Read with Me: Silas Marner


As this month's Read with Me selection from Nadia marked my first foray into George Eliot, I could hardly wait to begin- Eliot was one of those authors that I'd always heard about but as she tends to get overshadowed by the other, larger figures of her time period, such as the Brontes, Dickens, and Elizabeth Gaskell, I'd never made my way to her. So, it was with a deep sense of refreshment that I picked up Silas Marner and lost myself in the weaver's tale.

I found Silas Marner to be an odd and unassuming little book, and yet ultimately enjoyable. Admittedly, there was a point early on (the first scene in the Rainbow when Silas appears there after the theft of his gold) where I was beginning to think that George Eliot may be the only author who deserved to be abridged, but happily, she proved me wrong and I found myself finishing the tale with a degree of contentment and appreciation. What I ultimately enjoyed about Eliot's tale was the way in which she metes out the fates of her characters without too much of the sense of contrivance which sometimes plagues Victorian writers- with Eliot there is the overwhelming sense that while there may be a higher force in play, the choices and decisions of the characters matter, they shape their own destinies just as much as any external force.

Of course, while Eliot's sense of order and justice gives Silas Marner a satisfying conclusion, it's her characters which really propelled the story forward and kept me reading even when I found my attention waning. Eliot's ear for the vernacular is unexpectedly pleasant and atmospheric, and her shaping of Silas is brought to perfection through this; I enjoyed the small changes in Silas' language as he came out of his own darkness and into the daylight, a little mole of a man brought to life again through the light of a little golden haired child. Semantics, of course, are only evidence of Silas' transformation and it's his transformation in itself which really leads the reader to like him. From the moment old Silas picks up the fair haired child and looks at her closely, the reader can sense the shift in him, the change grabbing hold, and it's hard to not be gripped by it, held tightly until the end. Perhaps it's the bit in us that hopes so fervently for our own transformations that falls in line with Silas, feeling ourselves grow and expand outward as he changes and Eppie grows, two strange figures moving in opposite directions and yet individually enhanced for it. As the relationship between Silas and Eppie deepens and grows, the reader cannot help but see the joys of life laid out, the capacity for change and growth alongside of the small pleasures of simple meals and lives shared, the beauty of nature, the joys of ones first romance, the satisfaction of caring for those we love, and the deep and devoted love between a parent and child, between the old and the young-- between those starting out on the journey and those finishing it. As Eliot is so intent on illustrating, it's the simplicity of life, not it's complexities or wealth, that make the journey worth taking, because the greatest treasure can't be bought and because as the feeble wills and opinions of men fade leaving no truly lasting mark, it's our choices that matter-- and the intangible yet lasting evidence of them in the hearts of those we leave behind.

4 comments:

onesilentwinter said...

what a incredible book review. i must admit that i had trouble getting into it, maybe understanding Eliot's way but then found myself appreciating all of it.

Can i share this great post with our readers?

Amber Lee said...

oh, I'm so glad to have read this! I haven't started Silas Marner yet (I got a little behind, haha) - but I am so looking forward to it. thank you for sharing :)

Mary said...

Thanks, Nadia! I know, this was a hard book to get into but definitely worth hanging in there for, wasn't it? Thanks for choosing it- I don't know that I would have wandered into it on my own! And of course you may share the post, I would be honored!

Mary said...

@ Amber Lee: Thanks, as always, for leaving me comments and kind words! I think you'll like Silas- it starts off slow but it does get better!