The protagonist of The Mill on the Floss. The novel tracks Maggie as she grows from an impetuous, clever child into a striking, unconventional young woman. Maggie's closest tie is to her brother Tom, and she seeks—and constantly feels denied—his approval and acceptance. Maggie is clever and enjoys books, the richness of intelligent conversation, and music, but her family's downfall lends her a quieter, troubled side that tends toward self- abnegation. With her dark skin, dark hair, and dark eyes, Maggie is often associated with the Tulliver side of the family, and, specifically her father's sister, Mrs. Moss.
The Tullivers' older son. Tom has his own clear sense of duty, justice, and fairness, and these standards affect his action more so than emotion. Tom has affection for Maggie, but he dislikes her impetuous way of doing what she wants, assuming that she knows better than Tom. When Mr. Tulliver goes bankrupt, Tom must go to work at a young age and with little experience other than the Latin and Euclid he has learned in school. Tom brings the family out of debt and becomes a promising young worker at his uncle Deane's company, Guest & Co. Tom may be in love with Lucy Deane, but he focuses only on his work.
Maggie Tulliver's mother. Mrs. Tulliver is a dull-witted, stout, blond woman. Formerly a Miss Dodson, Mrs. Tulliver still maintains that the respectable ways of the Dodson family are better than the ways of Mr. Tulliver. Mrs. Tulliver's mind works in small circles—she focuses mainly on tactile objects like the linens and the china. Her husband's bankruptcy makes her confused and listless, and all she can do is wonder what she has done to receive such bad luck. Mrs. Tulliver likes Tom more than Maggie as children, but she grows prouder of Maggie as Maggie grows tall, striking, and more demure.
Maggie Tulliver's father. Mr. Tulliver works the mill on the Floss river, which is on land his family has held for generations. Mr. Tulliver is fond of Maggie, especially her cleverness, and he often takes her side in family quarrels. Mr. Tulliver's bankruptcy is, in part, the result of his own single- mindedness and pride. Associated with the older, provincial ways, Mr. Tulliver senses enough of the changing economic world around him to be puzzled by it. Tulliver is an affectionate man, who is soft with his daughter, wife, and sister, yet his bitterness toward Mr. Wakem consumes and changes him in the end.
The pretty, petite, blond cousin of Tom and Maggie. Lucy is genuinely good-hearted, thinking often of the happiness of others. She is also enough of a child of society life, though, that she pays heed to social conventions and to her own appearance.
The sensitive and intelligent son of Lawyer Wakem. Philip has had a hunched back since birth. Of small stature and with a pale face, Philip is often described as "womanly." Philip's love of art, music, and knowledge go some way toward counteracting the severe sadness he feels about his deformity. Philip first meets Maggie when he is at school with Tom. He falls in love with her the year that they meet in secret during Maggie's father's bankruptcy.
Lawyer Wakem is a powerful, and increasingly wealthy member of St. Ogg's society. He remembers his late wife lovingly and is very indulgent but close to his deformed son, Philip. Wakem holds strict ideas about class and money. He is scornful of the vindictive Mr. Tulliver.
Stephen Guest is courting Lucy Deane when we meet him but has not yet proposed marriage. He is the son of the senior partner of Guest & Co., where both Tom and Mr. Deane work. Stephen is handsome and self-assured. Though he cares for Lucy, and for the life they would have together, he falls unexpectedly in love with Maggie, drawn to her strikingly different qualities.
Bob Jakin was a childhood friend of Tom's. Though Tom rejected his friendship when they were children over an incident of cheating, Bob returns after Mr. Tulliver's bankruptcy to offer help to Maggie and Tom. Bob is a packman—a salesman who buys goods at one place and sells them at another.
Mrs. Glegg, formerly Miss Jane Dodson, acts as the leader of the Dodson sisters. Mrs. Glegg is loudly vocal regarding her disapprovals, which usually involve a violation of the Dodson way of doing something. Yet it is her same strict sense of respectability that allows Mrs. Glegg to stand by Maggie, when no one else will at the end of the novel. Mr. and Mrs. Glegg are miserly, though Mr. Glegg is more good-natured about thrift. Mr. Glegg tries to mediate his wife's ill temper and will stand up to her as well.
Mrs. Deane, formerly Miss Susan Dodson, is a pale, quieter, Dodson sister. Mrs. Deane does not say much, and she rehearses what she says beforehand. She dies before the end of the novel. Mr. Deane is a swiftly rising junior partner at Guest & Co. He focuses on business and profit-making more than family claims. Their daughter is Lucy.
Mrs. Pullet, formerly Miss Sophie Dodson, is the closest Dodson sister to Mrs. Tulliver. They share a love of fine household goods. Mr. Pullet is a gentleman farmer, and the couple were originally the most wealthy of the Dodson family, until Mr. Deane began rising in the business world. Mr. Pullet does not have much to say for himself. He covers for this fact by sucking on peppermints.
Luke Moggs works for Mr. Tulliver. He is the miller at the mill on the Floss. Luke is practically a family member, and he sits by Mr. Tulliver's sickbed.
Mr. Riley is the auction manager in St. Ogg's. Mr. Tulliver looks up to him as a high class and full of wisdom and intelligence, but Mr. Riley is more likely middle class and not entirely full of wisdom. Mr. Riley has died by the middle of the novel.
Mr. Stelling is the clergyman tutor of Tom Tulliver and, later, Philip Wakem. Stelling wants to rise in the world and lives somewhat beyond his current means. He teaches exactly as he was taught, with Latin and Euclid. He doesn't have the imagination or the open-mindedness to help Tom learn in other ways.
Dr. Kenn is the stern, but charitable, minister of St. Ogg's.
Margaret Moss, Mr. Tulliver's sister—and "Aunt Gritty" to Tom and Maggie—is a patient, loving woman. She is especially fond of Maggie. She has eight children, and the family is very poor. Mr. Tulliver did not want Margaret to marry Mr. Moss, and Tulliver is still cross about this. Mr. Moss does not have much character, mainly because he must work too much.
Mr. Pivart, who lives down the Floss, begins a dispute with Mr. Tulliver over the river water.
Kezia is the Tullivers' servant.
Gore is Mr. Tulliver's lawyer.
Mr. Poulter is brought in by Mr. Stelling to give Tom exercise. Mr. Poulter drinks and talks about the war in which he fought.
The Miss Guests (there are two) are Stephen Guest's sisters. They are not very attractive and are snobbish.