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Childhood In The Mill on the Floss

Childhood In The Mill on the Floss

Introduction to childhood in the mill on the floss:

Factually, one’s childhood is the most significant part of his life. The progress of his personality, his intelligence, and his social attitude are contingent on the early years of his childhood. A human mind repeatedly acknowledges what it interprets from its environs. All of his childhood reminiscences own a strong position in his memory. Not only the coaching he receives during his childhood but the ease and comfort he has then haunted him throughout his life, mostly when he travels across the short course of his life and the uncomfortable errands he has to undertake to survive through his journey on Earth. It is, no doubt, a fact that childhood leaves a substantial impact on one’s personality and moral intellect. These memories provoke a need to accomplish several objectives in a man’s life as well. 

“When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” (Rothfuss, 94)

Eliot’s The Mill on The Floss portrays a similar theme of childhood and memories and how they affect one’s adult life. The whole story revolves around the Tulliver family, especially Tom and Maggie’s lives, Mr. Tulliver’s sense of revenge, the relation between Tom and Maggie and what affected it, etc. 

George Eliot’s Childhood Life:

The Mill on The Floss reader would want to know what aroused the idea of childhood and memories in Eliot that provoked her to write such an incredible literary work. One must understand that Eliot herself lost the love she required during her early teens with her mother’s death in 1836. As every child holds aspirations of a good education, Eliot, on the other hand, had to leave school after her mother’s death to help her father with household matters. The loss of motherly love and her social life as a schoolgirl was indeed an immense tragedy of her life. 

In her letter to the publisher of the novel, Eliot writes:

“At present, I have no hope that it will affect people as strongly as Adam [Bede] has done. Getting my eyes redder and swollen every morning as I live through her tragic story.”

Upon completing the novel, Eliot wrote that Maggie’s sorrows have clung to me painfully.”

“In The Mill on the Floss, everything is softened, as compared with real life.”

Adding to her statement further, she said: 

“My own experience was worse.”

Eliot had made it clear that The Mill on The Floss was a representation of her own life, only lighter in intensity. 

The recollection of Childhood Memories Explained: 

The story revolves around our two protagonists, Tom and Maggie. Throughout Maggie’s childhood, she is deprived of the attention and love she longs for from her family, especially her brother. She loves her brother too much, but her brother Tom does not care for her emotional sentiments. When Maggie’s childish actions enrage Tom, specific incidents in the novel verify Tom’s intolerant attitude towards Maggie. She endeavors to apologize in her ways, but Tom’s egoistical disposition does not allow him to forgive his sister. He remains harsh and does not express to her any sort of sympathies. The incident when Maggie forgets to feed the rabbits, resulting in their death, Tom scolds Maggie, displaying a rude attitude, without realizing that Maggie had been eagerly waiting for Tom’s arrival at home. She was expecting a similar and lovely behavior from Tom, but her expectations were torn apart. Through the long course of the novel, Maggie longs for her brother’s love and affection. On the other hand, Tom does not feel the same and instead punishes Maggie harshly, violently hurting Maggie’s emotional sentiments. 

Humans desire to love, especially from a particular person. In case they fail to receive the love they long, their emotional element begins to find alternatives. 

Maggie is an energetic little girl who discovers mischief in almost everything. Her mother remains annoyed over her naughtiness, while her brother, too, pays no heed to the love she craves for. However, her father, Mr. Tulliver, remains the only person in her entire family who cares for her weak emotional aspect and provides her the adoration and attention she craves for. 

Psychological researches proved that a child attempts to behave older than his age. Such of his attempts are in the form of what his parents see as mischiefs. A child longs for love, but he develops severe negative traits such as fear, mental instability, anxiousness, lack of social skills, and desires to hide away when he is deprived of the required passion. 

