Silas Marner

I have finished the first task of my crowd-sourced reading challenge! To refresh your memory, I asked you to give me some reading tasks to accomplish within the next year. Here are the seven tasks you came up with:

  1. Read a book written by a friend.
  2. Read a book written under a pseudonym or where the author uses initials to obscure their gender.
  3. Read a book which an image of a bird on the cover.
  4. Read The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power.
  5. Read Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
  6. Read an inspiration. Choose something you’ve always wanted to do and then read a book about someone who does it.
  7. Read a novel by Pat Conroy.

marnerSilas Marner was written by George Eliot, aka Mary Ann Evans, who chose a pen name to make sure her work was judged apart from her gender and her personal life, although I don’t think she really bothered to keep her identity secret. I was thinking I should read her later novel, Middlemarch, but instead saw Marner while perusing the classics shelf at the library. Plus the husband and I had gotten into a twisted trivial discussion not long ago about Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, an albatross, and Silas Mariner. (I didn’t even come up with Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner until later.) Obviously it was an omen and it was time to actually read Silas Marner so maybe I could remember what I was supposed to be talking about next time.

There is no sea in Silas Marner. Set in rural England, Marner leaves his home town after being falsely accused of a crime and losing the girl he loves. Embittered, he sets up shop as a weaver in a small town far enough away that his past won’t find him. He is a solitary figure and cares only about his weaving and the gold that it brings in, which he hoards. He gets robbed. Then an orphan baby wanders into his house, he adopts her, and finds something to love and live for. Ta-da!

I can appreciate the writing. There’s plenty of commentary about class and society, about how love is better than money, and some decent character development. Still, the novel and the writing are so dated that it was a bit of a slog to get thru. Here’s one passage that I enjoyed:

I suppose one reason we are seldom able to comfort our neighbours with our words is that our good will gets adulterated, in spite of ourselves, before it can pass our lips.

I can totally relate to this line. I’m sure there were other great passages, but I didn’t want to slow down to appreciate them, I just wanted to keep reading, hoping that something might actually happen. If you thought my summary indicated a less-than riveting plot, you are correct. But at least my summary was only five sentences.

A task is complete, a classic is read, a confusion is cleared up. It was worth reading Silas Marner because I chose it myself. Heaven forbid if this dated novel is still required for a high school English class.

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