The Mill on the Floss is a work of almost startling sadness and is one of the most affecting stories of family loss, tragedy and the sheer meanness of fate in the history of the novel and is in this sense at least a close relative of Wuthering Heights. It was published in 1860 and is the story of Maggie Tulliver, our heroine, who is the daughter of a miller in the English midlands. Like many nineteenth century literary girls, her intelligence and emotional capacity outflank those of her family and cause problems. She is devoted to her brother Tom but he is hopelessly limited in his understanding and as such Maggie turns to Philip Wakem, son of a local lawyer and unpleasantly deformed. Disaster strikes their relationship as Mr Tulliver and Wakem find themselves enemies over a legal dispute that leaves the former bankrupt. After the early death of Mr Tulliver, Maggie leaves the mill for St Ogg?s where her cousin Lucy lives. Lucy?s betrothed Stephen somewhat unfortunately falls for Maggie and compromises her reputation while boating on the river. Maggie refuses to marry him and her life is as good as ruined. Only a very limited group including Philip still show sympathy for her and only a dreadful flood in which Maggie tries to save Tom can lead the well-meaning but doomed girl to some kind of transcendence. The novel is notable for its portrayal of rural life (see also Adam Bede) and its minor characters such as Mrs Tulliver?s sisters Mrs Glegg and Mrs Pullett which were appealing to contemporary critics.