Similarly, as she grows up, Maggie falls in love with Mr. Wakem’s son, Philip Wakem. Mr. Wakem is a lawyer in the novel who is the prime reason for Mr. Tulliver’s bankruptcy and the Dorlcote Mill’s loss. Mr. Tulliver hates Mr. Wakem intensely. Even though he recovers the Mill, his sense of being scammed and his hatred for Mr. Wakem lives in him till the day, while returning home, he encounters Mr. Wakem and beats him violently. Mr. Tulliver makes Tom swear on the family bible that he would be the man of the family and will never forget the damage the Wakem family had done to them. Tom promises to never let go of the Wakem family and seek revenge over their evil deed.

Upon realizing that Maggie has fallen in love with Philip Wakem, Tom becomes furious and badly insults both of them. Maggie’s words are a clear reflection of the traits she developed over time in her due to continually being ignored during her childhood:

“you have always enjoyed punishing me; you have always been hard and cruel to me; even when I was a little girl and always loved you better than anyone else in the world, you would let me go crying to bed without forgiving me.” (Eliot, 274)

Tom himself receives no love during his childhood, not because his family doesn’t love him, but because he spends most of his time away from his family in his school. Tom develops a challenging emotional element in him in the name of masculinity. 

Talking about the significance of the Dorlcote Mill, it is no doubt a fact that the Mill is deeply associated with the Tulliver’s family history. Tom and Maggie had spent their childhood in the Dorlcote Mill, while Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver had seen their children grow there. But because of being a family mill, it possesses a lot of memories. These memories remain so intense that Mr. Tulliver cannot help himself but think deeply about the Mill and seek revenge from Mr. Wakem. 

Throughout the novel, it is evident that memories, especially of our two protagonists’ childhood, continue to influence the behaviors and decisions of the Tulliver family. Furthermore, it is because of Mr. Tulliver’s death and the loving memories associated with Tom and Maggie that both siblings cry over his death and promise to revive their love for each other. Maggie demonstrates her love for Tom by sacrificing her own life for him. 

Tom and Maggie are bound to their responsibilities, issues, emotional weaknesses, and Mr. Wakem’s actions that slowly, as they grow up, shape their intellect, thus appearing as a result of their past troubles. 

Significance of Childhood Memories in the Novel:

Eliot points out the impacts of childhood on one’s life and how the memories, whether good or bad, haunt one even when he is grown up. Memories are indeed beautiful, which is why people tend to preserve their belongings as long as they can. The comfort he has and the innocent conduct of a child are two worthy aspects of life. But as soon as a child steps forth towards his practical life, he makes decisions based on his childhood experiences and tends to store even the minutest objects that remind him of the beautiful life of complete carelessness back then.

Dorlcote Mill is very dear to the Tulliver family. From their ancestors to Tom and Maggie’s childhood, the Dorlcote Mill holds within it hundreds of unforgettable memories. Because of such recollections that Mr. Tulliver makes every possible attempt to regain the Mill’s possession. Even Tom knows the Mill’s value; thus, he swears that he will never forget what Mr. Wakem had done to them. 

Maggie’s love for Tom, the inhumane behavior of their uncles and aunts, the loss of the Mill, the regaining of the love between the siblings, etc. are all packed together in one collection, the primary aim of which was to make one realize the charm and beauty that childhood memories possess. 


For Eliot, the ones who procure the true love and the childish luxuries during their childhood are lucky enough to grow up possessing positive impacts and tons of beautiful memories to remember. On the other hand, those who have to fulfill dozens of burdensome responsibilities during their childhood either due to the miserable family conditions or due to the lack of love residing in their parents for them, are unlucky to not receive such a blessing. As far as parents and their attention towards their children is concerned, they must realize that it is in a child’s nature that he desperately longs for the childish luxuries, which are love, education, independence, carelessness, and imagination, from his parents. Eliot portrays Maggie as the child deprived of love and affection from the one she desires to receive. Even though Maggie’s father loves her unconditionally, she still feels trapped in an invisible cage upon observing the behaviors of her brother, mother, and aunts with her. She grows up with the sense of not being loved and develops some rebellious attitude towards her brother. Fortunately, Eliot decides to the end story by reuniting the two siblings and displaying the unconditional love that Maggie possesses for Tom by sacrificing her life for him. 

Read Also: Explanation to Postcolonial Criticism

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