This article will attempt a comparative reading of George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss (1860) and Alexandros Papadiamantis’s H φόνισσα (1903), aiming to illustrate how both texts are preoccupied with the problem of inventing spaces for their deviant and superfluous female characters. Although enmeshed in the dominant ideologies of their time, such as the evolutionary pattern of life as a sign of progress, and women’s marginalisation and domestication within this model, these novels simultaneously reject these ideologies. Interestingly, both Eliot’s and Papadiamantis’s problematic heroines are associated with water and experience a cathartic death by water. As a deus ex machina, the overflowing waters of the river in the first case, and the rising waves of the sea in the latter, provide a sanctuary, an intermediate space, where the two exiled heroines escape from traditional definitions of women as homeless containers or empty receptacles. George Eliot’s Maggie and Papadiamantis’s Frangoyannou discover an alternative geography in water, as the Darwinian aquatic space, a site of contestation, is reappropriated and transformed into a nursing space. This return to an intrauterine bliss, however, apart from its revolutionary potential, signifies also a return to essentialism and suggests the impossibility of ascribing any space to women except for that of endless metaphoricity. In the open-endedness of these two texts, women are floating signifiers, both promoting and transcending female archetypes.