A Romance with Victorian Classics: Silas Marner

A Romance with Victorian Classics: Silas Marner

My mother was a great book lover. She had tons of books in her shelf and I’ve seen her reading them in a late afternoon or on a lazy weekend. Maybe that was the reason I wanted to have my own books. It wasn’t until the 4th grade that I was lucky enough to own a book. My father had bought me one when I got chicken pox. It had adaptations from great stories like Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Three Musketeers, Gulliver’s Travels, and such. Since then, the journey of my love for English literature began.
In English literature, if you are looking for a good book to read, you will firstly be introduced to books by some of the renowned contemporary writers. Getting introduced to English literature meant knowing about the Victorian or Georgian age- contextually meaning the period of Queen Victoria’s reign from the early 19th to 20th century.
Victorian literature was not the only shining period in the history of English Literature. However, it was the novel that was dominant in this period to the English literary public which makes it the most important in the field of literature. The Romantic Literature, which preceded the Victorian Literature also gave us some great works including poetry and novels, but the dominating genre of this era was poetry.
As a lover of contemporary novels, my first introduction to English Literature had been when I was at the age of 12. I have always had fascination to classical novels and a love towards the then rising Europe. My first book was Silas Marner that belonged to my elder sister. I remember it took 6 days to reach the ending but I hadn’t been able to finish it. She had sold the book. Yeah.
I don’t know why I had picked this particular book while there were many other books in front of me like Arms and the Man, A Tale of Two Cites, Sons and Lovers, Measure for Measure or even W. B. Yeats. But it was the cover of the book that had me like ‘okay, this is the book I want to read.’ I think as a child, the book rendered to me as an easy read and the story wasn’t very impressive. But it was a good one. The main character wasn’t talking to me, he was all by himself- quiet and stoic. It’s like you are peeping through a window and watching everything happening. I liked how Elliot narrated it and her powerful voice came through in her writing.
Silas Marner had left quite an impression on me. Since then my hunger for contemporary books had grown. This book covered a pretty good idea about the 19th Century Europe and George Elliot combined symbolism with a historically precise setting in order to create a tale of love and hope. The reason I liked Silas Marner was because the novel explored the issues of family, and impacts of industrialization on English society of the sophisticated England.
Before that, my thought on England was that it was a heaven on Earth, a Utopia in the middle of civilization. These novels attracted me to know more and as I continued to read, my idea of Europe changed. It gave a much broader idea not only about the functions of various social ingredients and customs and traditions but also about the contrast between the life of sophistication and the common. And in order to apprehend that England, we have to understand how England emerged through the Romantic period. England was also going through the process of great changes and improvements especially in the Romantic era. It was the era when there were wars – French Revolution, Napoleonic wars and the First World War. These wars seemed to influence the Romantic era along with the political and social turmoil that came with it. The start of the Romantic Movement that is marked in Wordsworth and Coleridge’s poems from Lyrical Ballads spread along the lands of Europe. It greatly influenced the literary public and was noticeable in some of the contemporary writer’s writings.
While most Romantics were broadly progressive in their views and some seemed to keep conservative views- which was overly disrupted by Western traditions of rationality, the idea of moral absolute and agreed values for over a century. It slowly led to nationalism that we can see in Goethe’s work to even totalitarianism and fascism. However, the end of Romantic era is marked by a new style of Realism that greatly affected the literature. This movement was led by France, with Balzac and Flaubert in literature. Stendhal was an important precursor of Realism. In music, after about 1850 such works are referred to as “Late Romantic” or as Neoromantic” and “Postromantic”. Although in English literature, the convenient term “Victorian” evades having to characterize the period further.
But when I started to read Silas Marner, I didn’t know all these. In this Victorian classic I could see the 19th century England before my eyes while reading it. It was the England that recovered from the Romantic era and stepped into the Victorian era. Elliot painted a wonderfully vivid picture of English life in the village of Raveloe portraying varied aspects of human nature- cowardice, greed, despair, moral inflexibility, love, devotion and hope. All I could see in front of my eyes was that it’s a person who is interacting with life, with himself and other characters. He is honest and believes in religion until he is betrayed by his own friend and is left by the church. He gets everything back in the face of a little girl and her unconditional love. In the final page, he appears as a man with new faith, inner strength and maturity.
Elliot greatly narrated a place that portrayed the functions and beliefs of the people from the 19th century. You can easily start to believe that Raveloe is a real living place filled with flaws, defeats and triumphs of real human life.

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Songs of Wingless Butterflies: Women in the Eyes of Hardy

Songs of Wingless Butterflies: Women in the Eyes of Hardy

“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.”

― Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge.

In this patriarchal society where women has no voice, sometimes I feel like those female characters from the books portrayed by Thomas Hardy. Those females whose eyes are filled with dreams, to whom the world is a mystery and their heart is as pure as a full moon. All they want is their right in the society and a little love and affection. However, they are the ones who are unwanted to the society and are objective to the errors of the society. I am not only the victim to their injustice but also subjected to torture- oppression.
Just as they hide their little dreams in the corner of their mind, accept their fate and get down to face the struggle of life – I cannot do that. I have seen dreams and I have seen them getting fulfilled. Perhaps Hardy wanted to show the society that these soft-hearted girls can also dream. But he himself confined their lives with tragedy. They didn’t only see their dreams getting lost, they saw the chapters from their lives getting erased. To Hardy the moments of their lives were like those sand castles beside the ocean, which break easily with the surge of the ocean waves.
Thomas Hardy, an English novelist and poet who was born in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset on June 2, 1840, reflects a dark naturalistic realism in his works and his characters are haunted with tragic and self-destructive fate. His writings are frequently considered to represent the ache of modernism which is quite clear in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Hardy contends to suggest the obscurity of time and change and human reason against divine power through family-betrayal, class perceptions, sex and material longing. He uses several naturalist references about Tess that represent earthly ideals through showing how she was abused by the representatives of both high culture and Christianity. Hardy reflects his pessimistic outlook towards civilization, religion and high society as fraudulent influence that eventually corrupts the good and earthy heroin.
Couldn’t Hardy organize their lives differently? Couldn’t he let those heroines see their dreams getting wings of reality? Perhaps, Hardy was dissatisfied and never got for himself what he had wanted. Perhaps, that was why he refrained his imaginary female characters from getting what they wanted. Or he had a dark soul which kept him from giving his characters what they deserved. He might have tried to explain through his works that there was a brutality in the society; a selfishness that echoed through civilization which Thomas Hardy portrayed through these characters. But they also portrayed a reflection of his own dissatisfied heart.
Hardy is the visualization of the thoughts of people of that period and his female characters are ever-present. Whether it is the impersonation of Hardy, or the grudge of his heart, or his realization, would our relinquishment be still now similar to his works of tragedies?

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