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Dreams turned to dust - checking Maggie Tullivers dreams of self-fulfilment in George Eliots The mill on the floss
2003 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

In The Mill on the Floss, the gender roles in the England of the 1820s are a central feature. In this context, special attention is given to education, and especially the education of the protagonist Maggie Tulliver, but also her brother Tom. When it comes to Maggie, she strives to have a masculine education, which, as she expects, would make her a respected and happy woman. However, above all, her brother Tom, but also her father and others persistently counteract her ambitions in her environment. As a matter of fact, the kind of education she desires is considered quite unsuitable for a young woman, and to crown it all, her intelligence is by no means considered to be an advantage, but rather a burden that she would do better without. Tom, on the other hand, is forced to go to school in order to receive the kind of masculine education Maggie dreams of, but instead of giving him an increased self-esteem, ironically his education makes him feel miserable and unsure of himself, “like a girl”. As Maggie is repeatedly scolded and reproved for her “unfeminine” ambitions, she undergoes a gradual change towards a behaviour that is considered a more suitable feminine one. This is, among other things, reflected in a changed way of reading; from having enjoyed reading with a mind open to fantasies and imagination, her reading successively becomes more literal, as she seeks guidance from books in times of troubles. Maggie’s increased insecurity and submission also involve that her need for a male authoritative “guide” grows stronger, and she turns to different kinds of men, like for example Thomas à Kempis, whose teachings exhort her to be humble and submissive, that is, to be “feminine”. Other male authorities she turns to are the characters Stephen Guest and Philip Wakem, who both offer her guidance and intellectual stimulance. In the last scene, as the flooded river finally engulfs her and Tom, after their boat has been crushed against huge fragments of some wooden machinery, symbolising male power, this illustrates that they in fact are both victims of the patriarchy. However, when it comes to Tom, he has been able to “escape” from humiliation into a role where he has been able to recover his self-esteem. As for Maggie, such an escape has not been possible, and as she finally is crushed against the kind of “masculine” machinery that has steadily grinded her down throughout the novel, this may be seen as a logical end for her.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2003. , 28 p.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-53891Local ID: ENG D-13OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-53891DiVA: diva2:1102451
Subject / course
English
Available from: 2017-05-29 Created: 2017-05-29

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  • apa
  • harvard1
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  • en-GB
  • en-US
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  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
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