George Eliot uses an asthmatic simile to reveal the religious prejudices of her characters. If they considered that it runs in families ‘like asthma’, you may assume they didn’t approve of chapel-goers.
The light and gently humorous touch is typical of her delicate manner of pleading for greater tolerance.
‘… for they didn’t know there was any other religion, except that of chapel-goers, which appeared to run in families, like asthma.’
Source: George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 290
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