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George Eliot



 

George Eliot

British author
pseudonym of Mary Ann, or Marian, Cross, née Evans

born Nov. 22, 1819, Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, Eng.
died Dec. 22, 1880, London

Main
English Victorian novelist who developed the method of psychological analysis characteristic of modern fiction. Her major works include Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876).

Evans was born on an estate of her father’s employer. She went as a boarder to Mrs. Wallington’s School at Nuneaton (1828–32), where she came under the influence of Maria Lewis, the principal governess, who inculcated a strong evangelical piety in the young girl. At her last school (1832–35), conducted by the daughters of the Baptist minister at Coventry, her religious ardour increased. She dressed severely and engaged earnestly in good works. The school gave her a reading knowledge of French and Italian, and, after her mother’s death had compelled her to return home to keep house for her father, he let her have lessons in Latin and German. In 1841 she moved with her father to Coventry.

There she became acquainted with a prosperous ribbon manufacturer, Charles Bray, a self-taught freethinker who campaigned for radical causes. His brother-in-law, Charles Hennell, was the author of An Inquiry Concerning the Origin of Christianity (1838), a book that precipitated Evans’ break with orthodoxy that had been long in preparation. Various books on the relation between the Bible and science had instilled in her keen mind the very doubts they were written to dispel. In 1842 she told her father that she could no longer go to church. The ensuing storm raged for several months before they reached a compromise, leaving her free to think what she pleased so long as she appeared respectably at church, and she lived with him until his death in 1849.

The Brays and the Hennells quickly drew her from extreme provincialism, introducing her to many ideas in violent disagreement with her Tory father’s religious and political views. When Charles Hennell married in 1843, she took over from his wife the translating of D.F. Strauss’s Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet, which was published anonymously as The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, 3 vol. (1846), and had a profound influence on English rationalism. After the wedding Mrs. Hennell’s father, R.H. Brabant, invited Evans to visit at Devizes. A rather silly man, he had worked for years on a book (never completed), which was to dispose of the supernatural elements in religion. They read German and Greek together and discussed theology on long walks; soon Mrs. Brabant became jealous of their intimacy, and, before the term of her visit, Evans was forced to leave. Mrs. Hennell felt that her father had acted ungenerously. Out of the humiliation of this episode George Eliot drew the horrible vividness of Mr. Casaubon in Middlemarch.

She spent the winter of 1849–50 at Geneva, reading extensively while living with the family of François d’Albert Durade, who painted a portrait of her. Like those by Mrs. Bray (1842) and Sir Frederic Burton (1865), all in the National Portrait Gallery, it shows her with light brown hair, gray-blue eyes, and a very fair complexion. Returning to Coventry, she spent the rest of 1850 with the Brays, pondering how to live on the £100 a year left by her father. After John Chapman, the publisher of The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, got her a chance to review R.W. Mackay’s The Progress of the Intellect in The Westminster Review (January 1851), she decided to settle in London as a free-lance writer, and in January 1851 she went to board with the Chapmans at 142, Strand.

Soon after her arrival Mrs. Chapman and the children’s governess, who was also Chapman’s mistress, became jealous of Marian, as she now signed her name, and after 10 weeks she returned to Coventry in tears. Doubtless her feelings were strongly attracted to the magnetic Chapman, whose diary supplies this information, but there is no evidence that she was ever his mistress. A few months later he bought The Westminster Review, and Evans, contrite at the domestic complications she had unwittingly caused, returned to London. For three years, until 1854, she served as subeditor of The Westminster, which under her influence enjoyed its most brilliant run since the days of John Stuart Mill. At the Chapmans’ evening parties she met many notable literary figures in an atmosphere of political and religious radicalism. Across the Strand lived the subeditor of The Economist, Herbert Spencer, whose Social Statics (1851) Chapman had just published. Evans shared many of Spencer’s interests and saw so much of him that it was soon rumoured that they were engaged. Though he did not become her husband, he introduced her to the two men who did.

