Presentation Title

From Unseen to Undaunted: Mrs. Tulliver’s Growth in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss

Faculty Mentor

Constance Fulmer

Start Date

23-11-2019 9:15 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 9:30 AM

Location

Markstein 201

Session

oral 1

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

There seems at first glance to be little to say about Bessy Tulliver. Nearly every other character in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss holds her in contempt. Her husband disdains her; her sisters find fault with her. When she does act, her designs are almost as sure to fail as the Floss is sure to flood. And yet, although Mrs. Tulliver lives a life that even the small-minded people around her deem mediocre, although her character holds too little weight to be often examined in the same way that her children, sisters, and husband are, Mrs. Tulliver’s decision to support her disgraced daughter in the final stages of the novel requires that we give her a second glance. For most of the novel, Mrs. Tulliver clings to her possessions and the comfort, security, and respectability that they provide, and she clings to her son Tom because she can understand him. After she loses her belongings, however, her character shifts, and she begins to see the world reflected in the more tumultuous nature of her daughter Maggie. While Mrs. Tulliver’s life seems straightforward and boring to her family and readers alike, her inconspicuous shifts in character throughout the novel lead her to make a daring decision to ignore the respectability that Tom represents and instead join Maggie in order to comfort her in the midst of disgrace. Although at the beginning of the novel, Mrs. Tulliver was tied to her sense of family respectability and to her possessions, by the end, she belongs to herself.

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Nov 23rd, 9:15 AM Nov 23rd, 9:30 AM

From Unseen to Undaunted: Mrs. Tulliver’s Growth in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss

Markstein 201

There seems at first glance to be little to say about Bessy Tulliver. Nearly every other character in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss holds her in contempt. Her husband disdains her; her sisters find fault with her. When she does act, her designs are almost as sure to fail as the Floss is sure to flood. And yet, although Mrs. Tulliver lives a life that even the small-minded people around her deem mediocre, although her character holds too little weight to be often examined in the same way that her children, sisters, and husband are, Mrs. Tulliver’s decision to support her disgraced daughter in the final stages of the novel requires that we give her a second glance. For most of the novel, Mrs. Tulliver clings to her possessions and the comfort, security, and respectability that they provide, and she clings to her son Tom because she can understand him. After she loses her belongings, however, her character shifts, and she begins to see the world reflected in the more tumultuous nature of her daughter Maggie. While Mrs. Tulliver’s life seems straightforward and boring to her family and readers alike, her inconspicuous shifts in character throughout the novel lead her to make a daring decision to ignore the respectability that Tom represents and instead join Maggie in order to comfort her in the midst of disgrace. Although at the beginning of the novel, Mrs. Tulliver was tied to her sense of family respectability and to her possessions, by the end, she belongs to herself.