Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, July 11, 2013

SILAS MARNER in the Mall: Conclusion

I finished Silas Marner (1861), via Kindle, last Friday night (July 5) in a Panera out in Montrose (West Akron, Ohio), while sipping a Diet (Caffeine-Free) Pepsi and waiting for Joyce, who was right next door doing some ... research ... in TJ Maxx.  I've written about my history with Mr. Marner a couple of other times here, so those of you who are dying to find out what I said earlier, here are links to those posts:

Post #1: Link

Post #2: Link

In those posts (here's the hurry-up summary) I wrote about how George Eliot's short novel used to be a staple of the high school literature curriculum, a staple much despised by those who had to consume it.  When I was in high school, the upperclassmen used to wail and gnash teeth and shred clothing as they talked about the tortures of reading it; some of the more violent types spoke of a wish to murder Marner.  And one guy joked: "No wonder Mary Ann Evans wrote by the name "George Eliot"; I wouldn't want anyone to know I'd written that crap either!"  Okay, maybe no one actually said that--but I just thought it sounded amusing.

I also wrote about how--mirable dictu!--the English IV teacher we had (new to our school, old to the profession) my senior year (1961-62) had no Marner in her plans for the year, relieving us of our burden, and diminishing the use of Masterplots over at the local library, the books that cheaters had to use in the days before the Internet.  (Some--not I!--would later consult it that year for Macbeth.)

So, anyhow, casting about for something to read recently, I'd decided it was time for Silas Marner--just to see.  I bought it on Kindle for virtually nothing, so not only did I save money, but I also avoided strange looks when I read it in public places.  (The very reason I read the first Twilight novel on Kindle--didn't want people in Starbucks thinking I'm some sort of dotard-perv.  That's the great thing about e-readers: anonymity.  Someone can come up and ask you what you're reading, and, depending on the person, you can go with Finnegan's Wake or In Search of Lost Time or War and Peace, and then, when they're gone, you can go back to reading your Dan Brown or Fifty Shades or ... you know.)

As I've written before here, I actually enjoyed much of Marner--though, as I said, it would have been impossible for me in high school.  Back then, I knew nothing about the Victorians, about Eliot.  And long sentences?  That's what I thought judges ought to give writers who wrote them!  My vocabulary then was pretty much limited to words I found useful reading the sports pages--and the sexy sections of popular novels that some of my more randy, reckless friends would bring to school to show the rest of us.  (No names: You know who you are!)

But as I read the novel, I realized it was sort of a Rocky story.  Marner, a weaver, comes to the little community of Raveloe after being exiled from Lantern Yard, where we was falsely accused of theft by a false friend (who took Marner's GF from him, too).  Marner lives a lonely life in Raveloe but gains a reputation for his skill with the loom (and for being a cranky weirdo); he begins hoarding all his gold pieces, keeping them in bags under the floorboards.  At night he takes them out and counts the pieces by firelight.  (Can you hear him moaning and chortling?)  But the word gets around about this treasure ...

Things then happen quickly.
  • The scion of the local rich guy, a scion in debt, steals the gold one bitter night while Marner is away, then disappears from Raveloe.
  • Marner is devastated.
  • Another son of the rich guy gets married--not revealing to anyone that he already has a wife and daughter, a poor woman whom he'd impregnated.  She comes with her infant child in a bad storm to confront him but collapses and dies--not far from Marner's cottage.
  • Marner finds the dead woman--but her little girl is still alive.
  • Marner (and a helpful local woman) nurse the little girl back to health, and he unofficially adopts her.  Her presence softens his life--transforms him.
  • His money--not recovered; the thief--unknown; the rich guy's son--gone missing.
  • Years pass.  The girl, Eppie, grows into her teen years
  • The "real" father, seeing how well Eppie has turned out, decides he now wants to adopt her.  He confronts Marner, and ... (read it yourself!).
  • While they are draining a stone pit near Marner's cottage, they discover ... (read it yourself!).
  • At the end, church bells are ringing because ... (read it yourself!).
I keep telling you to "read it yourself."  Here's a link to the entire novel.  Or, as I said, you can get it on any e-reader.  Or order it from your local bookstore.

Anyway, it is a good novel about the transformative power of love--a topic of interest to every teenager I ever knew (or was)--but I'm guessing it's even farther beyond today's young readers than it was in my day, when, as I said, I could no more have read those pages than written them.

Besides, there are lots of good novels these days about the transformative power of love.  Look at 
what happened, oh, to Bella Swan!

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