Friday, June 29, 2012

"Silas Marner" by George Eliot

"Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud." (55)

What a smart lady. I mean...


Mary Ann Evans just knocks me out.

In this passage from Silas Marner, the opening for this hopeful, arresting aphorism is Eliot's description of Silas's slow re-introduction to society after the weaver's small fortune has been stolen. It takes a hundred pages more and the arrival of a mysterious toddler for Silas to bloom, but the process starts early and isn't readily apparent.

The line reminds me powerfully of the virtue of patience, that our lives are becoming while they are not in full bloom.

It also calls to mind Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man", which, despite (maybe because of) its absurdity and the low, threatening beat, has always sounded hopeful to me, wonderful in the truest sense. Something is happening and you don't know what it is... When it doesn't scare the bejeezus out of me, I think it is among the very best reasons for living.

P.S. If you've never read Eliot, Silas Marner might make a good start. It's short and showcases Eliot's ability to tell a complete, rounded tale with all the lose ends tied (actual happy endings!) and to still leave you with questions because she's a master of psychological realism. Who can say if Providence stole Marner's gold and eventually gave him a little girl or whether all was coincidence? It's a mystery, and Eliot is as aware as any writer ever was that the stories we tell are always partial truths.

P.P.S. thanks to Ebony (and the anonymous soul who left this book in her office) and to Colin (who pulled this book off his shelf very soon after Ebony mentioned it without knowing I'd think it was a sign)


  1. I certainly appreciate the emergent behavior and meaning of incremental events, but I feel like I would get really bored with a book that 'took its time' to get somewhere. Such books should come with a review like yours, which tells you to hang in there, because all is not for naught!

    1. Thanks. And Silas takes his time, but Eliot's pretty snappy with her plots-- at least compared to some "literary" authors.