George Henry Lewes was the most versatile of Victorian journalists. In 1841 he had married Agnes Jervis, by whom he had four sons. In 1850 Lewes and a friend, the journalist Thornton Leigh Hunt, founded a radical weekly called The Leader, for which he wrote the literary and theatrical sections. In April 1850, two weeks after the first number appeared, Agnes Lewes gave birth to a son whose father was Thornton Hunt. Lewes, being a man of liberal views, had the child registered as Edmund Lewes and remained on friendly terms with his wife and Hunt. But after she bore Hunt a second child in October 1851, Lewes ceased to regard her as his wife, though, having condoned the adultery, he was precluded from suing for divorce. At this moment of dejection, his home hopelessly broken, he met Marian Evans. They consulted about articles and went to plays and operas that Lewes reviewed for The Leader. Convinced that his break with Agnes was irrevocable, Evans determined to live openly with Lewes as his wife. In July 1854, after the publication of her translation of Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity, they went to Germany together. In all but the legal form it was a marriage, and it continued happily until Lewes’ death in 1878. “Women who are content with light and easily broken ties,” she told Mrs. Bray, “do not act as I have done. They obtain what they desire and are still invited to dinner.”

At Weimar and Berlin she wrote some of her best essays for The Westminster and translated Spinoza’s Ethics (still unpublished), while Lewes worked on his groundbreaking life of Goethe. By his pen alone he had to support his three surviving sons at school in Switzerland as well as Agnes, whom he gave £100 a year, which was continued until her death in 1902. She had four children by Hunt, the last born in 1857, all registered under Lewes’ name. The few friends who knew the facts agreed that toward Agnes his conduct was more than generous, but there was a good deal of malicious gossip about the “strong-minded woman” who had “run off with” her husband. Evans’ deepest regret was that her act isolated her from her family in Warwickshire. She turned to early memories and, encouraged by Lewes, wrote a story about a childhood episode in Chilvers Coton parish. Published in Blackwood’s Magazine (1857) as The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, it was an instant success. Two more tales, Mr. Gilfil’s Love-Story and Janet’s Repentance, also based on local events, appeared serially in the same year, and Blackwood republished all three as Scenes of Clerical Life, 2 vol. (1858) under the pseudonym George Eliot.

Adam Bede, 3 vol. (1859), her first long novel, she described as “a country story—full of the breath of cows and the scent of hay.” Its masterly realism—“the faithful representing of commonplace things”—brought to English fiction the same truthful observation of minute detail that Ruskin was commending in the Pre-Raphaelites. The book is rich in humour. The germ of the plot was an anecdote her Methodist aunt told of visiting a girl condemned for child murder. The dialect of the Bedes she had heard in the conversations of her Derbyshire uncles with her father, some of whose early experiences she assigned to Adam. But what was new in English fiction was the combination of deep human sympathy and rigorous moral judgment. Adam Bede went through eight printings within a year, and Blackwood doubled the £800 paid for it and returned the copyright.

In The Mill on the Floss, 3 vol. (1860), she returned again to the scenes of her early life. The first half of the book, with its remarkable portrayal of childhood, is irresistibly appealing, and throughout there are scenes that reach a new level of psychological subtlety.

At this time historical novels were in vogue, and during their visit to Florence in 1860 Lewes suggested Savonarola as a good subject, George Eliot grasped it enthusiastically and began to plan Romola (1862–63). First, however, she wrote Silas Marner (1861), which had thrust itself between her and the Italian material. Its brevity and perfection of form made this story of the weaver whose lost gold is replaced by a strayed child the best known of her books, though it has suffered unfairly from being forced on generations of schoolchildren. Romola was planned as a serial for Blackwood’s, until an offer of £10,000 from The Cornhill Magazine induced George Eliot to desert her old publisher; but rather than divide the book into the 16 installments the editor wanted, she accepted £3,000 less, an evidence of artistic integrity few writers would have shown. Details of Florentine history, setting, costume, and dialogue were scrupulously studied at the British Museum and during a second trip to Italy in 1861. It was published in 14 parts between July 1862 and August 1863. Though the book lacks the spontaneity of the English stories, it has been unduly disparaged.




