The reading of the text The Mill on the Floss briefly explores the scientific as well as humanistic elements of Victorian Era, the growing Industrialism of that time is represented by the Dorlcote Mill, in its structural form and in Tom Tulliver, in its ideological form. Whereas, the Nature is represented by the river Floss, in its physical form and in Maggie Tulliver, who is considered a contrast to her brother, Tom who has set principles makes Maggie’s ever changing stances’ in the novel seem frivolous and unsubstantial. But, in actuality Maggie is just like the Nature, which does not have a fixed course and is unpredictable. It is beautiful even in its destructive form and it is considered the corrector of all human follies.
Going by the Victorian tradition of eponymous titles, it is worth thinking of both the mill and the Floss were not merely symbolic elements in the novel, but were actual participants in the development of the novel. As Jonathan Smith puts it, “The action and influence of the river Floss reflect the growing importance of geologic and meteorologic forces in contemporary narratives of organic development.” Though the mill was ostensibly passive it presents Eliot’s appreciation towards the unpredictable effects of technological innovation on society and nature. The title of the novel has put two opposing principles of the times together, ‘The Mill’ , cementing the patriarchal norm in the Tulliver family and ‘The Floss’ backing the sensitive and vulnerable femininity of the protagonist. Eliot is supposed to have had a hard time zeroing on the title for her novel, she considered naming it after Maggie (‘Sister Maggie‘ or ‘Maggie Tulliver‘) and even after the Tulliver family (‘The Tullivers’ , ‘The House of The Tullivers’ or ‘Life on The Floss’) In the end she chose a title that foregrounds the most potent metaphors and arguably the central characters of the novel- ‘The mill on the Floss’.
The story holds a very important lesson about the exploitative use of the nature and machine. This is very well bought out by the character of Pivart, who is not introduced in flesh and blood but, is responsible for the legal battle between Wakem and Mr. Tulliver, which leads to the fall of the Tulliver family. It is Pivart’s plans of modern agricultural movement, to exploit the Floss for irrigation, not keeping in mind what the people living downriver would suffer, like Tulliver’s. His lacking moral depth and his limited grasp of knowledge made him the most flawed character of the novel. Though he is easily forgotten, through him the plot is set into motion and the lives of the protagonists take a drastic turn.
In the end, nature repairs her ravages, but, in case of Maggie it seems to be unjust, for the girl who’s only legitimate relations prospered in the heart of nature, In Red Deeps with Philip and with Stephen floating down a river. The devastating tide put an end not only to Maggie’s conflict with all characters, but, also to a life of self-made choices. In this sense, not only is the individual placed in a helpless position with respect to the physical and natural laws of the universe, but, the laws themselves, which ought to be neutral, condemn each individual to an inevitable downfall.
And this inevitability of the physical and natural laws is at the heart of this novel.