Perspective Through the Eyes of George Eliot
What separates The Mill on the Floss from other novels of the Victorian era is its unique narrative style. The narrator gives readers a detailed insight into all of the characters and tells us their thoughts and feelings. However, the narrator sometimes switches over into the first person, using "I" and directly addressing the reader as "you." These breaks between the third person and the first person voice not only make for an interesting read, they also help tie in the life experiences of George Eliot throughout the novel.
At times it seems almost as if George Eliot herself is narrating the tale of Maggie and Tom Tulliver’s lives. The opening of The Mill on the Floss first presents readers to the narrator of the novel. The narrator is introduced as a witness who lived in St. Ogg's at the time of the Tulliver's that now remembers and nostalgically tells the tale thirty years later. However, we soon see that the narrator also remains unnamed and omniscient. Thus, he or she recounts to us not only the dynamics of the conversations between Mr. and Mrs. Tulliver that she was not present for, but also the dynamics of each of their thought processes. Every so often, however, the narrator refers to his or herself in the first person and recount personal opinions, as with the narrator's musings on Mrs. Tulliver at the end of Chapter II, "I have often wondered..” (58). The narrator becomes intensely committed throughout the remainder of the novel, often speaking in a generalized manner about like history or religion. Though it is never made clear if this is simply Eliot herself or the narrator is supposed to be an actual character that is somehow all knowing and omniscient, the narrative style and the life events of Maggie Tulliver that tie so closely to many of Eliot’s point towards the possibility that she herself is connected with the narrator. The narrator’s almost morbid, voyeuristic gaze on Maggie’s...
Cited: Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. Broadview ed. Peterboroug: Broadview, 2007.
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