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George Eliot: A Typical Silly Lady Novelist?

George Eliot, who was originally named Marian Evans, was rather unknown to the mainstream literature until “Middlemarch” was released, her most successful novel. However, before the publication of Middlemarch, she made it to a short-lived publicity when she wrote “Silly Novels by Silly Novelists,” an article published in Westminster Review in 1856 (Eliot 1342). The novelists whom she was pertaining to in the article were basically women authors. She defined the term silly novels as stereotypical novels which talk about nothing but feminism, roles of women, spirituality of women, heroic sacrifices by women, and women’s natural serenity.

Considering this, it seems that Eliot debunked the idea of women writing about everything good that may be attributed only to their gender, which she regarded as discriminating. Also, Eliot emphasized that women writers must not be confined to such conventional fantasies, happily-ever-after’s, and romance fiction; instead, women authors must uplift their standards and make their ideas survive the competition established by the renowned male authors. Considering these impressions and ideas by Eliot about the concepts of silly novels and silly novelists, it appears that she herself tried rigidly to deviate from that impression.

Although her gender was one of the strongest challenges she faced as a writer during her time, she appeared to be consistent in “walking the talk” when she said that women must not be silly novelists. While she struggled during the earlier parts of her career, she nevertheless proved that she can make a name by making her works unconventional, non-stereotypical, and unlikely to be considered as works of a silly lady novelist. Eliot’s Writing in the “Middlemarch”

“May was not always warm and sunny, and on this particular morning a chill wind […] Swiftly moving clouds only now and then allowed a gleam to light up any object, whether ugly or beautiful, that happened to stand within its golden shower. ” –excerpt from the Middlemarch (Eliot 204) In these opening lines in the 34th chapter of Middlemarch, Eliot diverged from her stereotype of a silly lady novelist. As aforementioned earlier, Eliot identified a silly lady novelist as an author who delves more into the eternal fantasies and happily-ever-after endings which she perceived as too good to be true and unrealistic.

Her descriptions may appear feminine; however, her presentation of conflicts and predicaments in this story was rather too depressing for the work of a traditional lady novelist. Eliot also chose to veer away from the usual easy escapes and very simple challenges women go through in traditional silly novels. In Middlemarch, she chose to discuss very serious topics like religion and marriage. She depicted how marriage can oftentimes fail because of the tendency of people to become too dreamy and idealistic, thus making them forget about the more logical aspect of commitments.

A typical lady novelist would have written about these situations in such a way that the women would easily achieve triumph despite all the hardships and challenges. However, Eliot attempted to break this norm. She chose to portray the realities that women in novels are not fairytale characters who will always look undefeatable and loved by everyone. Her choice of tone was somewhat distressing and sad yet realistic. This refusal of Eliot to conform to the eternal impression about women authors as silly novelists in several ways implies that she did not plan to make Middlemarch a novel aimed to amuse and entertain.

In one way or another, this also explains that Eliot perceived silly novels as written only to entertain, amuse, and make women readers feel good about being women. These novels also appeared to her as works which do not portray the realities of the life challenges and obstacles that women face. Considering this disagreement of Eliot in such silly novels, it can also be said that instead of pretty fantasies and dreamy endings, Eliot valued the reality of survival and existence in this male dominated world.

Instead of delving much into the beautiful things which just tend to decorate the chaotic and miserable realities of life, she rather chose to present the gloomy, ugly, and depressing yet realistic challenges encountered by women. Indeed, Eliot proved that she veered away from her own idea of writing silly novels. Thus, she cannot be considered as a silly novelists based on her own standards. Her tone of writing and the ideas she presented in this story of the Middlemarch clearly portrays Eliot’s stand about feminism in literature.

As clearly as her divergence from the stereotypical silly novelist impression, she clearly emphasized the value of reality and action in depicting woman characters. In many ways, this can be seen as a positive attribute of Eliot as a writer—that, although her criticisms towards blunt and tiresome character portrayals were harsh in the past, she nevertheless showed how important it is to reveal the truth about what women really encounter everyday, and what real hardships and struggles they go through in their lives.

Considering how Eliot defined a silly lady novelist, there are indeed a lot of silly lady novelists who exist and have existed through time. These silly novelists may have made a lot of women’s fantasies about dreams, heroines, and happy endings come true, but Eliot’s works prove the rationality of presenting the real and true side of women’s life—a life which is not always about bed of roses, knights in shining armor, castles, and happily-ever-after’s, but rather, a life of struggle for identity, challenges from the competence of the opposite sex, and failures and mishaps.

These depictions may seem sad, distressing, and gloomy, yet these themes tell what is true and what is really there for the women to expect and anticipate. Works Cited Eliot, George. Middlemarch. Irving, Texas: Sparklesoup Studios, Inc. , 2004 Eliot, George. “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists. ” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 8th Ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. , Inc. , 2006. 1342-1349.

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