This novel is to a great extent about the relationship between brother and sister Maggie and Tom Tulliver. She loves him fiercely and as a child is desperate for his affection and approval. Here she knocks over something he has been building and incurs his fury.
The witness to this, Lucy, is cousin to the siblings and, in stark contrast to Maggie, the ‘perfect’ child, always immaculate, well-mannered, pretty and ladylike. Maggie is all together wilder, and more loveable. The simile describing Lucy’s slight surprise at the wreckage and drama around her is as perfect as she is.
‘Maggie stood in dismay and terror, while Tom got up from the floor and walked away, pale, from the scattered ruins of his pagoda, and Lucy looked on mutely, like a kitten pausing from its lapping.’
Source: George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 91
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