chapter  I
80 Pages

MUSICAL IDENTITIES

George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss confronts society's nostalgia for rural music, examining pastoral music which honoured not only the English countryside but the rural life of time immortal. Eliot's anxieties concerning the pastoral ideal and its music are apparent because she cannot sustain Maggie's unique minstrel identity. From early childhood, Maggie is associated with a natural, instinctive love of music. Maggie is learning that music can no longer be solely an internal pleasure when it is socially constructed along class and gender lines. Once Maggie arrives, Lucy, Stephen and even Philip Wakem continue their privileged habits with Maggie as an auditor. Unlike Stephen and Lucy who perform the roles of accomplished musician and enraptured lover, Maggie's response is spontaneous and genuine. 'Pastoral music and the indecent' displays are a complicated arena, especially for the woman performer. By feminizing the pastoral, Eliot exposes some of its most harmful hypocrisies.