Memory and The Mill on the Floss

  • K. M. Newton


Memory is another essential aspect of George Eliot’s organicism. She believes that the only valid form of human identity is an organic one: there must be a sense of continuity between the formative experiences of one’s past life and one’s present self, and the individual should act and choose in relation to this sense of continuity. In Impressions of Theophrasius Such she refers to ‘the divine gift of a memory which inspires the moments with a past, a present, and a future, and gives the sense of corporate existence that raises man above the otherwise more respectable and innocent brute’ (pp. 261–2). Here she is referring to the general social consciousness but a similar continuity is necessary to the individual consciousness. One should note that she calls such continuity ‘the sense of corporate consciousness’, indicating that it is the psychological reality that is important. It is quite possible for a society or an individual to be cut off from or to reject the past. But if this occurs she believes that neither society nor the individual will possess a healthy or secure sense of identity.


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© K. M. Newton 1981

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