 

George Eliot’s next two novels are laid in England at the time of agitation for passage of the Reform Bill. In Felix Holt, the Radical, 3 vol. (1866), she drew the election riot from recollection of one she saw at Nuneaton in December 1832. The initial impulse of the book was not the political theme but the tragic character of Mrs. Transome, who was one of her greatest triumphs. The intricate plot popular taste then demanded now tells against the novel. Middlemarch (8 parts, 1871–72) is by general consent George Eliot’s masterpiece. Under her hand the novel had developed from a mere entertainment into a highly intellectual form of art. Every class of Middlemarch society is depicted from the landed gentry and clergy to the manufacturers and professional men, the shopkeepers, publicans, farmers, and labourers. Several strands of plot are interwoven to reinforce each other by contrast and parallel. Yet the story depends not on close-knit intrigue but on showing the incalculably diffusive effect of the unhistoric acts of those who “lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Daniel Deronda (8 parts, 1876), in which George Eliot comes nearest the contemporary scene, is built on the contrast between Mirah Cohen, a poor Jewish girl, and the upper class Gwendolen Harleth, who marries for money and regrets it. The less convincingly realized hero, Daniel, after discovering that he is Jewish, marries Mirah and departs for Palestine to establish a home for his nation. The picture of the Cohen family evoked grateful praise from Jewish readers. But the best part of Daniel Deronda is the keen analysis of Gwendolen’s character, which seems to many critics the peak of George Eliot’s achievement.

In 1863 the Leweses bought the Priory, 21, North Bank, Regent’s Park, where their Sunday afternoons became a brilliant feature of Victorian life. There on Nov. 30, 1878, Lewes died. For nearly 25 years he had fostered her genius and managed all the practical details of life, which now fell upon her. Most of all she missed the encouragement that alone made it possible for her to write. For months she saw no one but his son Charles Lee Lewes; she devoted herself to completing the last volume of his Problems of Life and Mind (1873–79) and founded the George Henry Lewes Studentship in Physiology at Cambridge. For some years her investments had been in the hands of John Walter Cross (1840–1924), a banker introduced to the Leweses by Herbert Spencer. Cross’s mother had died a week after Lewes. Drawn by sympathy and the need for advice, George Eliot soon began to lean on him for affection too. On May 6, 1880, they were married in St. George’s, Hanover Square. Cross was 40; she was in her 61st year. After a wedding trip in Italy they returned to her country house at Witley before moving to 4, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, where she died in December. She was buried at Highgate Cemetery.

Gordon S. Haight

 

 

The Mill on the Floss

George Eliot
1819-1880

The Mill on the Floss reworks elements of Eliot's own history into a powerful study of childhood and of how a woman's identity is shaped and constrained by circumstance. Following the development of Maggie and Tom Tulliver, the two children of the miller of Dovecote Mill, it stresses the unpredictability of family inheritance. Stolid Tom takes after his mother, while his sister Maggie, dark, impulsive, and imaginative, favors her father. Unlike Tom, Maggie is intellectually sharp, and is a tomboy in contrast to her cousin Lucy Deane.The story is set in the 1840s within the wider provincial middle-class community of St. Oggs, and explores the competing forces of continuity and change. Tulliver is financially ruined by the modernizing lawyer Wakem; and while Tom labors to reclaim the family property, Maggie strives to overcome past feuds through her friendship with Philip, Wakem's disabled son. However it is the brother-sister bond and the conflict between the claims of family ties which drive the novel, embodied and underpinned by the relentless force of the river, the Floss, In a moment of impulse, Maggie gives way to her suppressed desire for Lucy's fiance Stephen, drifting with him down the stream, before returning, disgraced, to her family with words that haunt the novel: "If the past is not to bind us, where does duty lie?" ln a tragic denouement Maggie is ultimately reconciled with Tom; however, as the narrator comments on the aftermath of the flood, "Nature repairs her ravages—but not all."

 

 

 

Middlemarch

George Eliot
1819-1880

In Middlemarch, George Eliot focuses on the minutiae of ordinary lives led in a provincial English town, mapping in intricate detail the interior worlds of her many characters as a scientist might examine the tiny, interconnecting veins of a leaf through the lens of a microscope. It is through such insight and precision that Eliot achieves the measured realism for which Middlemarch is acclaimed, considered at the time of its publication as it is today to be one of the greatest English novels.
Middlemarch's impassioned heroine, Dorothea, is, like Lydgate—the young doctor whose story connects in vital ways with her own—an idealist. Convinced that there can be heroism in even the smallest of gestures, she mistakes her first husband's intellectual pursuits for a work of such proportions. But Mr. Causabon's deathly project aspires to reduce to a single, simplified principle the Darwinian diversity that represents the very life-force of the novel.
One of Middlemarch's central concerns is the question of how women adapt to the roles that they have been allotted by society. We feel for Dorothea, painfully aware of her lack of education and financial dependency, as she strives bravely for heroism while her sister tinkles away contentedly on the piano. Struggling with their failings and wrong choices, trying to live well and to love well, the stories of Dorothea and Lydgate, interwoven with so many others, are at once intensely moving and acutely real. Eliot deftly spins her web of densely plotted suspense, and manages to lay bare the motivations of her characters with such compassion and understanding that we are soon caught up in the narrative, as their overlapping lives become entwined with ours.

