Boxes, bottles and death: collecting and medical reform in The Mill on the Floss

Jennifer Diann Jones

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This article examines Mr and Mrs Pullet’s collections of medicine bottles and pill boxes in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss. It first establishes how the Pullets use their collections to stave off their fear of her death, using theories of the pathology of collecting developed by Jean Baudrillard and Mieke Bal. It then demonstrates how the items in the Pullets’ collections bring, to borrow Elaine Freedgood’s term, “fugitive meaning” into the text by showing that they reveal implicit criticisms of the nature of manufacturing and the problem of medical reform. Finally, it shows that the collections disrupt the plot of the novel, creating what Amanpal Garcha calls a sketch; both the collections and the illness that fuels them defy the diachronic plot of the novel, and are instead synchronic fragments. Ultimately, the collections work to contain the narrative of illness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453–469
JournalStudies in the Novel
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


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