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Patrick McEvoy-Halston

ProfessorS. Burgar
English 380
19 Jwrc2002
JournalEntry #4
Are GeorgeEliot's narative cornmentsconcemingthe actionsandthoughtsofthe
Raveloedenizensa welcomecompon€Nrt
of SilasMamer (1861)? The cunent trend,Ithhk, is,
after describingwhat charact€asayanddo, to leaveit for the read€rto makehis/lrerown
obseryationsand conclusions,soI wouldn't be surprisedifmany find her commentsintnrsive,
. i . 01o,",--unnecessary,andultimately work to deflatetheir impressionof SilasMamer asa work of art, I



think Eliot's observationsserveher purposeto help her readerssympathizev/ith the peopleshe /
describes.However,her commentsdo seemandfeel intrusivewhenthey zre morecompulsive
that theremaybe a few possiblewaysto account
than compelling--thatis, when,after suggesting
for what we encounter,sheinsists,not only that her own interpretationis the right one,but that
for thinking otherwisemaybe dire.
the consequences
I'11leaveit to my paperto suggestthat Eliot maybe betterunderstoodasimaginingan
intrinsic difference between the members of the Raveloe community and her contemporme{)


Eliot is obviouslytrying to persuadeus in SilasMarnerthat people,whatevertheir
era,sharingthe sameo'nafural"humandispositions,arethus far more similar than they are
dissimilarfrom eachother. Many of Eliot's narrativecommentsemphasizethelink betweenher
that we all equally
readersandthese"specimens"from a time long past--usuallyto demonstrate
possessa fallible human,rutrr".(h" oftenplaysa trick by "baiting" us at first into imagininga
differencebetweenthemandourselves,only to thereaftermoveus to imagineourselvescapable
of someof the samequirky mental habits.
For example,afterdescribingSilasashe seenuto live for his everydayritual of counting,
and fiddling with his money,Eliot thentries to provethat at onetime or another,andto some
extentor another,we haveall "beenthere": we haveall definedour consciousness
repetitivebehaviour.Shebeginsby gettingus to imagine,thoughits particularform may vary
from individual to individual, that everyonefinds purposein repetitivebehaviourwhen they are "**

isolated. Shehasimaginlthat shouldwe be put in Silas'ssituationwe mightjust do the same
that evenwhenwe areonly partiallyisolated,we will still use
thing ashe. Thenshesuggests

repetitivebehaviornto "wile awaymomentsof inanit$ therebyshehasus explorethe ideathat
similarto Silas's
a consciousness
indeedwe, at onetime or another,havealreadyexperienced


(Eliot l9).
Of course,we maynot haveneededEliot's helpto o'seeourselves"in Silas,but Eliot may
be right in her implicit assumptionthat it is easyto seethe pastasa "foreign country" without the ,/
help of a sympathetichistorianto showus otherwise.However,Eliot sometimesseemsmorelike
an anthropologist,who, now imagingherselfasthe lord protectorof the tribe shehascometo
know, insiststhat,oncewe havecometo know her peopleaswell asshe,that therecanbe no
otherlegitimateresponseto themotherthansympathyandrespectlIn regardsto the two Miss
Lamm@ersoshesaysthat "any onewho did not know the characterof both, might certainlyhave
the reasonwhy the square-shouldered,
clumsy,high-featuredPriscillawore a dressthe
facsimileof herpretty sister's,waseitherthe mistakenvanity of the one,or the malicious
contrivanceof the otherin orderto setoffher own beauty''(95). Yespliot, I, for one,might
assumethis; but evenafter acquaintingme with their characterI am not surethat if I agreewith
you that it is not becauseI therebyavoid feelingsof shamefor believing otherwise. ,,/
of the Raveloe
Eliot might evenbe acknowledging
in the text that herpresentation
our sympathyfor Silas's"fetishism"
communitymight be a distortionwhensheasks(demands?)
(141)for his brownpot. Eliot mayherebe pleadingfor us to go easyon her,as shemaybe on
Raveloeand Silas,warningthat since"the godsof the hearthexistfor us still . . . let all new faith
be tolerant. . .lest it bruiseits own roots" QaZ; my emphasis).If "bruisedroots" is a condition
soterriffing that Eliot canraiseit asa possibilityin order,";ffiffi;
how canwe be surethat Eliot's previousnarrativecomment,n**..n

tolerancefrom us,then

sothat they do

not presentus with a disfirbing vision of the past?Moreover,why doesn'tEliot simply, as
previouslywith his fetishismwith money,showus how we too arelike Silas? Why scareus from

certainlines of inquiry or judgment? Eliot's naration is, here,a "wagging finger," that is an
intrusive gesturemotivatedby seeminglydidactic, "schoolmarmish"intentions.


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