 

 

Silas Marner

George Eliot
1819-1880

Silas Marner weaves elements of fairy tale and traditional ballad into an exploration of the meaning of the family and the nature of belonging. Set in a "far-off time" when "superstition clung easily around every person or thing that was at all unwonted," it charts the moral, psychological, and social transformation of Silas, the weaver. He is cast out of his northern primitive Methodist community, and arrives as a stranger in the rural Midlands village of Raveloe. Isolated and feared, the weaver is reduced to miserly obsession and mechanical repetition. His fractured identity is recreated when he adopts Eppie the abandoned child of an opium-addict.The story of Silas's social assimilation into the community, and of Eppie's upbringing contains some of Eliot's most powerful writing. Set within this redemptive tale is the disclosure of Eppie's origins as the child of a disastrous secret marriage: that of the son of the local squire, Godfrey Cass, who finally acknowledges Eppie as his own. Eppie, however decides to stay with her adoptive father and her working-class community, and the novel profoundly reworks the "family romance" that underpins so much English fiction, in which the child discovers noble origins and a" true self. "Here, the family is seen primarily as a set of emotional and social bonds, rather than a genetic inheritance. Community takes the place of individual aspiration, and for all its static, pastoral quality Silas Marner is a moving exploration of how social selves are made.

 


SILAS MARNER: The Weaver of Raveloe
 

Type of work: Novel
Author: George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880)
Type of plot: Domestic realism
Time of plot: Early nineteenth century
Locale: England
First published: 1861

 

This charming tale of a poor dissenting weaver who, betrayed and unjustly accused, becomes bitter and miserly until redeemed and transformed by a foundling, is virtually perfect in structure, tone, and execution. As several critics have pointed out, the novel combines the emotional and moral satisfactions of the fairy tale with the solid intellectual appeal of the realistic narrative.
 



 

Principal Characters

Silas Marner, a weaver of Raveloe. As a resident of Lantern Yard, he had been simple, trusting, and religious until falsely accused of theft. He then loses his faith in religion and people. Turning away from humanity, he directs his stunted affections towards his steadily increasing pile of coins. However, when Eppie enters his life, he regains his belief in the fundamental goodness of man. In his bewildered fashion he accepts help from his Raveloe neighbors and decides to rear the motherless child who has captured his heart; under her influence he no longer despairs because of the stolen money.
Eppie (Hephzibah), Marner's adopted daughter. Fair-haired and blue-eyed, she captivates everyone who meets her, including young Aaron Winthrop, her future husband. After years of loneliness, Silas is sustained and his spirit nurtured by having her constantly near him. Even after she marries Aaron, she is determined to care for Marner, now frail and bent from years of unremitting toil at the loom.
Godfrey Cass, Eppie's real father and the weak son of Squire Cass, a prominent Raveloe landowner. Blackmailed by his brother Dunstan, he lacks the moral courage to acknowledge to the public that Eppie is his daughter. Instead, fearing disinheritance, he keeps silent for many years with his guilt gnawing at his soul. Later, however, when Dunstan's skeleton is found in the Stone Pits, he finally confesses to his wife Nancy his previous marriage to Molly, dead for sixteen years. Belatedly, he wants, with Nancy's consent, to accept Eppie as his daughter. Thinking Eppie will be overcome by his generosity, he is shocked by her determination to remain with Silas.
Dunstan Cass (Dunsey), Godfrey's dull-minded, spendthrift brother. Drunken and dissolute, he forces Godfrey to give him money by threatening to reveal the secret of Godfrey's marriage to Molly, a low-bred, common woman. After stealing Silas' gold, he falls into the Stone Pit. Years later his skeleton, the gold still beside it, is found wedged between two huge stones.
Nancy Lammeter, Godfrey's second wife, a lovely, decorous, and prim young woman. Although living by a narrow moral code, she surprises her husband, who has underestimated her, by courageously accepting the knowledge of his marriage to Molly.
Squire Cass, a prominent Raveloe landowner. Often lax in his discipline, he can be unyielding when aroused. At times this inflexibility of character makes both his sons and tenants fear his anger.
William Dane, Silas Marner's treacherous friend in Lantern Yard. While mouthing religious platitudes, he steals money from the church and implicates Marner, thus forcing the letter's exile from the village. By planting Silas' pocketknife at the scene of the crime, Dane can steal the money with impunity, knowing that his friend will receive the blame.
Aaron Winthrop, a sturdy young Raveloe citizen. For many years he has worshiped Eppie; when she promises to marry him, he is overjoyed. He promises Silas security and love in the old man's increasing feebleness.
Molly Cass, Godfrey's first wife. A drug addict who marries him when he is drunk, she later walks to Raveloe to expose him as her husband. Fortunately for Godfrey, she takes an overdose of laudanum and freezes to death in the snow, leaving her baby to toddle into the warmth and security of Silas' cottage.
Dolly Winthrop, Aaron's mother, the wife of Raveloe 's wheelwright. She and her little son often visit Silas, and it is she who defends his right to keep Eppie when the villagers question Silas' suitability as a parent.
 




