Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
In the novel, nature is not an entirely benign force. The reader sees conflicts arising between Maggie and Tom, owing to their different dispositions and exacerbated by the misogynist climate of the times. Nature can also be the source of destruction, as seen in the flood that kills Maggie and Tom. In introducing the Floss River into the landscape, Eliot made one alteration to her geographical model. She needed a tidal river to make the flood possible. The configuration of the river and the flood basin suggests the Trent River in Lincolnshire.
Tulliver home. The precise setting is drawn from Eliot’s childhood memories of growing up in Griff House, on the Arbury estate, where her father managed the property for the landowner. Griff House has survived the years and was converted into an inn. Even the Round Pond has an exact prototype in Griff House Pond. The pond, perfectly round and of unknown depth, suggests the mystery and magic of natural places. The Tullivers’ house is spacious and comfortable, and Maggie’s life there would be perfect were it not for her intelligent and passionate nature, which makes it difficult for her to conform to the confining gender role prescribed for female children in the Victorian age. When her mother reprimands her for losing her sunbonnet, allowing her hair to become disheveled, or running and jumping too boisterously, she retreats to the large attic to nurse her doll and shed tears of frustration. Her self-seclusion in the attic suggests her distance from conventional Victorian society.
A stultifying society puts a curb on her natural desires and abilities. Only her father can be depended on to take her side, frequently taking her on his lap to comfort her. He is the owner of Dorlcote Mill, and a significant person in the web of relationships that surrounds Maggie. The mill, based on Arbury Mill, with its piles of grain and floury spiders is a wonderland for the imaginative child. As Maggie matures, her life becomes more difficult. Her father goes through bankruptcy and is in conflict with the lawyer whom he feels deprived him of the mill. Maggie gains some consolation from meeting her lover, Philip (ironically the lawyer’s son), and they take long walks in the Red Deeps. A lovely spot, again based on a real model, its trees and natural beauties provide consolation, offering a romantic conception of nature. Griff House is close to the town of Nuneaton.
*St. Oggs. Town noteworthy for its provincial mind-set and puritanical attitudes. St. Oggs is a representative river town, larger than Nuneaton. The values that define St. Oggs–wealth, social standing, rigid conformity to social rules–put Maggie at odds with her surroundings when, as a young woman, she spends some time there. She cannot be forgiven for an inadvertent social indiscretion. She must struggle against an immovable wall of hostility, and Eliot ends the novel with her drowning in the course of her attempted rescue of Tom from the flood.