Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Author You Know as George Elliot

George Elliot (1819-1880) was born Mary Anne Evans, the daughter of a farmer in Arbury.
There are a lot of reasons why we know her as George Elliot...first she preferred her pen name to be that of a man, because she believed she would be taken more seriously, second she wanted her private life screened from the public eye, and perhaps the best for us, it gave her a steady name on all her works instead of her rapid and sometimes arguable name changes.

George Elliot is by no means my favorite author. We can learn little from her personal life, besides what not to do, but she did have some excellent insights. Even if there was bias towards women novelist in her day, the world benefited from her illumination of the female soul. Some complicated ladies of the classics come close to her own characters, but they way she shows the influences, weaknesses, and complex uncertainty of several of her own heroines is genius.

Elliot's novels include Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Mariner, Ramola, Felix Holt- the Radical, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda. She also was a gifted translator of several works and wrote some successful poems.
Like many novelists her stories improve the further you go into her life. Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda being by far my favorites, and not just because those movie versions are done so much better. :-)

I am not an Elliot expert. I have read Middlemarch cover to cover twice, but we don't own any of her other works. I think Middlemarch is an interesting book because it follows several courtships and how they begin, how they are controlled, and how they end up. The happiest people are certainly Fred and his gal. His gal is amazing because she stands firm, and because of it makes Fred into a much better man. He becomes a real worker and real gentleman. The doctor gets what he wants when he wants it, has a pretty rotten marriage, and money troubles for the rest of his life.

Daniel Deronda has so many cool character things going on it I won't try to summarize it. The only thing that bugs me much about that one is it ends more pro Jewish then pro Christian. But I think it is an actual satisfying ending in one of those stories when you know it can't all turn out happily ever after for everyone. Everyone obviously is a better person.

George Elliot certainly has original plots. She is gifted in her portrayals of human nature and where it can lead.
One thing that is a common theme through her books is interest outside of an already established marriage or engagement. This never gets out of hand, but can make one uncomfortable. What I think is very interesting is that she always portrays it as bad and that it only leads to more badness...especially since all her own romances were outside of the guy's marriages. (She's certainly no domestic role model.)

She was obviously a confused person. Her own life reads even more improbable then her novels. There not the books or movies that you'd want to pick up for a happy afternoon, but her characters, their choices, and their consequences show what happens when we choose to follow what is right and when we choose to follow our own desires and whims. I've found her novels to bring up wonderful conversations.

George Elliot was not afraid to try and draw complex, unique, yet believable characters, and most of the time she pulled it off. There is certainly a lot of human nature and of writing that can be learned from her less then perfect life.

I'm not sure I got all my ideas across very clearly...or very quickly. Sorry about that.
Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

(Please note: We watch movies on ClearPlay so movies that are recommended may have inappropriate material.)


Polka Dot said...

I have enjoyed most of the George Eliot movies we have watched, although "Mill on the Floss" was mildly dreadful.

I love Daniel Deronda!

Miss Pickwickian said...

Mildly...but I thought it was mostly through extremely poor acting and the fact that it was a generally poorly made movie.
Phillip made it a good movie for me. The picture makes me want to cry! Poor guy.
Thanks for commenting!