The Mill on the Floss and The Anthropological Movement of 1830s England

The Mill on the Floss book cover

The Mill on the Floss book cover

The concerns of The Mill on the Floss relate to 1830s England by closely analyzing the lucrative and anthropological movements of 1830’s England. It notes how the lucrative and anthropological concerns are reflected in the novel The Mill on the Floss. Keeping the contextual framework of the novel in view, it argues that the sociopolitical and anthropological movements of 18th century England are aptly reflected in the novel. Thus, this essay treats the novel as a social commentary. This essay divides its argument into two dimensions; anthropological and lucrative respectively. Thus, the mainline of this research essay is: The Mill on the Floss is a lucrative and anthropological commentary of 1830’s England.

Anthropology is the logical investigation of mankind, this field of study concerns itself with human conduct, human science, and social orders, in both the present and past, including past human species. Whereas the word ‘Lucrative’ encapsulates the growth of social capital. Anthropological and lucrative movements play an extremely important part in the development of a society. The Mill on the Floss (1860) is a novel written by George Eliot and published by William Blackwood. Set in the late 1820s or early 1830s, the novel is greatly acclaimed in the literary world because of the extraordinary representation of its subject matter; Conflict between inward and outward self and an intellectual woman’s place in family and society. The Mill on the Floss highlights the suffering experienced by women in a male-dominated society in detail and brings out the absurdity of rituals and customs which help to propagate the myth of the patriarchal society.

The Mill on the Floss is George Eliot’s second novel and her most autobiographical work of fiction. It tells the story of Maggie Tulliver, detailing her relationship with her brother Tom and her inability to conform to the rigidly traditional society in which she lives. Commentary on The Mill on the Floss has focused on its conclusion—which many critics consider abrupt—and on its complex characterizations and sociological insights. While the plot of The Mill on the Floss focuses on the plight of Maggie Tulliver, the background and the context of the novel bring many movements to the forefront, including the socio-cultural, anthropological changes in the social landscape of England. The Mill on the Floss mainly deals with the troubled childhood and young adulthood of Maggie Tulliver, but a variety of background details reveal the changing community of the time and so relate to the actual sociological and economic shifts in 1830s England.

From the very outset of the novel, the difference is being established between the ‘new ways’ and the ‘old ways of the world. The plot of the novel The Mill on the Floss positions itself on the cusp of the new economic order in England. In her essay “Between Economies in “The Mill on the Floss”: Loans versus Gifts, or, Auditing Mr. Tulliver’s Accounts” Katherine Blake discusses, “The Mill on the Floss is set in a period of the later 1820s-1830s when the newer economics was actively layering onto the still persistent older one. But a demarcation clear enough to abstract categorizing may be easily lost sight of, and Eliot’s characters sometimes operate according to the older, sometimes the newer economics, without heeding the difference”(Blake).

In the novel, the old methods of neighborhood common relations and the old ways of moderate living are represented through the character of Mr. Tulliver. Whereas the Gleggs and the Pullets illustrate the need to give way to new age capitalism. This contrast is highlighted ample times in the book. The differences between these families accentuate the changes caused by the lucrative movements of new-age England. In the novel, Mr. Tulliver states, “We live from hand to mouth … little else than snatch a morsel to satisfy the hungry brood, rarely thinking of seed-corn or the next year’s crop.” This marks England’s departure from being an agrarian economy to an industrial economy that thrives on capitalistic endeavors.

As evident from the title of the novel, ‘Dorlcote Mill’ is the driving conflict behind the plot. The Tulliver family has claimed Dorlcote Mill for quite a long time, yet abruptly, new families like the Parts are progressing on the land and getting well-to-do and properties. The Dorlcote mill which is owned by Mr. Tulliver is under constant threat of being overshadowed by a giant corporate chain.

In the novel, the concern is expressed as, “It would not, he acknowledged, be a bad speculation for Guest & Co. to buy Dorlcote Mill, and carry on the business, which was a good one, and might be increased by the addition of steam power; in which case Tulliver might be retained as manager ” (Eliot 301). This marks the new age wealth brought into far-flung areas through the rise of industrialization and, in consequence, new age capitalism. All the while, social interests are being intertwined with the economic concerns of the age. The domestic sphere of a house reflects the serious matters of the public sphere. Rohan Maitzen discusses in her article, “In the meantime, Tom has had to become the man of the family, meeting their financial burdens through unremitting hard work. This experience increases his patriarchal rigidity, and he forbids Maggie and Philip to meet” (“The Mill on the Floss as bildungsroman”).

The protagonist, Maggie Tulliver comes to the forefront as a gender-fluid character as she competes with her brother Tom to share the burden of the household and save their only source of income. Pauline Nestor discusses in her article, “George Eliot says Mr. Tulliver has his tragedy, as do his daughter and son, and it is precisely Mr. Tulliver’s money trouble, his bankruptcy, that sets the condition for the troubles of the next generation” (Nestor).

Throughout the novel, we are indicated how Mr. Deane propels on the planet, making Mrs. Deane the best Dodson sister when Mrs. Pullet had guaranteed that honor for quite a long time earlier. Mr. Deane himself focuses on one of the specialists of this change, in the steam motor. Mr. Deane likewise clarifies that the time of cultivating is being prevailed by the period of exchange: “Someone has said it’s something fine to cause two ears of corn to develop were just one developed previously; however, sir it’s something fine, as well, to additional the trading of products, and carry the grains of corn to the mouths that are ravenous.” Buying merchandise efficiently and selling them for a benefit is the specific way that Tom brought in enough cash to drop the family obligations.

At last, these financial powers have appeared to impact the social science of the general public in that fortunes are won and lost all the more quickly, and the chains of command of the local area are not as steady. In this manner the youngsters of St. Ogg’s are not as limited in their decisions of marriage accomplice as they may have been—Stephen can wed down to Lucy Deane, and even to Maggie Tulliver, and Lawyer Wakem can consent to a match between his child and Maggie.

Moreover, gender also plays an extremely significant role in the anthropological commentary of the age. According to Victorian society, if a woman fails to please men’s aesthetics, she fails herself as a woman. Maggie’s physical appearance is not beautiful in the conventional sense of the word. She has dark eyes and dark hair which makes her unattractive according to Victorian beauty standards. Her demeanor is often described as demonic, and she is often referred to as a ‘Wench’ because of the dark hair she possesses, her unattractiveness is established from the outset of the novel where her mother constantly wails about her hair, let your hair be brushed, and put your other pinafore on, an’ change your shoes, do, for shame. (Eliot 7) and it becomes the whole family’s concerns as Tom mentions, “Put your hair behind your ears, Maggie, and keep your frock on your shoulder.” (Eliot 47) It directly reflects how women were deprived of their own even on their bodies by their families. They were policed about their appearances and choices, “Fie, for shame!” said aunt Glegg, in her loudest, severest tone of reproof. “Little gells as cut their own hair should be whipped and fed on bread and water, —not come and sit down with their aunts and uncles” (Eliot 58).

Therefore, all these factors contribute towards making The Mill on the Floss a social commentary that converges its focus on the lucrative and anthropological aspects.

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