Book 1, Ch 4-6

Maggie (9 years old) is very excited for her much adored brother (Tom, 13 years old) to come back from his school.

She’s mad that her mom tries to curl her hair (and that she couldn’t go along to pick up Tom) so she goes up to the attic and takes it out on this sort of voodoo doll she’s made for herself the book calls “a Fetish.” She enjoys poking nails into its head and smashing/grinding its head and body into the brick chimneys that go through the attic. Somehow this is actually sort of endearing?

Architecture in this book is already interesting. The mill, the attic, spaces they inhabit. Mrs. Tulliver always freaking out that Maggie will drown in the water. The rivers coming together, and the water powering the mill. Just interesting stuff.

Maggie is generally super adorable, planning her devoted future living with her brother and “keeping his house.”

One major downer: neither Maggie nor their hired person has remembered to feed Tom’s pet rabbits and they’re dead.

Maggie offers to buy him new ones but he’s mad and goes off without her — although the book describes this as sort of petty behavior, I can sort of see his point on this one.

Tom also makes a big deal out of having brought Maggie back some fishing line — it’s already clear that we aren’t supposed to like him very much. But Maggie loves him. They go fishing together and we get inside his head — he’s very into “boy’s justice,” super black and white thinking, and the idea that bad guys must be punished.

A lovely Eliot aside about how childhood memories stay in you as an adult:

The wood I walk in on this mild May day with the young yellow brown foliage of the oaks between me and the blue sky the white star flowers and the blue eyed speedwell and the ground ivy at my feet what grove of tropic palms what strange ferns or splendid broad petalled blossoms could ever thrill such deep and delicate fibres within me as this home scene These familiar flowers these well remembered bird-notes this sky with its fitful brightness these furrowed and grassy fields each with a sort of personality given to it by the capricious hedgerows such things as these are the mother tongue of our imagination the language that is laden with all the subtle inextricable associations the fleeting hours of our childhood left behind them Our delight in the sunshine on the deep bladed grass to day might be no more than the faint perception of wearied souls if it were not for the sunshine and the grass in the far off years which still live in us and transform our perception into love.

This is again some interesting pronoun use — suddenly there’s a narrator saying “I” and also talking to us (the imagined readers) in terms of “our delight.” I do love these moments where there’s a pivot and it sort of breaks the fourth wall – I remember liking them in Middlemarch too.

Then we get some background on Mrs. Tulliver’s family — her very dominant sisters, who will be visiting soon and are a great scourge to the children. There’s a great sentence about Mrs. Tulliver’s family (before marriage they had been the Dodson sisters) picking at one another but also defending one another:

And it is remarkable that while no individual Dodson was satisfied with any other individual Dodson, each was satisfied, not only with him- or herself, but with the Dodsons collectively.

I love that so, so much.

In the end we get a scene of Tom leaving Maggie (who is super sad about it) to hang out with “naughty Bob Jakin” on whom he also exacts his standards of fairness and judgment.

 

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