 

The Story

Silas Marner, the linen weaver, lived in the small community of Raveloe. Long years at his spinning wheel had left Silas extremely nearsighted so that his vision was limited to only those objects that were very bright or very close to him. Because of an unjust accusation of theft, Silas had left his former home at Lantern Yard and had become a recluse. For fifteen years, the lonely, shriveled man had lived for no purpose but to hoard the money he received in payment for his weaving. Night after night, he took his golden hoard from its hiding place in the floor of his cottage and let the shining pieces run through his fingers.
The leading man in Raveloe was Squire Cass, who had one fine son, Godfrey, and one wastrel son, Dunstan. It was said that Godfrey would marry Nancy Lammeter. Godfrey, however, had become involved in Dunstan's gambling debts. He had lent his spendthrift brother some of the squire's rent money, which Dunstan had lost in gambling. Since neither brother could raise the money, they decided that Dunstan must sell Godfrey's favorite horse, Wildfire, at a nearby fair. Godfrey's one fear was that this affair would harm his reputation in the neighborhood and his chance with Nancy. Another thing that weighed on Godfrey's conscience and prevented his declaration to Nancy was the fact that he was already married. Once he had been drunk in a tavern in a distant hamlet, and in that condition he had married a low-bred, common woman. Sober, he had fled back to Raveloe and kept his marriage a secret.
Dunstan rode Wildfire across the fog-dimmed fields and crippled the animal on a high jump. With no means of raising the money, half-drunk and fear-driven, Dunstan came to Silas Marner's cottage. He knew through the neighborhood gossip that the weaver had a hoard of gold hidden away. The cottage was empty, and instinct soon led the drunken boy to the hiding place of the gold. Stealing out of the cabin with his prize and stumbling through the night, Dunstan fell into an abandoned quarry pit and was killed.
The robbery of Silas' cottage furnished gossip for the entire community. Another mystery was the disappearance of Dunstan Cass. Godfrey was forced now to tell his father about the rent money he had given Dunstan and about the loss of the valuable horse, which had been found dead. Silas began to receive visitors from the neighborhood. One of his most frequent callers was Dolly Winthrop and her son Aaron, a charming little boy. Nevertheless, Silas could not be persuaded to come out of his hermitage; he secretly mourned the loss of his gold.
On New Year's Eve, a destitute woman died in the snow near Silas' cottage. She had with her a little yellow-haired girl who made her way toward the light shining through the cottage window and entered the house. Returning from an errand, Silas saw a golden gleam in front of his fireplace, a gleam that he mistook for his lost gold. On closer examination, he discovered a sleeping baby. He followed the child's tracks through the snow and discovered the body of the dead woman.
Godfrey was dancing happily with Nancy when Silas appeared to say that he had found a body. Godfrey went with the others to the scene and saw to his horror that the dead woman was his estranged wife. He told no one of her identity, and he did not have the courage to claim the baby for his own. Silas, with a confused association between the golden-haired child and his lost hoard, tenaciously clung to the child. After Dolly Winthrop spoke up in favor of his proper attitude toward children, the villagers decided to leave the baby with the old weaver.
Years passed. Under the spell of the child, who in her baby language called herself Eppie instead of the biblical Hephzibah that Silas had bestowed upon her, the cottage of the weaver of Raveloe took on a new appearance. Lacy curtains decorated the once drab windows, and Silas outgrew his shell of reticence. Dolly brought her son to play with Eppie. Silas was happy. After many years, he even returned to Lantern Yard, taking Eppie. He searched his old neighborhood hopefully but could find no one who could clear his blighted past.
Godfrey Cass married Nancy, but it was a childless union. For sixteen years, Godfrey secretly carried with him the thought of his child growing up under the care of Silas. At last, the old stone quarry was drained, and workmen found a skeleton identified by Dunstan's watch and seals. Beside the skeleton was Silas' lost bag of gold, stolen on the night of Dunstan's disappearance. With this discovery, Godfrey's past reopened its sealed doors. He felt that the time had come to tell Nancy the truth. When he confessed the story of Eppie's birth, Nancy agreed with him that they should go to Silas. When they revealed Eppie's parentage, the unselfish weaver opened the way for Eppie to take advantage of her wealthy heritage; but Eppie fled to the arms of the man who had been a father and a mother to her when no one else would claim her.
There was one thing remaining to complete the weaver's happiness. Eppie married Aaron Winthrop. her childhood playmate, while Silas beamed happily on the scene of her wedding.
 




