This makes the attachment to the Anglican tradition in her novels—whether autobiographical or strategic—neither a theological or philosophical question but a literary question. Wesleyan Methodism may have attracted Eliot for its emphatic rejection of Calvinistic predestination and constant prompting to better fellowship. It contains the possibility of a better ethics and the failings of misguided enthusiasm. In the opening chapter, we see that Seth Bede the Methodist is absent-minded in his work because he is the would-be lover of the Methodist preacher Dinah Morris.
Despite these complexities of character, the events in the workshop begin with Adam singing with robust vigour from the Anglican hymnal. Written by Thomas Ken and based on Psalm , this hymn not only opens but also closes this first chapter. We cannot know if this is an astute act of a would-be novelist to secure the widest possible readership or the indication of a personal preference or nostalgia. However, we can treat this Anglican framing as a literary boundary that gives an implicit stability at the outset to both the form and content of this representation of Dissenters.
Echoing the lines of the hymn, Adam offers the reader Anglican criteria for judging religious non-conformity. His idealistic call for a union between religious observance and the working life is reinforced by the hymn 1: 13— It is not Seth, but Adam who is the visionary. From the perspective of the villagers, who are given distinct identities, the Methodists appear as the Anglican reader of would expect: a Puritan herd.
The traveller plays the conventional role of the disinterested spectator. Luke recounts Jesus attending a synagogue in Nazareth and reading a passage from Isaiah Hennell refers to Luke in his critique of the origins of biblical typology, the retrospective anticipation of the New Testament in the Old Testament. The test of a higher religion might be, that it should enable the believer to do without the consolations which his egoism would demand. The tone here is different from the narrator as the judicious overseer at the start of the chapter of the roads and byways of Hayslope: it is knowing, modern and sarcastic.
The implications are considerable. The intended reader here may be the intellectual elites that Eliot had been familiar with since when she began editing the Westminster Review.
Dinah Morris wins the approval of the traveller, but she has little impact on the villagers of Hayslope 2: The opening chapters of Adam Bede could be taken as the slightly laboured strategies of a first-time novelist. However, three novels and seven years later, Eliot undertakes a similar, if more challenging exercise in the balancing of form and content when it comes to the representation of religion in Felix Holt. Eliot touches on the central challenge for the Church of England in the s.
She has found a via media in the Anglican Church. Eliot is more confident here about giving voice to the idealism and vision of the Dissenters. This chapter offers an extended encounter between two Dissenters. However, the reassuring befuddlement of Rufus Lyon as he tries to understand Holt and the interventions of the narrator show that Eliot is still framing her portraits of Dissent. Significantly, there is no doctrinal meeting of minds. In the heady days of , the link between Holt and Rufus Lyon is political. Felix Holt is an enthusiast who has managed to articulate, if not demonstrate, an ethics that is free of religious egoism.
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Eliot gave her Anglican readers a very different challenge when it came to representing non-Protestant traditions of belief in her literary fictions. Romola depicts late-Renaissance Catholicism while Daniel Deronda portrays mid-nineteenth century Judaism. In the Proem of Romola , which acts as a similar framing device to the later prologue in Felix Holt , the narrator thinks of her Anglican readers, High and Low Church, and prepares them for a pre-Protestant world.
Eliot ensures that her book will appeal to the Anglican reader by reinforcing the inevitability of the Protestant Reformation. Tonsured, aged and transfixed, the dying Dino is branded by a religious enthusiasm that transcends natural filial duty Eliot suggests this fervent faith is a form of blinded egoism that avoids the great truth: one can never escape suffering.
However, the reader later learns that this vision is approximately correct.
Why does Eliot give some apparent credence to the fanatical vision of Fra Luca? In part because Romola is also a product of the times in which she lives. She has not been brought up as a Christian but she has been born into a Catholic world. Gwendolen Harleth in Daniel Deronda is also driven by superstition. When we first see Gwendolen— in media res as Daniel watches her—she is gambling. Daniel Deronda may not walk off with Gwendolen at the end, choosing the Jewish singer Mira Lapidoth as his partner, but the Christian and Jewish narratives are already entwined in the romance of Catherine Arrowpoint and the musician Herr Klesmer.
Deronda, the educated Anglican who discovers his Jewish origins, acts for the reader as a reassuring frame for representing both the excessive fears of Gwendolen and the fervent hopes of Mordecai. She undergoes her personal Copernican revolution when Deronda announces his departure for the Middle East at the end of the novel. Eliot counterbalances this form of framing with the more dynamic and interactive relation between Daniel and Mordecai. But Moredcai is different. Send Cancel. Check system status.
Analysis of George Eliot's Novels | Literary Theory and Criticism
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Scenes of Clerical Life
Description This critical survey of George Eliot's works includes a biographical introduction and a brief account of the historical events that played a part in her fiction. Numerous quotations from her letters ensure that the most valuable aspects of Eliot's thought are adequately conveyed. An appendix dwells on Eliot's influence on Thomas Hardy. Product details Format Paperback pages Dimensions x x Other books in this series.
Related A George Eliot Companion: Literary Achievement and Modern Significance
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