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Silas Marner and Michael

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George Eliot (1819-1880) was greatly influenced by William Wordsworth (1770-1850). William Wordsworth’s idea about literature is that the words should be used in the language of everyday life. In 1798, he and Samuel Coleridge published a volume of poetry called the ‘Lyrical Ballads’. They think that individual in society and the value of ordinary men are very important. In the preface of ‘Lyrical Ballads’ he wrote ‘to choose incident and situations from common life, and to relate them… in a selection of language used by men.

The ‘Lyrical Ballads’ is very different to the other poems at that time. It is ‘over literary and dead’ and he wanted to move away from the ‘the gaudiness and inane phraseology of eighteenth century literature. He also wrote in the preface that ’emotions recollected in tranquillity’. Wordsworth’s ideas are reflected in one of his poems ‘Michael’. Although George Eliot and William Wordworth lived in completely different generations and never met before. On her twentieth birthday, she had written of his poetry: ‘I never before met with so many of my own feelings, expressed just as I could like them’. In the book Silas Marner, written by George Eliot, he use a quotation from ‘Michael’ to his preface:

A child, more than all other gifts

That earth can offer to declining man,

Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts

There are many features of Romantic writing seen in Michael and are reflected in Silas Marner. Firstly the main characters of Romantic Movement are simple, lonely, often solitary individuals and sometimes alienated. In Michael, we can see that Michael is separate with the rest of world although he has a wife, Isabel and a son, Luke. Also Michael is very lonely when Luke has gone to the town in order to pay the debt for Michael’s nephew, which he had guaranteed. From the poem, the quotations that show that he is a lone person are ‘Up to the mountains: he had been alone’ and ‘it is in truth an utter solitude’. They also had a simple life and they are hard working:

Their labour did not cease’ and:

This large for spinning wool,

That small for flax, and if one wheel had rest,

It was because the other was at work.

In Silas Marner, the main character, Silas Marner, is a lonely man when he first came to Raveloe. He was isolated from the rest of the community in the village and he is referred as an ‘alien-looking men’. He was alone because the country folks are suspicious of strangers who have no family in the surroundings and with skill (knowledge of herbs): ‘In this way it came to pass that those scattered linen-weavers- emigrants from the town into the country- were to the last regarded as aliens by their rustic neighbours, and usually contracted the eccentric habits which belong to a state of loneliness’. When he decided not to help the villagers anymore he became even more isolated. The quotation that show that is ‘Thus it came to pass that his movement of pity towards Sally Oates, which had given him a transient sense of brotherhood, heightened the repulsion between him and his neighbours, and made his isolation more complete’

Another characteristic of William Wordsworth’s Romantic poetry is the essential dignity of a country person. In Michael, the closeness between him and nature makes him dignified: ‘The winds are now devising work for me’ and ‘hence he had learn’d the meaning of all winds’. Also the way that Michael is different from other farmers and has strong physical and mental strength makes him dignified as well:

An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb,

His bodily frame had been from youth to age

Of an unusual strength: his mind is keen,

Intense and frugal, apt for all affairs,

In the book Silas Marner, the way when Silas talked to Godfrey he is dignified. He is dignified because although he was angry he still did not lose his temper. Also the way that he let Eppie chose by herself shows that he is very selfless because to Silas Marner, Eppie is the most important thing in his life. The quotation that shows he is very selfless in the book is’ I’ll say no more. Let it be as you will. Speak to the child, I’ll hinder nothing’. He spoke to Godfrey as if he is a normal person: ‘God gave her to me because you turned your back upon her, and He looks upon her as mine’.

Most of William Wordsworth’s poems in the ‘Lyrical Ballads’ show that countryside life is more important than town life. In the poem Michael, we can see that when Michael’s family is living in the countryside it is peaceful and friendly: ‘The winds are now devising work for me!’ but in the town, life is bad and full of crime. This is shown when Luke went to town for work he got into trouble and has to flee from the country:

…Meanwhile Luke began

To slacken in his duty and at length,

He in the dissolute city gave himself

To evil courses…

In Silas Marner, William Dane, best friend of Silas Marner, falsely accused him for stealing money in Lantern Yard because William Dane is jealous of Silas Marner: ‘He observed that, to him, this trance looked more like a visitation of Satan than a proof of divine favour’. When he moved to Raveloe, although he was alone, it is more peaceful and quieter than Lantern Yard. He also received help from Dolly Winthrop when he is in difficulty whereas in Lantern Yard his best friend betrayed him. After thirty years he and Eppie returned to Lantern Yard and the place has already been industrialised: ‘What a dark ugly place!’ and ‘How it hides the sky! It’s worse than the Workhouse.’

Another feature of William Wordsworth’s Romantic poetry is the importance of basic truth. In Michael, Michael’s life is full of joy and hope when Luke was born but his life would have fall apart when he heard that Luke got into trouble would not be coming back but love keeps him going:

There is a comfort in the strength of love;

‘Twill make a thing endurable, which else

Would break the heart: – Old Michael found it so.

