"George Eliot was committed to the idea of society as a slowly evolving organism with a shared culture and shared traditions"

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Janahan T.


“George Eliot was committed to the idea of society as a slowly evolving organism with a shared culture and shared traditions”. To what extent do you find this to be true of Silas Marner?

A major aspect of George Eliot’s Silas Marner is that of anthropological study. The majority of the novel is set in the village of Raveloe, described to be “in the rich central plain of what we are pleased to call Merry England”, and throughout it George Eliot provides us with insights into Raveloe’s life and culture. She contrasts this life and culture with that of Lantern Yard, a newly industrialised town where Silas Marner spends the early part of his life, and to which we are introduced in the first chapter. While she neither condemns Lantern Yard nor romanticizes Raveloe, she quite clearly places the later in a more positive light. She shows that it possesses a strong sense of history that has provided it with a rich and natural culture. This has led to community being strongly knitted and full of warmth. Thus the above statement is indeed very much true.

The influence of the past is still present among the villagers of Raveloe. The village is first described to us as a place where many of the “old echoes lingered, undrowned by new voices.” It partly thus that many of the villagers still possess pre-Christian beliefs, such as Dolly’s somewhat superstitious belief that words ‘IHS’ are “good words”. These pre-Christian beliefs have not been wiped out by the advent of Christianity. In this way, the society is clearly “slowly evolving”, with new ideas and practices combining with old ones rather than replacing them.  

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Not only does the past influence the practices and culture of Raveloe, but it also influences its structure. The roles of the villagers are often inherited from their fathers or family members. We learn that the villagers are somewhat unhappy with the fact that Doctor Kimble had no son to continue his vocation, “time out of mind the Raveloe doctor had been a Kimble” and it would be difficult to come to terms with a doctor with another name. Mr. Macy also notes in the chapter six that his “family’s be known for musicianers as far back as anybody ...

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