 

Critical Evaluation

In four remarkable years, George Eliot published in succession Scenes from Clerical Life (1858), Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). The last, a short novel or novella, is unlike the other works, for its narrative combines elements of myth— some critics have called it a fairy tale—with otherwise realistic details of English country life centering on the rustic village of Raveloe. Certainly the novel can be understood as a moral tale. Its message, however sentimental to a modern reader, is unambiguous: true wealth is love, not gold. As a myth of loss and redemption, the novel concerns the miser Silas Marner, who loses his material riches only to reclaim a greater treasure of contentment. Silas comes to learn that happiness is possible only for the pure and self-sacrificing. Because of his love for Eppie, he is transformed, as if by magic, from a narrow, selfish, bitter recluse into a truly human, spiritually fulfilled man.
The novel, however, has a dimension other than the moralistic. Eliot skillfully counterpoints the experiences of Silas with those of Godfrey Cass. Whereas Godfrey appears, when the reader first meets him, to be a fortunate man entirely the opposite of the sullen miser, his fortunes fail just as Silas' improve. The wealthy, genial Godfrey has a secret guilt—an unacknowledged marriage to a woman beneath him in social class and refinement. Silas, on the other hand, carries with him the smoldering resentment for a wrong that he had suffered (and suffered innocently) from his friend William Dane. Godfrey's sense of guilt festers, especially after he learns about the terrible circumstances of the woman's death.
Nevertheless, he remains silent, fearful of exposing his past. Eppie, the child of his brief union with the woman, becomes the miser's treasure and replaces the sterile gold stolen by Dunstan. Thereafter, the happiness of the old man is Godfrey's doom. His second wife, Nancy, is barren; and when he offers too late to adopt Eppie as his own child, she clings to her foster father. Silas' love has earned what Godfrey's power had failed to command.
By contrasting Silas' good fortune with Godfrey's disappointment, the author expands the mythic scope of her fiction. If some men—the pure and deserving—discover almost by accident the truths of happiness, others, maybe no less deserving, pass by their chances and endure misery. Silas is reformed not only spiritually but also psychologically. Once blasphemous, he returns to the Christian faith of his childhood, but his religious reaffirmation is not so important as the improvement of his psychological health. Freed of his neurotic resentment for past injustices, he becomes a friend to all, beloved of the village. The fate of Godfrey, whose history is realistic rather than marvelous, is quite the opposite. Without an heir, he shrinks within himself. He may endure his disgrace, even eventually make up to Eppie and her husband Aaron some of the material things he owes her; yet he cannot shake his sense of wrongdoing, appease his sorrow for betrayal, or make restitution for the evils of the past. Eliot, who once described her novel as "rather somber," balances her miraculous fable of rebirth for the favored Silas with another more common human story, that of the defeated Godfrey Cass.

 

 

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