The Scheme of the Apocalypse
Although The Mill on the Floss preceded Romola by only two and a half years, these two fictions of women's lives at first glance appear very different.' The earlier novel is set in nineteenth‐ century England, the later in fifteenth-century Italy. The earlier novel ends abruptly with the death of the heroine, the later with the heroine's establishment in a women's community. Auto‐ biographical material and profoundly personal feeling permeate the earlier novel, while alien historical material and a sense of authorial distance characterize the later work, suggesting a level of abstraction akin to allegory. 2 These differences, however, do not preclude very striking similarities of apocalyptic structuring in the two novels: the later novel appears, in fact, to radically revise the septenary structure employed in the earlier.
As George Eliot's "apocalypse of history," the plot or "scheme" of Romola conceals a septenary structure, a sevenfold apocalyptic history of the world. The Mill on the Floss, however, is visibly divided into seven "books" with nonsequential chapter numbering between the books—a chapter arrangement that underlines the narrative's seven-part division. Narrative content in the relevant sections of the two novels suggests many parallels that are also reversals or mirror images, as in the double drownings at the conclusion of both narratives. A comparison of this parallel apocalyptic structuring suggests that in Maggie Tulliver's story George Eliot writes the "history of a witch" in seven books, a representation of feminine conflict that takes the form of a bitter parody of apocalyptic history, while in Romola she re-writes history as a sevenfold prophetic vision of "the woman clothed with the sun."
Apocalyptic structuring in The Mill on the Floss appears rela