Study Guide

The Mill on the Floss Essay

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In the following essay, Ermarth discusses the reality of the norms Maggie struggles to achieve throughout the novel.

George Eliot makes it clear in The Mill on the Floss that the social norms of St. Oggs exert a heavy influence on Maggie's development. This fact has long been obvious but less obvious, perhaps, is that fact that the norms Maggie struggles with are sexist. They are norms according to which she is an inferior, dependent creature who will never go far in anything, and which consequently are a denial of her full humanity. Years of such denial teach Maggie to repress herself so effectively that she cannot mobilize the inner resources that might have saved her. By internalizing crippling norms, by learning to rely on approval, to fear ridicule and to avoid conflict, Maggie glows up fatally weak. In place of a habit of self-actualization she has learned...

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This section contains 6,434 words
(approx. 17 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Mill on the Floss Study Guide
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