First of all, George Eliot was a chick. Neat, huh? You learned something new today (maybe)!
‘The Mill on the Floss’ is really, really depressing. The whole story revolves around Maggie’s devotion to her brother and her struggle for his approval. Unfortunately, her brother is a cruel jerk. While they’re kids, he’s always telling her he doesn’t love her if she makes any sort of mistake. When they grow up, Maggie falls for the son of her father’s rival, and her brother makes sure to forbid her from seeing the guy. Since this is mid-1800’s England and misogyny is the name of the game, Maggie goes along with her brother’s mandates and lets him make her life miserable, until both of them die in a flood which was probably a regrettable bit of symbolism for all the tears she had to cry.
Allow me to clarify one point here: I didn’t hate this book, and I don’t hate Maggie’s character. If nothing else, she provides an interesting conundrum. Everyone’s motivated by something, and it usually has to do with gaining or keeping someone’s approval (even if it’s his or her own), so I can’t really criticize Maggie for that motive. There’s also something to be said for making a choice and going with it. I can’t say I think her choice to hand over the reins of her life was a great one, but it was hers, and the fact that she didn’t waver is mildly inspiring to someone as easily distracted as I am. She seems to forfeit happiness (in the form of romance), but if she thinks her self-denial makes her brother happy, and her brother’s happiness makes her happy, then she is happy. Uh, right?