Mary Ronan Drew's Reviews > Silas Marner

Silas Marner by George Eliot
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's review
Dec 30, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites
Read from August 06 to 07, 2011

Back in the fall of 1963 I was practice teaching at New Bedford High School. I didn't get to choose any of the books I taught and I was distressed that I had to teach Silas Marner. I had read it myself in high school not so long before and didn't like it at all and couldn't see the point of it all. Too sentimental, too stilted in language, too unrealistic.

But of course I sat down with the book and a notepad and started to do some close reading, as they taught us to do in those days. And a masterpiece was revealed. It is a simple story of a cynical and self-absorbed man who reacted to a great disappointment in his youth by becoming a hermit and a miser and the arrival on his doorstep of a little child for which he must take responsibility. The love of this child replaced the love of gold in his heart and his need for help from his neighbors drew him to become part of the community.

A book that is not likely to appeal to a typical 16-year-old. I'm not sure I got anybody to appreciate or even to understand it. I remember we spent a lesson on strange words and the puzzled looks when I said "westcoat" was pronounced "westkit" and "wainscot" was pronounced "wainscut." An early introduction for the students to the sly ways of English pronunciation.

The one person to whom the book did appeal, and who grew to understand and appreciate it was of course the teacher. What a difference four years had made in my ability to grasp Eliot's ideas and to see the beauty of her language. And if four years improved the book, I assure you 45 more years improved it even more. Not all the books we re-read after so many years seem as good as they did back then - this one improved tremendously. It has become a favorite and I will undoubtedly re-read it again very soon.

2011 No 172
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