Mill on the Floss as a Bildungsroman Novel

     If one were to define the bildungsroman genre as one that contains a story of a character’s growth, then Mill on the Floss by George Eliot could be considered a bildungsroman novel.  This is because the main protagonist, Maggie, grows with the maturity of her emotions in the novel throughout the story in various instances.  Maggie struggles to deal with impulse behaviors as she is attempting to figure out who she is and how she can express her emotions.  In the first book installment, Maggie feels pangs of jealousy as she watches her sibling, Tom, spending time with one of the more feminine characters, Lucy.  She becomes angry, and she is compelled to “push poor little pink-and-white Lucy into the cow-trodden mud” after Tom angrily tells her to leave them alone (Bk I, Ch. X).  Instead of being mature and asking to join them, Maggie is selfish by interrupting their plans and does something extremely immature by pushing Lucy into the mud, indicating that Maggie is emotionally on an immature level in life in the beginning.  Towards the middle of the novel, Maggie realizes that the books that they grew up with are gone and threw herself into a chair, with the big tears ready to roll down her cheeks” (Bk. III, Ch. VI).  While her emotions are still exploding outward as the tears roll, the reader can see some growth of emotions within Maggie because of the reasons why she is crying.  She is not angry or jealous, like in the scene with Tom and Lucy, but she is heartbroken because their childhood books are gone.  Heartbreak is more of a mature emotion because it requires the person to feel a deep sense of love and attachment for the object or person, which Maggie obviously is attached to the memories and sentiment behind the books.  Instead of being violent to others, Maggie simply breaks down in a healthier way of letting her emotions be known.  Her decrease in violence tells the reader that she is growing by learning consequences of violence and learning how to express her emotions in a normal way, like crying.  Toward the end of the story, Maggie felt as if “she was no longer an unheeded person, liable to be chid, from whom attention was continually claimed” after she is introduced to the life of a young lady at St. Ogg’s (Bk. VI, Ch. VI).  Maggie finally feels comfortable in her own emotions as she is starting this new chapter of her life as a young woman.  This shows to the reader character development because Maggie feels content instead of violent or tearful, much like the varying emotions of a child.  This novel is a bildungsroman novel because its protagonist, Maggie, continually grows throughout the story regarding her emotions and how she deals with them, both internally with herself and externally with other characters.  In the beginning, Maggie does not know how to deal with her emotions of jealousy, so she externally releases them by pushing Lucy into the mud.  In the end, Maggie is happy and content with her emotions and herself because she feels as if she is starting her life over at St. Ogg’s.   

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