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ON THE CHARACTERS
The art and originality in the story lies in the completely innocent cast given to the miserliness of the old weaver, his almost entire freedom from any touch of moral responsibility for the growth of this passion, and in the complete and unresisted revulsion of feeling caused by the loss of his gold and the substitution of a living interest in its place. Silas Marner's character is no common conception.
R. H. Hutton, review in The Economist, 1861
In all those of our author's books which have borne the name of the hero or heroine- Adam Bede, Silas Marner, Romola, and Felix Holt- the person so put forward has really played a subordinate part. The author may have set out with the intention of maintaining him supreme; but her material has become rebellious in her hands, and the technical hero has been eclipsed by the real one.... Godfrey Cass, with his life-long secret, is by right the hero of Silas Marner."
Henry James, Atlantic Monthly, 1866
George Eliot's concentration on the moral side of human nature is the chief source of her peculiar glory, the kernel of her precious unique contribution to our literature. Her imagination is not a distorting glass like Dickens', vitalizing her figures by accentuating their personal idiosyncrasies, nor is it, like Charlotte Bronte's, a painted window suffusing them with the color of her own live temperament; it is an X-ray, bringing them to life by the clearness with which she penetrates to the secret mainspring of their actions.
David Cecil, Victorian Novelists, 1935
(George Eliot) was more aware than her immediate predecessors of the complexity of characters and her creations cannot be labelled good or bad, nor accorded the wholesale approval or disapproval of the reader as readily as can many Victorian heroes or heroines.
Joan Bennett, George Eliot: Her Mind and Art, 1948
George Eliot can make the apparently simple mind as interesting as the sophisticated and more inventively creative mind of the artist. Nothing in the human imagination was alien to her imagination.
Barbara Hardy, Particularities: Readings in George Eliot, 1982
ON THE SETTING
Nothing can be more profound than this picture of the manner in which all human beings are influenced by their environment... on laying down the book we do not dwell upon Silas Marner or Godfrey Cass or Dolly Winthrop, or any particular character, but are forced to embrace them all with all their restricted country life. Nothing short of Raveloe satisfies the memory.
Unsigned review in Westminster Review, 1861
We feel that there must be a silent guest in the chimney-corner of the 'Rainbow,' so thoroughly at home with the natives as to put no stress upon their behaviour, and yet one who has travelled out of sight of the village spire, and known the thoughts and feelings which are stirring in the great world outside.
Leslie Stephen, Cornhill magazine, 1881
ON THE REALISM
We seem to be looking at... any of those domestic or rustic paintings of the Dutch school, where every leaf in the elm trees or the limes is painted, every gnarl of the bark inscribed, every rut followed with fidelity. We follow the people out of the hedgerows and the lanes into the kitchen. We see the endless meals, the eternal cup of tea; and the dog rests his head on our boot or flies barking to the yard, while young children toddle in and out of the drama at the least convenient moments.
V. S. Pritchett, The Living Novel, 1947
ON GEORGE ELIOT'S ESSENTIAL QUALITIES
Another striking thing (about George Eliot's writing) is the sense of gravity attached to an evil intention or to a failure of resolution, which because of the interdependence of mankind spreads its fatal repercussions in every direction; and another, the sense of the mysterious greatness of human life and the life of nature, the solemn mysteries in which we play a part while knowing no more about them than does the growing flower.
Marcel Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve, collected 1954
ON HER IDEAS
George Eliot's revolt against her inherited faith was based on intellectual grounds alone. At no time was there a moral revolt. It was inevitable, therefore, that, being what she was, she should have spent the rest of her life trying to preserve the Christian morality without supernatural sanctions.
Edward Wagenknecht, Cavalcade of the English Novel, 1954
For most of us Silas Marner evokes painful memories of literature forced down our throats in the second year of high school. We were probably right in disliking it then, for it is an adult's book.... it is a serious and intelligent treatment of human life and conduct.
Jerome Thale, The Novels of George Eliot, 1959
We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.
Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing
Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts