George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss is largely about the relationship between Tom and Maggie Tulliver, brother and sister. Her needy love for him and his genuine but undemonstrative and somewhat superior fondness for her.  Summed up perfectly in this single sentence, which instantly puts them on an unequal footing due to his self-assurance, her lack of it, and his being a boy and she a girl.

What makes the novel so powerful is the ending which in some ways confronts Tom’s assumptions about his sister’s lack of capability head on.

‘Still he was very fond of his sister, and meant always to take care of her, make her his housekeeper, and punish her when she did wrong.’

See further casually embedded sexism in this sibling quotation.

 

Source: George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 38

Image credit: The Jenson Society, New York, 1910, wikipedia.org

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