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George Eliot: The Use Of Objects And Imagery In "The Mill On The Floss"

4162 words - 17 pages

The Victorian age was a time period in which the world of matter and objects outweighed the importance of the natural world; a time when materialism, economy, industry and scientific advancement took priority over all natural entities, and connected men with material objects more than with the innate world which they were first derived. Along with the severe connection to the unnatural and material world came the repression of natural human instincts, bending and molding people unnaturally to fit the skewed standards of a patriarchal society. The connection between "man and matter", and the loss of natural liberties in conjunction with man being an "extension of matter", became a prevalent ...view middle of the document...

At the very start of the novel, when the narrator is describing the Floss and their memory of seeing Maggie standing on the river bank beside the Dorlcote Mill, it is made evident that even though Eliot uses beautiful natural imagery, it is tainted with all of the unnatural things in Maggie and her family's world that represent a commercial society."On this mighty tide the black ships -laden with the fresh-scented fir-planks, with rounded sacks of oil-bearing seed, or with the dark glitter of coal-- are borne along to the town of St Ogg's, which shows its aged, fluted red roofs and the broad gables of its wharves between the low wooded hill and the river brink, tinging the water with a soft purple hue under the transient glance of this February sun (Book First, I, pg 7)."According to John Kucich and his essay George Eliot: Meaning as Matter in "The Mill on the Floss", in this initial description of the Floss "raw matter is never left at rest; it is always invaded by economic matter. In that sterile and, at best, amoral way...it is actively stripped of its distance from man." Though the beginning lines of the novel are saturated with beautiful natural imagery, it is essentially stripped by Eliot with reality of Victorian economy and its remnants are left as anything but natural. The "black tide" of the river is over-run by ships importing and exporting goods to St. Ogg's, whose architecture of "fluted red roofs" shows through the trees and changes the hue of the water because of the color contrast with the February sun. Everything natural in these opening passages, which are usually considered the epitomes of the definition of natural (especially the light of the sun), are touched by some form of Victorian commercialism; man using the river to trade goods, using those goods in St. Ogg's inevitably aiding in the growth of the town, and the view of the town over-powering the natural aspects of the floss because it is flourishing so, is direct evidence of the idea that the natural world is being controlled by commercialism in Eliot's society.Though trade and export on the river is an important image used to show that large economic actions connected with nature are mainly what pollutes surroundings, it is also through the every day life-styles of the Victorian citizens, even ones that lived on the outskirts of St. Ogg's along the Ripple river like the Tulliver's, that nature is interrupted by economic means. In the same passages that Eliot addresses the mass-commercialization of the world surrounding the Mill, she also addresses the farming-lifestyle, and the simpler and less-noticeable actions that are taken to control the natural world."Far away on each hand stretch the rich pastures and the patches of dark earth, green crops, or touched already with the tint of the tender-bladed autumn-sown corn. There is a remnant still of the last year's golden clusters of bee-hive ricks rising made ready for the seed of broad-leaved at intervals beyond the...

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