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George Eliot’s Feminism in the Mill on the Floss

Author LiYuYan
Tutor ZhangJinXia
School Hebei University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords George Eliot patriarchal society feminism feminist consciousness
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
Downloads 201
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Without any doubt, George Eliot is one of the most influential writers of all English novelists in the nineteenth-century England. Her attitude toward feminism has aroused wide attention and has been discussed hotly among feminist critics in different countries. There have long been two sharply opposing views toward her feminism. One side confirms her feminism and the other side disapproves it entirely. In feminist critics’ eyes, she is a very controversial figure. The feminist critics always can’t give her an explicitly fixed position in their own realm.In spite of the controversial judgments on the outstanding novelist, the author of the thesis holds that George Eliot is a genuine feminist. Furthermore, her practical life experience has proved that she is a feminist. This thesis will analyze her most excellent autobiographical novel,The Mill on the Floss from the feminist angle. Firstly, the thesis tries to discuss George Eliot’s own feminist ideas by analyzing Maggie’s unique features different from the conventional womanhood in Victorian period. Secondly, George Eliot’s sharp feminist consciousness and broad feminist vision are explored through Maggie’s constant and persistent struggle with men around her and through her pursuit for economy and marital independence.And her ultimate resistance through death also displays Eliot’s courage and determination to fight with the patriarchal force. Lastly, the thesis illustrates education problems in Victorian period and studies Maggie’s strong desire for achieving different goals through knowledge in her different life periods. Maggie’s rebelling spirit is revealed in various aspects. George Eliot’s active feminist ideas are perfectly proved in this part.However, writers cannot isolate themselves from the historical context in creating their characters. The ideology of male power in the patriarchal society during the Victorian period is internalized in people’s heart, which brings huge influence on female mental state. George Eliot’s feminist perspective in her works reflects, to some degree, the development of feminism in Victorian England. Although Eliot’s feminism still carries the limitations of her time, her efforts to fight for women’s equal rights in economy, education and society and her great efforts to struggle for women’s equality with men are clearly reflected in her works of The Mill on the Floss.In this sense, George Eliot is undoubtedly ahead of her time. Moreover, to study her works of The Mill on the Floss helps learn Eliot’s influence on the development of feminism in her time and it supplies us with invaluable experiences and inspirations for the study of other feminist literary works.

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