Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Classic Reads: A Web of Strange Happiness From George Eliot

George Eliot, whose real name was Mary Ann Evans, loved rural society more than the urban areas of the time that she saw as pushed aside by the Industrial Revolution.

She wrote with a pen name because of fear of rejection. And she wrote the book Silas Marner in a flood of feelings from an unhappy childhood. It is still considered a radical vision of the world, and it teaches the values of honesty, kindness, and courage in an entertaining way.

Silas was a linen weaver who, 15 years earlier, had come to a rural area after being falsely convicted for stealing money back in the city where he was a respected elder in a small fundamentalist sect. His life grew more and more empty and he hated that no one cared for him or loved him.

Meanwhile, Squire Cass was known as the greatest man in town, although he went to parties every night and pubs every day. One of his sons, Dunstan, who was also a drunk, heard that Silas Marner collected gold and one night broke into the weaver's house and stole it.

Time passed, until on New Year's Eve, a little girl came to Silas's cottage. When Silas retraced her footsteps out into the night, she found the little girl's mother dead. Silas announced that he would keep the child as a replacement for his lost gold.

Godfrey, the Squire's other son, had known all along that the dead woman and her daughter were his child and wife. But he had been interested in potentially marrying another woman. Nevertheless, Godfrey grew more and more sullen because of this secret. He often left money at Silas's cottage to help support the growing girl. Godfrey and his wife could not have children and his wife would not hear of adoption, so he continued to spiral into disappointment and feeling he was being punished.

One day, Dunstan's skeleton is unearthed along with Silas's stolen coins from the bottom of a quarry. This inspires Godfrey to reveal the truth to his wife that the girl was his. She surprisingly expresses the desire to adopt her. Silas was thrilled that his lost gold was returned to him. Godfrey and his wife showed up at Silas's door proposing to take his daughter from Silas. But his daughter, named Eppie, would have none of it.

Despite the complications of the characters' webs, the story ends with Godfrey and his wife and Silas all living their lives out in acceptance and love. Godfrey supplied the funds to enlarge Silas's tiny cabin and also host Eppie's marriage feast. She ends the story by saying that nobody could've been happier than she and Silas.

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