Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mill on the Floss

This is my first experience with George Eliot. I like her. I have not heard great things about her from my fellow classmates though. Most think that she is boring, or too wordy. And I guess that I could see that... if I really search for it. But I think she is great. She is like a scandalous female Charles Dickens. She writes like him anyway.
I know that a lot of the similarities between the two are because they are simply both Victorian writers. But I think there is more than that.
I think it was typical for writers in that time to add their own little quips, for a novel to have a strong authorial voice. You know the opinion of the author as well as the narrator. That is very Victorian.
But Eliot even has characters that are similar to Dickens. Bessy, in Mill on the Floss, reminds me of Mrs. Gradgrind of Hard Times. They are both inept. A little slow. Well intentioned, but never able to fulfill those intentions. The way in which each author portrays them is the same. They are looked down upon, but also pitied because they can't really help how they are.
Both authors also pull strongly from their personal lives. Dickens wrote about many poverty stricken families and characters. Eliot can be seen in her character Maggie in Mill.. Also, Tom, Maggie's brother, shares a similar disposition and relationship to his sister as Eliot's brother did. However, Eliot's brother abandoned her due to her various scandals throughout her life.
I feel as if the connections are endless.
I think that Eliot could likely have been strongly influenced by Dickens, even though she never mentioned him as inspiration. She would have known him though. As working editor of one of Britain's greatest literary journals at that time, Eliot was well known in the literary world. The girl had connections.
As I have said before, I am doing my senior thesis on either Jane Austen or George Eliot. As of now, I think that I am leaning to a more Eliot focused thesis. Austen is just too damn conservative, and Eliot was a woman who wasn't afraid to live her life the way she wanted to. And even though and Austen novel may be easier to get through, it is not as rich in detail. Previous to Eliot, I thought that Austen did a great job in really knowing her characters, in making them real. But now Eliot. She can make characters so real to me that I want to slap them. Seriously. I HATE some of the characters in Mill.. but they are the ones that the reader is supposed to dislike. They are the ones that Eliot herself dislikes.

Although my fascination with literature peaks in the early 18th century, I can't help but love the social changes portrayed at this time.
1859-Charles Darwin published his Origin of the Species. It forever changed the world. It didn't affect only science, but affected an entire social structure and the literature within it.
Eliot started writing Mill on the Floss in 1859. This was one of her earlier novels. And as an agnostic, previously Evangelist, previously Anglican, previously conservative woman turned liberal, she has a great view on the social changes that were happening at that time.

I have yet to finish the book. I am only on book 5 of 7, so a hundred or so pages left. It started out slow, but now I have trouble putting it down to do my other homework. I realize that most people do not share my love for past social change brought about by the literature of great writers, but the book is interesting in itself. It may offend you. It may annoy you. It may hit a little to close to home. But so far, it is worth it.

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