Eliot defies social norms by portraying Maggie, a female character, as a woman of substantial knowledge. For a woman of Maggie's status and sex to know as much as she did and to have her "fiery" personality is unordinary. Her brother, Tom, maintains male characteristics, but his actions and lack of intellectual stamina pose a problem for him. By reading this paper, you will gain a better understanding of role reversal in Mill on the Floss and how the same themes are present in The Lifted Veil.© BrainMass Inc. brainmass.com October 10, 2019, 8:09 am ad1c9bdddf
The Lifted Veil and Mill on the Floss, two very different novels written by George Eliot, contain similar themes. Role reversal is the most recognizable over others, but only because the main characters mirror each other. Because the apple never falls too far from the tree, when it comes to children and their tendency to take after their parents, it can only be assumed that each character's flaws are magnified because their parents see a little piece of themselves in their offspring. Many of the characters mentioned in these novels, have terrible relationships with their parents, and are valued by their parents only to the extent that they can obtain the finer things in life such as money and a good reputation based on their looks, which proves that beauty is only skin deep. This can be seen in this quote, "...she's twice as 'cute as Tom. Too cute for a woman, I'm afraid...she's a little un, but an over-' cute woman's no better nor a long-tailed sheep, -she'll fetch none the bigger price for that," (7).
Tom, from Mill on the Floss, is often ridiculed by most everyone in his life. He shares in the scrutiny that his sister receives from their family members. He has a better relationship with his mother than she, but only because he takes after her, has fair skin, and ironically harbors a girlish quality. When Mr. Tulliver, the father in the situation, speaks of Tom, he says, "'what I'm a bit afraid on is, as Tom hasn't got the right sort o'brains for a smart fellow....He takes after your family, Bessy," (7). When Tom is sent off to Mr. Stelling's, he is given feminine tasks to complete, such as taking the baby for long walks in the meadow. This act of motherhood and the fact that Tom likes doing this activity, which is a blow to his manliness, is a connection that he has made with the feminine sex. The reason why he voluntarily goes for these walks is to give himself a break from studying, but it is, nevertheless, still a feminine attribute for this time period. Tom is able to prove himself as a man towards the end of the novel when he takes full responsibility for his family after they lose a lawsuit. It is only then that he becomes transformed into a man of the family.
In comparison to his sister, Maggie, it is apparent that there are significant differences in their character traits. Instead of caring for children, Maggie loves to play in the mud with her brother get into mischief. It is also apparent that Maggie is much smarter than Tom. Her parents urge her to suppress her "masculine" traits, but this never seems to work. Maggie, who can be considered to be the most ambitious character of Mill on the Floss, does change throughout the novel as well. She transforms from the image of being a clumsy horse, to a beautiful woman. This is what attracts Stephen to her.
Although Maggie fits the mold for a role reversed character, Eliot did not make her so hard and rebellious from society that she did not fit any female standards. Her naïve notions of love are evidence of this. Maggie loves Philip, but it is apparent from her interactions with Stephen and his advancements, that she is physically attracted to him. The love that she feels for Philip seems to be duteous, love sparked from pity out of his deformity.
The fact that Maggie is much smarter that Tom, is a positive. Maggie takes it upon herself to learn Latin and other languages without the help of any teacher. But Tom has to be sent off to school, which he does not like at all at ...
The theme of role reversal in George Eliot's novel begs the question of whether beauty can only be skin deep. Even in, Middle March and Silas Marner, sympathy is evoked from the reader because of some deformity of the mind or physical appearance. Could Eliot be trying to make a distinction between the differences in appearance? It is apparent from these novels that the more handsome the character, the more likely they are to be superficial, vindictive, or selfish. This paper explains how appearances play a role in character portrayals and how society views gender roles of the sexes.