Mill on the Floss Introducing Romantic Protagonist - Literature Essay Example
Mill on the Floss
Introducing Romantic Protagonist
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In fact, George Eliot introduces a single protagonist who comprises two personages: Maggie and Tom, neither of them being predominant. Maggie, upon her renunciation of Stephen, rushes back to Tom as if she was hurrying to, for a moment forgotten, “herself”. I contend that this compound protagonist is put inside the stream – as a part of the stream, he (protagonist) yields to its powers, but as a composite body, he retains himself from being absorbed and led away.
Novel “The mill on the Floss” is built into the setting of “romantic” writings and draws on the mighty potential of romantic plot and figures.
The novel undoubtedly belongs to Bildungsroman scheme. There some evidences that explicitly point in that direction. The Table of Content of the Novel is structured according to the idea of evolution from the childhood into the school time and skein of further events, though time indication is no more in place, seems to unwind in compliance with “time-and-progress” principle. Books 3 to 7 reflect gradual transition from early days utopia to further decay.
Though the Early days scenes were saturated with innocent happiness moments, the source of that happiness was not external by nature, thus, it was immune to decay. The dialectics of internal and external penetrates the theme of development: the former comprises the bud while the latter comprises the forces employed in its subsequent transformation.
I have a strong feeling that early days, namely, events of Books 1-2 were the time when all the events which are to happened through the story were in a bud. Add here all that premonitions reader may have when Mrs. Tulliver says: “they are such children for water. They be drowned someday.” or when Mr. Tulliver reveals his early inclinations to the Law and his outward opposition to the middle-class way of life identified with Dodsons family and brought at the highest pitch in Mrs.Glenn. The conception of children’s ( Maggie’s and Tom’s) character was left off the readers eyes, while the early formation, as in a bud whereof the subsequent story arises, was concentrated in books 1-2.
One look at the names of the chapters will suffice to get to know that inherent idea of the formation and deformation is there.
Book First, Chapter 13, “Mr. Tulliver further entangles the skein of life.”, apart of bearing this vital symbol of skein in the name, tells about Mr. Tulliver ever susceptible of determined opposition to Dodson’s spirit and oblivious of his past monetary troubles, who plunges into his little struggle for his personal dignity, struggle tragic in effect, though not lofty in form. The nature of his proclivities are obscured by the author, but that it is malign and noxious to the early days utopia seems to be clear when Mrs. Glenn decides not to call the money for a while, thus, seemingly suspending the finale. Mr.Tulliver’s stance precipitates his downfall and, what is more important, demise of the early childhood utopia of Maggie and Tom. Occasionally reader is supposed to feels premonition that something may come out those innocent proclivities of personages, something that will graduate of the origin to bring that origin down. Author actually points at the tendencies that may bring decay to the environment where early days utopia takes place.
On the other hand, Book Six, Chapter 44, “Showing that Tom Had Opened the Oyster” reveals Tom’s desire to retrieve the prominent element of that utopia setting – The Mill, with a view to regain the internal sense through restoring the external conditions whereto the utopia was bounded. To ‘open the Oyster’ means to reveal the sacred leaning. Here the sacred intention is to return the old times, namely, one of the miscellaneous remnants of those happy early days exterior which, as it seems for Tom, has a potential of invoking the whole internal concord despite of the disastrous changes which made the initial sister-brother relations wither.
While in the case with Mr. Tulliver, which from the early bright days seems to project the gloomy prospects upon his family, the unwinding of the skein of life goes on so as to entangle the entire skein and sour the future, in the case with Tom, the second active power, his faculties are there to disentangle the consequences of the earlier deeds and retrieve the past.
The theme of formation inherent to Bildungsroman is in place but there also appears to be the theme of deformation. Personalities of protagonists (Maggie and Tom) are formed through, but at the time, the entire setting of their past life turns to be deformed and practically ruined by Mr. Tulliver’s downfall. The outward movement much wanted from within ‘the old setting’ and instigated by morale impulses decease and rebounds into inward movement, in the sense of returning to the wonted and beloved idilia of the past. By ‘outward movement’ I mean education and development in the course of encountering social reality. The need for that education springs from ‘within the setting’, in other words, from the socially conditioned views on the ‘becoming’ things for young men and women. Author resorts to acute critics of the real nature of that education, like in the case with Tom’s school, the basis on which the decision concerning the right school was adopted, the innate yearning of Mr. Tulliver for his son to ‘match’ the wits of Wakem. Not only the nature of education is corrupted, as in the case with Tom, but also the very knowledge acquired by him in the course of that education seems to be utilized only to surpass Maggie in the field of particular knowledge. The outward movement as the movement into the external life is associated with constant conflict and repulsion of the elements of that life. Only gradually may Tom or Maggie seem to come at terms with world but that moments of truce in the middle of hostilities are the result of delusion and momentary lapse of reason.
Maggie seems to be especially susceptible of the clash with reality.
In Maggie, George Elliot exaggerated the contrast between beautiful imaginative nature and commonplace cruel surrounding. While Tom’s conflict with surrounding manifests itself as persistent and serious only in two cases: that involving Mr. Stelling and Philip Wakem (or Wakems at all), Maggie consistently seems to be either under pressure of scornful disdain or treated with condescending air worn by everyone belonging to good society and beholding her abrupt and unfeminine demeanour which was due to her times of privation. “In fact, poor Maggie, with all here inward consciousness of a painful past and her presentiment of a troubles future, was on the way to become an object of some envy…And Maggie was so entirely without those pretty airs of coquetry which had the traditional reputation of driving gentlemen to despair, that she won some feminine petty for being so ineffective despite her beauty.” (B.6, 6, p.349)
Even her beauty was originated inside that troubles and passionate emotional life of her – like a materialization of that divine justice by the provisions of which everyone maltreated and disdained by the environment must subsequently have something of indisputable value to revenge on that past offenders.
