Rummanah Aasi
  As you all are probably aware, Chicago was hit with a blizzard. I currently have about 2.5 feet of snow at home. I can't tell you where my driveway ends and where the road begins, but I'm very thankful to have electricity, a warm house, and my family close at home. Now that I had today as a snow day and one tomorrow too, I hope to catch up with my reading. Today I finished Silas Marner by George Eliot for my first book of the Victorian Literature Challenge. I first stumbled upon George Eliot during sophomore year in high school where I picked up her The Mill on a Floss for independent reading. I remember loving the story and wanting to read another book by the author, but never had the chance until now.

Description: The people of Raveloe always thought there was something strange about Silas Marner. With his bent back, strange eyes, and his tendency to have cataleptic fits, Silas was always in the background until he is wrongly accused of a heinous theft. Shattered and shaken by this incident, he exiles himself from the world until he finds redemption through his love for an abandoned child who mysteriously appears one day at his isolated cottage. When the child's parentage is revealed, will Silas lose his only comfort from life once again?

Review: Silas Marner is probably the shortest, most straight-forward Victorian novel that I've read so far. Right from its very first page, readers are transported to the pastoral English countryside of the early 19th century. Raveloe, the setting of the novel, is far away from the large towns and roads. It is an isolated community that seems to be unaware of the advancement of the Industrial Revolution. It represents what England has lost since the revolution. 
  Despite his miser appearance, Silas Marner is actually a very sweet, simple, and honest man. Since he is a weaver by profession and has a working knowledge of medicinal herbs that causes him to have fits (and claimed by many town folks to have supernatural powers), he has always been on the fringe of his society which allows Eliot to use him to explore the themes of community, religion, and family which are important themes in all of her novels. Due to his innocent nature, we are outraged when Silas is falsely accused of theft. We demand justice and are sickened when it is not given to him. Like Silas, our very own faith is shattered and we long to seek comfort in something. For Silas, it is monetary money which he counts every night.
  Unfortunately for Silas, his world is once again shaken one wintry night when his money disappears. Though he is distraught about his wealth gone, it only seems temporary when he finds a lonely baby girl who has been left on his door step. He quickly becomes attached to the girl, who he names Eppie, and she becomes his world. Silas' love for Eppie is genuine and unselfish. He finds redemption and his faith is restored by her; however, Eppie's love for Silas is tested when she finds out who her real parents are and are given the opportunity to live in comfort. The relationship between Silas and Eppie is what makes this novel a truly sweet and sad story.
  Unlike many novels that I've read so far this year, the main characters in the novel are quite passive. The only active character seems to be destiny, who judges and serves punishment or reward as they seem fit. Like many Victorian novelists, morality and order are very important in society. We are reminded that who we are determines not only what we do, but also what is done to us.
  If you are thinking about reading a Victorian novel or even a novel by George Eliot, I would highly recommend Silas Marner. It's clear, medium paced plot, numerous themes and symbolism, would make it a great selection for a book club or even a sneak peak into Victorian society.


Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: Eppie's biological mother was an opium addict. There are also some alcohol references in the book. Recommended for high school and adults.

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3 Responses
  1. Anne Bennett Says:

    A snow day, eh? I often fantasize about having a snow day where all I have to do is curl up and read, read, read. If you are going to have a record breaking storm at least you were warm and had a wonderful classic to read.

    Glad that I found you. I look forward to reading more of your reviews

    Good luck digging out.

    Anne
    Headfullofbooks


  2. Chelle Says:

    This a great story. I like your observation that "The only active character seems to be destiny, who judges and serves punishment or reward as they seem fit." That's a great way of putting it. I remember being slightly bored when I read this (twice) but it is so moving towards the end. I cried both reads.

    I'd agree that many Victorian novels are morality heavy. Yet I find that period of history to be full of contradictions. The Fin de siècle is in full swing in France and it penetrates Victorian-period literature. I just finished The Picture of Dorian Gray and while set during Victoria's reign, and it is a bit moralistic, it really explores the decadent life styles of the upper crust.


  3. Anne: Glad I found you too!

    'Chelle: I agree. It is a bit slow moving, but in the end I found it to be rewarding.

    I think the Victorians are aware of their own contradictions yet they may not be the first ones to come out and acknowledge it. "Dorian Gray" is an interesting title in that it explores what we call beauty and virtue yet the characters revel in extreme pleasures. I almost see it more as a semi-autobiography on Wilde himself.


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