Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Silas Marner ~ George Eliot

I found this picture on Google
images, but it's identical
to my mother's copy.
I had had Silas Marner on my Barnes & Noble wish list for years, never making it a priority but always having a vague sense that I wanted to read it at some point, when, while searching my shelves at my parents' house for my copy of A Christmas Carol, I came across it: an old copy, decades older  than me, with my mother's maiden name inscribed in the cover, in her script that clearly hasn't changed in nearly half a century.  The cover price is 50 cents, it was published by a mysterious publisher called Airmont Books, and the only date I can find is the Airmont copyright of 1963, meaning that she read it at age eleven.  I thought this a bit young but she confirmed it.  Who am I to question the required reading lists of the 1960s?  Every time I picked the book up (which admittedly was not many, as I finished it quickly), I peeked inside the cover for a look at my mother's name, checked out the price, and reveled in the experience of possessing this long-forgotten spot of literature from my mother's youth.

In addition to admiring the decrepitude of my copy, I also read Silas Marner.  The best word that I can come up with to describe it is quiet.  It takes place in a quiet little village tucked away in the quiet little countryside, to quiet little people who may possibly think that there's nothing else out there, that their world consists of no more than what they can se.  Sure, stuff happens, some really dramatic stuff in fact, but Eliot doesn't allow this to tear these quiet little characters' worlds apart; in fact, what could be destructive is actually healing: losing his money releases Silas from his miserly ways; an mother addicted to opium dies in the snow, allowing her daughter a better life and releasing her from the shameful existence through which she drags herself.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

This isn't the journey to finding a man and also some cash story that typifies much of Victorian literature.  Sure, Silas finds his gold at the end of the story and little Eppie marries, but these plot points are not the point of the novel.  What is the point of the novel, you ask?  Well, as with anything that's well-written it's hard to say, as often there is no one point, but I would say that there is a bit of a message there: happiness  and poverty are not mutually exclusive.  When Eppie marries Aaron, she confirms that the poor life she grew up in is the life for her.  Money, though nice to have, isn't necessary for her happiness.  Hard work and love are what matters.

It's a beautiful story with an excellent lesson that peeks out of the page without clobbering you.  Short and sweet, it's definitely worth a read and probably, due to its length, an excellent choice if you've never read before read anything by George Eliot.

**EDIT**
I completely forgot to mention that Silas Marner counts towards all three of my challenges!  Win!

2 comments:

  1. I've not read anything by George Eliot, but it does sound as though this one would be a good place to start. I like quiet novels.

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  2. Oh, yay! This is a good one. Silas made my list of Top 10 Characters I'd Name My Children After a few weeks back, so it's fresh in my mind. (Though I read it a couple of years ago.)
    I'm also interested in what you think of The Cider House Rules, which I read recently, and I enjoyed your review of The Road, which I read a few years ago and watched a month or so ago. It seems we are synchronized! I like it.

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