A Great Book is a Great Teacher. I just had the most amazing experience of living among a village full of interesting people in England in and around 1830, thanks to George Eliot’s masterful novel, Middlemarch. You probably know that GE is the pen name for Mary Ann Evans, a psychologically astute author whose characters can teach us deeply about our common life, as well as our individual motivations. She helps us to understand the depth and power of rationalization and self deception in the course of any life, however noble or corrupt it might otherwise be. She schools us on ambition, and goodness, and the opinions of others. And so the story of her characters can serve as a wonderful cautionary tale to any of us. Some prevail. Others fail. Just like as in real life. But the really great thing about novels like hers is that you get to see people inside and out, and come to appreciate more deeply how complex the relationship can be between motivations and manners, or inner intent and outer words and acts.
The paperback version I read this past week was 838 pages plus notes, so it wasn’t a fast experience, but it was completely mesmerizing. I lived with Eliot’s fascinating people for days. And it was hard ever to put the book down. Even the best of her characters have their weaknesses and problems, as do we all.
I can’t tell you how many notes I took while reading. You’ll get insights about ignorance and folly, life and ambition, vices and vanities, money, self knowledge, failure, business, confidence, goodness, and so much else. Give yourself the joy of this incredibly wonderful book. Let its insights be no longer hidden from your own view. Visit it and come away deepened.
For the book, click HERE.
Some Sample Passages:
Something to Avoid
… that self-satisfaction which was the last doom of ignorance and folly. (34)
He had always known in a general way that he was not rich, but he had never felt poor, and he and ho power o imagining the part which the want of money plays in determining the actions of men. Money had never been a motive to him. (179)
How Much We Filter Out and Miss
If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and he squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity. (194)
What We Think of Others
“I believe that people are almost always better than their neighbors think they are,” said Dorothea. (733)
What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?
Words and Life
The right word is always a power, and communicates its definiteness to our action.
Business and Meaning
After a wife warns her husband not to price his supervisory labor too cheaply, he responds:
“No, no; but it’s a fine thing to come to a man when he’s seen into the nature of business; to have a chance of getting a bit of the country into good fettle, as they say, and putting men into the right way with their farming, and getting a bit of good contriving and solid building done—that those who are living and those who come after will be the better for. I’d sooner have it than a fortune. I hold it to be the most honorable work that is.” (403)