“The Mill on the Floss”
By George Eliot
The Losing of One’s Innocents
The concept of loosing one’s innocents is a dominant theme through out the book as siblings Tom and Maggie Tulliver are faced with a major cross roads. In the novel, their father goes through the unfortunate burden of loosing all his assets and, in doing so, loosing his senses and becoming emotionally ill in the process. It is at this moment that the childhood Tom and Maggie once enjoyed will now take a dramatic shift as the two are forced to make sacrifices for the bettering of the family.
Upon the announcement of Mr. Tulliver’s unfortunate financial loss, Tom chooses to leave school and head back home to see if his father is well. It is at this moment Tom agrees to take on the family burdens by leaving academia to enter a life of business in hopes to repay his father’s debts. His father forces Tom to promise that he will dedicate his life to seeking revenge against Mr. Wakem and earn the family savings back. Mr. Tulliver tells Tom to never forgive Mr. Wakem for if he does, he will be disowned. In order to honor his father’s name, Tom is forced to not only abandon his education at an early age, but he is also forced to abandon his friendship with Phillip Wakem, Mr. Wakem’s son.
Like her older brother Tom, Maggie frequently submits to her family’s wishes, despite how much pain it may cause her. Maggie too is forced to abandon all ties with Philip Wakem, a friendship not only her and her brother shared, but also a boy to whom she shared a deep and emotional connection with. As the novel reads on, Maggie finds herself longing for a better life and a better future as she is in a desperate search for love.
Maggie begins to gradually rebel against her family’s wishes by sneaking out to see Philip Wakem, a boy she loves dearly. She is forced to choose between her father’s happiness and her own. Maggie believes that her love for Phillip can never be made known and that it should remain no more then a memory. Maggie is fearful of the consequences her relationship with Phillip will have on her father and brother’s opinion of her. Phillip, on the other hand, sees the importance of staying true to one’s self and following your own desires rather then the desires of those around you. Because of her father’s feud with Mr. Wakem, Maggie is forced to give up her own happiness or be exiled into abandonment.
Learning about their family’s hardships permanently separates Maggie and Tom from their childhood. Tom is forced to give up education, while Maggie is forced to give up love. This crossroads Tom and Maggie experience results in the characters’ downfall. Their father’s resentful personality leads to their unfortunate deaths fifteen years later when the two siblings drown in the very river the feud revolved around. Tom and Maggie sacrifice their youth only to never find their own happiness due to their family’s burdens.