Elena Patton

Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)



First Advisor

Dr. Crystal Downing


Down or Be Drowned: Gender Constructions in The Mill on the Floss People only remember Ophelia because she downs. One of Shakespeare’s iconic characters, she fulfills the feminine ideal, captivating Hamlet’s affections. However, she is taken advantage of when Polonius uses her to gain access the king. Because she obediently submits to men, she complies with his scandalous plan. However, due to various circumstances, including Hamlet’s mistreatment of her, she goes insane and drowns, singing about flowers and dying amid the garlands of flowers she had collected. Millais’s painting of the drowning Ophelia is a Pre-Raphaelite painting, and Victorians quickly developed a fascination with the artistic piece. Therefore, it is a painting that Mary Ann Evans, a Victorian novelist who published under the pen name George Eliot, most likely saw. Eliot, in The Mill on the Floss, uses drowning as away to illuminate the problematic gender constructions of the period and people’s various reaction to them.