Review: ‘Silas Marner’ by George Eliot

After attempting to read ‘Middlemarch’ and finishing this novel, I have to say I think I’m ambivalent as to whether I appreciate George Eliot’s writing.

The first half of ‘Silas Marner’ was difficult to handle: I adore Victorian literature for its complexities, but this was complex bordering on irrational, for a novel based on the intricacies of rural life. The incident involving the villagers in the pub was particularly gruelling: too many new characters introduced all at once, squabbling over something hugely unimportant to the novel. The idea of reputations was key here, but the confusion created by this overpowered the theme; I feel these would have been stock characters in Victorian literature and probably more comprehendible, perhaps an area of literature needing more attention paid to it by me.

What I did appreciate was the small miracles of everyday life: Eppie’s decision to stay loyal to her nurturer rather than returning to her nature, Marner’s mourning replaced by pure love, the heartbreak of Godfrey Cass, plagued by his wrong decisions. Eliot’s focus on the small details of life, and how man creates his own destiny based on his actions, was a wonderful site to be led through; the sentimentality mixed with reflections on life’s choices showed readers how fate is not abstract and uncontrollable, but a presence running through the course of life every day.

‘Silas Marner’ certainly grew on me, with its progression in plot matching its connection with the reader in order to create this emotional bond and, subsequently, this reflection on our own condition: something which may alter materially through the ages, but at the heart is the search for happiness and companionship, which Marner represents.

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