Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Characters on the Floss

I'm home from my travels now, and back to reading "The Mill on the Floss".  I've got about 100 pages left.  Maggie, despite her disavowal of all things pleasurable and self-directed, has begun to clandestinely meet the lawyer's son, Philip Wakem, for long walks in the woods.  Philip, who is quite bright, but is a hunchback, met Maggie years before when she came to visit her brother Tom at his boarding school.  Maggie and Philip hit it off, but Tom never liked Philip, who was much better at his classes than Tom.  Philip has always yearned for Maggie's affections, and now that they're grown, he revels in his meetings with her.  He eventually professes his love to her, which takes her aback.  She tells him she loves him too, but the whole thing seems a bit weird to me.  First of all, Philip, because of his deformity, seems starved for love and affection, and may be clinging to Maggie just because she's the only woman who's ever taken notice of him.  Second, does Maggie really love this guy?  I don't know...I think she truly likes him and thinks of him as a brother, but I don't know about anything more.  She's still young, and has no experience with romantic love yet.  In fact, her greatest love so far is her brother, who she adores.  So is that the role model for her love for Philip?

Anyway, complications ensue when Tom tells his father (Mr. Tulliver) he's earned enough to pay off his legal debts. Mr. Tulliver is overjoyed, and celebrates by horsewhipping the lawyer (Philip's father) when he sees him in the road.  This excites Mr. Tulliver so much that he collapses and dies.  Soon after, Tom learns of Maggie's meetings with Philip, and orders her to stop, saying it would disgrace the family.  Maggie agrees, and Tom takes her to see Philip, and forces her to tell him she can't see him again.  He also makes fun of Philip's deformities, which Maggie doesn't like at all.  So then a couple of years go by, and Maggie goes to visit her cousin Lucy, who has grown into a beautiful, and rather innocent, woman.  Lucy introduces Maggie to her suitor, who takes a shine to Maggie.  Maggie takes a shine to him too.  Uh oh.

So that's where I am now.  I'm worried about Maggie...she's been cruel to Lucy before when they were kids (she pushed her into the mud when mad at Tom).  She loves Lucy, but her impetuousness got the best of her.  I hope that doesn't happen again.  Maggie needs to work at striking a better balance between her tendency to do rash and crazy things, which she quickly regrets, and her previous passion to repress her nature completely and deny herself any pleasure at all.  She's like a pendulum that has swung between the two. 

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