When Silas Marner was accused of stealing the money, he said ‘God will clear me.’ but then he lost in faith in God and soon after in man as he heard that his fianc�e is marrying to his best friend: ‘poor Marner went out with that despair in his soul- that shaken trust in God and man, which is little short of madness to a loving nature’. However, he starts to recover when he adopted Eppie. Eppie brings Silas closer to the community of the village and ‘created fresh and fresh links between his life and the lives from which he had hitherto shrunk continually into narrower isolation’

A child is very important in William Wordsworth’s idea of Romantic poetry, as shown in the poem Michael. Luke is ‘the dearest object that he knew on earth’ to Michael and he gives hope, joy and inspiration to Michael: ‘he was his comfort and his daily hope’ and:

…A child, more than any other gifts,

Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts

Although at the end he lost Luke, he still has love for Luke and this kept him going: ‘ ’tis belivev’d by all that many and many a day he thither went’

In Silas Marner, Eppie changed Silas’ life completely. She brought him closer and closer to the community and called him away from his weaving. She also brings hope and joy to Silas: ‘warming him into joy because she had joy’ and ‘Eppie was an object compacted of changes and hopes that forced his thoughts onwards’. Before Silas adopted Eppie, he put money as the most important in his life but the gold had kept his thoughts in an ever-repeated circle, leading to nothing beyond itself. Silas has a new life through Eppie: ‘reawakening his senses with her fresh life’. To Silas, Eppie is the most important object in Silas’ life: ‘ there was love between him and the child that blent them into one, and there was love between the child and the world.’ Eppie makes Silas think about his past: ‘Silas began to look for the once familiar herbs again’

In all of Wordsworth’s poetries there are many emotions. In Michael there are a lot of emotions and so are there in Silas Marner. In Michael the part where it is the most emotive is when Michael talked to Luke before Luke leaves. Most of the emotions in Michael are love, such as his love to Luke: ‘ but whatever fate befall thee, I shall love thee to the last.’ but there are also sadness and despair when Michael heard that Luke would not be returning. Nevertheless he still has love for Luke and the power of love had kept him going, otherwise he would be heart broken:

There is a comfort in the strength of love;

‘Twill make a thing endurable, which else

Would break the heart: – Old Michael found it so.

In Silas Marner the majority of the novel are very emotive and most of the emotions are love, although there is also sadness, despair, hatred, anger, passionate, trust and regret. Emotions of love can be seen clearly when Silas took Eppie as his child: ‘there was love between him and the child’. Between Dunstan and Godfrey there are anger and hatred because Dunstan kept threatening Godfrey to give him money or he will tell the Squire Godfrey’s secret. This can be shown in the conversation between them. Dolly Winthrop showed tenderness and compassion throughout the story. Dolly Winthrop helped Silas when he is in need. This can be seen when she visited Silas. She was trying to comfort him and persuade him to go to church. She also made him a lard cake. After Silas adopted Eppie, she taught him how to bring Eppie up.

In Michael, the language of everyday man is used. Archaic words such as ‘thou’, ‘thee’ and ‘art’ are used frequently in William Wordsworth’s Romantic poetries. In the conversation between Michael and Luke before Luke leave, Michael said ‘thou art gone away’ and ‘thy anchor and thy shield’ and so on. In Silas Marner, the use of language of everyday man can be seen clearly in chapter six, where the people are talking in the rainbow. They all spoke in a Raveloe dialect. Words such as ‘ghos’es’ is used instead of ‘ghosts’ and ‘hoss’ instead of ‘horse’.

In both Michael and Silas Marner, money is seen as a negative thing. In Michael, Luke went to town looking for work because of money and got into trouble. And in Silas Marner, Dunstan kept threatening Godfrey for money and it became the main quarrel between them. Money can also be seen as an object that makes people greedy. It is shown when Dunstan stole Silas Marner’s money. Although money is seen as a friend to Silas Marner in the beginning of the story, it was later seen as an object that kept his thoughts in an ever-repeated circle, leading to nothing beyond itself.

There are a lot of natural imagery being used in both Michael and Silas Marner. In Michael, an example of natural imagery being used is ‘light to the Sun., and music to the wind’. In Silas Marner, natural imagery is used more frequently than in Michael: ‘he seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without refection’ and ‘his life has shrunk away, like a rivulet that has sunk far down from the grassy fringe of its old breadth into a little shivering thread’ and so on. I think the purpose of using natural imagery is to emphasis the nature and countryside life’s superiority over town life.

Both William Wordsworth’s Michael and George Eliot’s Silas Marner have many similar features such as the importance of a child and countryside life, even though they were written in two different generation and the two authors had never met each other before. The quotation that links between Wordsworth and George Eliot can be found in the preface of Silas Marner:

A child, more than all other gifts

That earth can offer to declining man,

Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts

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