The internal life, the character of Maggie stands in uncompromising contrariety to the exterior life. While Tom’s encounter with exterior world goes through education he is inapt in, Maggie’ s clash with reality happens practically everytime and seems to get more violent as she is to get back to herself from that long sweet captivity when “under the charm of her new pleasures, Maggie herself was ceasing to think.”. (B.6, 6, p.351)
The initial childhood’s exterior world opposition, as it was felt by Maggie, originated from nothing but seclusion. When absorbed and lead away by the sudden recognition and affection, vertiginous exterior world seemed to be less of a commonplace to Maggie. What a stunning moment was that when upon Recognizing in that world her eternal opponent, Maggie plunged into a sudden violent clash with that pacifying surrounding. In general, the nature of internal composition of Tom and Maggie defined the angle under which the collision of external and internal worlds occurred. Thus, different by nature, those conflicts complimented each other.
While outward movement comprised a call for education and development, the bankruptcy of that ‘outwardness’ was evidenced by the fact that Knowledge in the case with Maggie and Tom played a special role of, in the latter case, gaining a volatile superiority upon the sister ( “You help me, you silly little thing!” and Tom, in such high spirits at this announcement that he quite enjoyed the idea of confounding Maggie by showing her a page of Euclid…”, B.2, 2, p.129) and, in the latter case, self-asserting and Tom amusing device (…Tom was never angry at her for her forgetting things, and liked her to tell him tales…, B.1, 6, p.44). Knowledge was but superficial device of diverting or bewildering the partner in the pursue of some combination for Internal, innate brother-sister balance. The outward movement, though much unlike with Tom and Maggie, at Mr. Tulliver downfall rebounds into inward one. As the world condemned the in-goers the only way left is a way back. The foreclosure of the property bears enormous stimulus to active strife, calls to outward collision with the external pernicious powers. Still I denote it as inward movement. The reason is that restoration of family property was deemed by Tom as mandatory, he would have disguised every other carrier opportunity in favor of that trivial and low job. The development of Tom seems to bring him at the very right place he started from – his own mill. Tom’s father was a professed advocate of his son’s business carrier somewhere out of that mill and that was the reason he inspired his education. To get him afar of that land was a best of his prospects with regard to his son. Instead, Tom returned to the very point like there was no outward movement at all.
Inward movement was spurred by congenital, internal impulses calling for reunification with the past and making one conceive the vanity of developmental movement as it is one-sided and rogue on all which is innate and not acquired. The sudden transposition of outward movement with its opposite inward one signifies the condemnation of developmentalist patterns and accrues to the intensity of the critical tone in authors narrative on middle-class traditions and presuppositions which seems to be rigid enough to engender aversion like those of Tom and Maggie.
Maggie’s reunification with the past seems to be deferred for a while. As I stated earlier, being of alternative internal composition, Maggie was bewildered by sudden acknowledgement her a full society member. Maggie seems to be an antipode of Tom and got trapped by the world in time when he recovers his sight. The romantic eye of George Elliot tends to exaggerate the antagonism between two fighting impulses but its ultimately doubtless that for the purpose of that artistic exaggeration, two entities: man and woman, springing from single upbringing, though definitely unlike in nature, were chosen. I contend that the essences of Maggie and Tom’s characters are entirely the same, the only thing that divides them is a character of the responses to the exterior world impulses. Devoid of attention and hunted by her sad memories, Maggie falls under the spell of soothing and pacifying world at the very moment when Tom, determined of his innate righteousness and spurred by it, fights that cruel exterior world. But upon recovering, she double-fights it and rushes inward to her internal origin, which is the internal origin of Tom too. The memory, often pondered upon by the author, and love, apart of the kinship, is that which unites the two souls in that inward movement.
Now let me contemplate on the idea of the novel. The idea is tragic conflict of shallow commonplace surrounding and beautiful, uncommon soul. Maggie is in the center of the conflict. The tragic effect appears to be brought at its acme when Maggie seems to be decoyed by the world and lose the connection with her brother – who actually was a personification of her internal hidden utopia idea. Devoid of her true internal life or, better to say, ensnared by her passions and bewildered by imagination and her inherent fears she plunges into the world but soon recovers and seek reunification with her genuine “self”, which she may picture only by Tom’s side. They go together opposing the different challenges of the world. They are one consistent peace of the world, which assumes its worthiness and fights the rest of that world. Though much unlike, Maggie and Tom seems to be united by that strife and fall back upon the memory of the past that unites them.
In fact, George Eliot introduces a single protagonist, which comprises two personages: Maggie and Tom, neither of them being predominant. Maggie, upon her renunciation of Stephen, rushes back to Tom as if she was hurrying to, for a moment forgotten, “herself”. I contend that this compound protagonist is put inside the stream – as a part of the stream, he (protagonist) yields to its powers, but as a composite body, he retains himself from being absorbed and led away.
While Tom retains his internal world and endeavours to restore the accustomed exterior setting as men do, Maggie dissociate form the past. Again, while Tom wonders away into province of education Maggie stays home and retain the connection with him. The scene of the flood symbolizes dissolution of a struggling piece of life in the life itself.
“The boat reappeared – but brother and sister had gone down in an embrace never to be parted; lived through again in one supreme moment, the days when they had clasped their little hands in love, and roamed the daisies fields together.” (B.7, 5, p.456)
“Mill on the Floss” by George Elliot. Edited by Gordon S. Haight. , Boston, 1961.