Victoria Louis Perspective Through the Eyes of George Eliot What separates The Mill on the Floss from other novels of the Victorian era is its unique narrative style. The narrator gives readers a detailed insight into all of the characters and tells us their thoughts and feelings. However, the narrator sometimes switches over into the first person, using “I” and directly addressing the reader as “you. ” These breaks between the third person and the first person voice not only make for an interesting read, they also help tie in the life experiences of George Eliot throughout the novel.
At times it seems almost as if George Eliot herself is narrating the tale of Maggie and Tom Tulliver’s lives. The opening of The Mill on the Floss first presents readers to the narrator of the novel. The narrator is introduced as a witness who lived in St. Ogg’s at the time of the Tulliver’s that now remembers and nostalgically tells the tale thirty years later. However, we soon see that the narrator also remains unnamed and omniscient. Thus, he or she recounts to us not only the dynamics of the conversations between Mr. nd Mrs. Tulliver that she was not present for, but also the dynamics of each of their thought processes. Every so often, however, the narrator refers to his or herself in the first person and recount personal opinions, as with the narrator’s musings on Mrs. Tulliver at the end of Chapter II, “I have often wondered.. ” (58). The narrator becomes intensely committed throughout the remainder of the novel, often speaking in a generalized manner about like history or religion.
Though it is never made clear if this is simply Eliot herself or the narrator is supposed to be an actual character that is somehow all knowing and omniscient, the narrative style and the life events of Maggie Tulliver that tie so closely to many of Eliot’s point towards the possibility that she herself is connected with the narrator. The narrator’s almost morbid, voyeuristic gaze on Maggie’s decisions and inevitable descent is in many ways autobiographical.
Many other chracters throughout the novel are a reflection of people within Eliot’s own life. The narrator becomes so close to Maggie and her desires, and so hostile to those who ration sympathy for her that it is hard to put aside the possibility that the narrator’s voice mimics that of Eliot herself. The Mill on the Floss involves many autobiographical details, and it reflects Eliot’s close childhood relationships with her father and her older brother.
Eliot was sent to school as a child and at the age of fifteen and underwent a spiritual conversion to Evangelicism, similar to Maggie Tulliver’s pious conversion upon reading Thomas a Kempis in Book IV. Maggie’s relationship with Stephen Guest is a reflection of Eliot’s relationship with a married man. Eliot sacrificed her relationship with her brother Isaac to be with this married man, and she depicted the pain of his disapproval in The Mill on the Floss in Tom’s disapproval of Maggie’s relationships with Philip and Stephen.
But, while The Mill on the Floss is highly autobiographical, it is not just a regurgitation of Eliot’s life. Maggie, after all, never permanently runs off with the man she loves. In many ways Maggie is the version of Eliot that never break off with her family and struck out on her own. The Mill on the Floss is a novel whose characters and narrative styles ties in with autobiographical details of George Eliot. The narrator provides us with an in depth perspective into all of the characters and gives us knowledge their thoughts and feelings in a unique way.
The very first chapter has the narrator using the first person to describe what seems to be a close memory of a young Maggie, which could very well be a direct reflection of the author’s own childhood. The novel’s point of view is clearly first person, but it often contains lofty, almost nostalgic omniscience that is almost undeniably that of George Eliot herself. Work Cited Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. Broadview ed. Peterboroug: Broadview, 2007.