Saturday, February 19, 2011

Silas Marner by George Eliot

George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, a 19th century British author of poetry and seven novels.  In addition to Silas Marner, I had heard of The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch, but hadn't read any of them before this week.  I chose this one over the others was sitting on my shelf.  Same reason climbers scale mountains, right?...with the slight difference that I was able to accomplish this while sitting in an armchair by the fire.  (I think I got the better deal.)

Silas Marner is set in the British Midlands during the Industrial Revolution and could be a reaction to it, in that it portrays some of the negative effects of the Industrial Revolution.  Eliot herself rejected organized religion as an adult, and this novel also offers a critique of religion.  Knowing this, one might be tempted to think of Silas Marner as a stern, dour, finger-wagging critique of the negative aspects of the author's society, but such is not the case.  George Eliot excelled both at realism in her depiction of rural society in 19th century England and at sketching excellent character portraits.  Throughout the novel, the development of the main characters can be seen as Eliot skillfully brings out the tension between circumstance and character.  At first it seems like a simple moral tale (good characters get a happy ending, bad ones get their just desserts), but throughout the novel ethics are unhinged from religion, which makes for a very interesting treatment.


Most conflicted man: Godfrey Cass
Most transformed character: Silas Marner
Alchemical child: Eppie
Featured religious denominations: Calvinism, low church Anglicanism
There was a lot of: greed, gossip, deception, religious behavior, renewal
There should have been more: um...none of the above?
This book makes you want to: live a simple life, value people for who they are
This book makes you glad you don't have to: walk miles in the slush, spend your life in suspicion of all that lies outside your small town, live surrounded by aforementioned suspicious people (at least I hope you don't)

1 comment:

bren j. said...

I've tried reading both Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch and I just couldn't get beyond the first few chapters. Too boring, too Silas Marner that much shorter than the other two?