Philip Wakem and says that she must choose between Philip and him. In the end, he realizes that his sister risks her life to save him from a flood, but the two drown shortly afterward.

3. Jeremy (Mr.) Tulliver: Mr. Tulliver loses his mill and home to a local lawyer, Mr. Wakem, and another neighbor, Mr. Pivart. He allows his bitterness to consume him, refusing to forgive Mr. Wakem, who he holds most responsible for the dispute that led to his loss. At one point, he knocks Mr. Wakem from his horse and begins whipping him. Maggie holds him off. Mr. Tulliver dies the day after this incident, but not before his bitterness has both poisoned his son, Tom, and alienated Maggie, who deeply loves him.

4. Elizabeth (Mrs.) Tulliver: Mrs. Tulliver is a simple woman. She cannot handle the emotional humiliation of the bankruptcy and is wrapped in sadness. She and Maggie are fairly close, but it is safe to say that Maggie is more of a caregiver to Mrs. Tulliver than she is to her daughter.

5. Philip Wakem: Philip Wakem, the son of the lawyer, Mr. Wakem, is physically deformed. He is a 'hunchback.' Tom cruelly reminds Philip of his physical handicap when he refuses to accept Philip and Maggie's relationship. Philip is a humble, kind soul who loves unconditionally. Maggie is drawn to his intelligence, faithful friendship, and love. All throughout the story, Philip remains a good man.

6. Lucy Deane: Lucy is Tom and Maggie's cousin. She is very pretty, kind, and cheerful. Although she is deeply hurt by Maggie in a misunderstanding at the end of the story, she is quick to forgive. She deserves a better man than her fiancé, Stephen Guest, who pursues Maggie while still remaining engaged to Lucy.

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