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Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – December 1, 2008
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This really is a lovely story. Before it's lovely, it's laugh aloud funny too. Despite its age, the language is easy to understand and it's an incredibly quick read. George Eliot packed a lot of story into a very slim book, and an original telling into a morality play. A ton of characters and plot lines all weave together effortlessly to end in a tear-jerker.
Interestingly, she thought this was a throwaway, or perhaps it should be a poem. We're lucky she plodded along to finish the story because it really is a little gem. Now I suppose I should reread Rumpelstiltskin in case I've got that mixed up with something else entirely too.
This is a tale of how love conquers all. A bitter man, Silas Marner, who was done wrong gave up on humanity and decided to live in a cocoon of his own making. Silas' only joy and purpose in life was making and hoarding money. He spent hours on end working himself to no end all for the purpose of earning, saving, and collecting money. Then one day his money hoard was stolen. The rest of the story is a lesson in love.
I have no idea why; here in America, George Eliot's "Silas Marner" is not well known. None of my friends have ever heard of this book. In India this work was well known. Anyway, if you have the time, patience, and inclination for a good read this is it.
But the exception proves the rule in "Silas Marner," George Eliot's novel about a hermit-like weaver whose life is changed forever when a child wanders into his house. While Eliot explores the pliancy of gender roles and qualities, at heart this is just a heartwarming story about love and family. The ending is rather predictable and a little sappy, but it's a pleasant glimpse of English village life in the 1800s.
Weaver Silas Marner moves to the town of Raveloe, and takes up residence far from other people. Nobody knows why, except for the readers -- he was betrayed by his best friend, dumped by his girlfriend, framed for a robbery and expelled from his church. He also suffers from cataleptic seizures, as if life for him didn't suck enough. Now he wants just to be alone in his remote house, and hoard the gold that he earns over fifteen years of weaving cloth.
Then one night, the squire's dissolute younger son Dunsey Cass steals his gold and vanishes from the town, leaving Silas without the one thing he has come to love. Meanwhile, Dinsey's older brother Godfrey is freaking out because of an ill-advised marriage to a poor drug addict, which would probably get him disinherited if his strict father knew.
But then the wife is found frozen to death in a blizzard, and her toddler child -- Godfrey's daughter -- wanders into Silas' house. And to the surprise of all Raveloe, Silas declares that since "it's a lone thing—and I'm a lone thing," and that he's going to care for the child from now on. This adoption will not only change Silas' life, but Godfrey's as well -- and as the child Eppie grows to adulthood, will finally bring about the admission of long-hidden secrets.
As a woman who wrote serious literature in a time when women's literary skills were scoffed at, George Eliot knew something about the bendability of gender roles. Even though the main character is a heterosexual male, she subtly positions him as having a strong feminine side -- he has a job associated with femininity ("you're partly as handy as a woman, for weaving comes next to spinning"), he's the perceived successor of the local hedgewitch, and he has nothing to do with the "manly man" pursuits of boozing it up in the local pub every night, as literally all the local men do.
And, of course, he cares for a young child with the tenderness and soft-heartedness that was usually attributed to women, not men. And yet, Eliot never treats this character with anything but respect -- he is not seen as less than other men because he has traditionally feminine traits, but as MORE. And these traits are ultimately what brings him happiness, love and friendship from everyone in the community.
But while Silas is the center of the story, Eliot fleshes out the village of Raveloe with deft strokes, from the wealthy (Godfrey and his insufferable girlfriend/wife Nancy) to the ordinary working-class folks whose lives intersect with Silas'. And she knows both the good and bad of these communities -- they have good hearts and kindness, but they also tend to be kind of judgmental and ignorant of people different from themselves. The best example of this is Dolly, a smart, take-charge woman who becomes Silas' best friend and advisor.
And twined together with Silas's story is the story of Godfrey, whose life withers as Silas' blooms. He's essentially a very weak man who shies away from telling the unpleasant truth to anyone, and misses out on fatherhood because of it. It's hard to see why he is so enamored of Nancy, though -- she's a rigid, moralistic priss who holds everyone to her impossibly high standards (for instance, she's opposed to adoption because she's decided, based on nothing at all, that it's against God's will).
The story's biggest problem? Well, in some regards the story is rather predictable, with a heartwarming ending that borders on sappy. More subtle handling is given to Silas revisiting his old home, and discovering what has come of the betrayals he's suffered.
"Silas Marner" is a fascinating little novella, twining together a story about love and family with a subtle message on gender roles. Not bad for such a simple little story.
It is a story about a steady personality (the protagonist) who overcomes devastating adversity and personal cruelty under small favourable circumstances which are both unpredictable for the reader and could be true to life. This novel, could be based on a true story for its detail and convincing authenticity of trade and character development. The storyline lent itself well to being dramatized with Sir Ben Kingsley playing "Silas"
in the 1980's BBC production which adheres well to the intention expressed in the novel by George Eliot
The paperback by George Elliot makes a fine gift for a young person starting life.