On FELIX HOLT: Eloquent but Abortive

felix-holtI am disappointed with Felix Holt. First of all, there is the overbearing, smug, know-it-all narratorial voice, theorizing from generalities, and giving a washed-down ensemble of human behaviour laid out on a platter. The ending leaves you devastated; as the tragic ending of The Mill on the Floss leaves behind a bitter aftertaste and an insufferable sense of deprived vengeance, the fairy-tale closure of Felix Holt leaves you drained.

Harold Transome, with his male chauvinistic, callous and assertive-bordering-on-over-confident demeanour, who is allotted some rushed sympathy with late revelations of true parentage, and Felix, with his oft-harped-on virtues of having a sonorous, powerful eloquence, of being a rebellious, intellectual character of many ideas and ideals, are ultimately little more than puppets in Eliot’s hands. Thus, instead of spot-lighting the vagaries of fate and history in human endeavours as The Mill to some extent does, the fortunes here are over-determined and masterminded by the tyrannical narrator, who, in recounting the story makes it look like a tale, a fabrication of idle, nevertheless insightful, gossip.  The only sensitive and convincing portrayals in the novel are that of Mrs Transome, old Mr Transome and Mr Lyon.

About Esther, I wondered if Eliot was deliberately being sarcastic about her and the conventions of femininity in the Victorian era. Even though she is imbued with charm, intelligence, personality, and instinctive actions, the narrator’s subliminal conditioning, perhaps mimicking society, leaves her deprived of a mind of her own. While Felix is known by his lofty ideas countered by his lowly appearance, Esther is simply appearance alone, though there are sure hints of a quick, intelligent mind too behind the façade of physical beauty. In the occasion where she does some admirable and worthy deed, she is described as a “bright, delicate, beautiful-shaped thing that seemed most like a toy or ornament”, to paraphrase, whose chords when struck (by the nobler mind of Felix), poured forth tear-jerking music.

Despite all my railing, the one thing that rivets you to the book is its impressive eloquence. Some of the best rhetoricians, including Felix, Mr Jermyn, Christian, (Mr Lyon, perhaps), and Philip Debarry dazzle you with words. A little disparagingly, however, Felix Holt could be considered as a useful manual on good and effective speaking.

CLOWNIN’ Rating: 2/5

On Reading THE MILL ON THE FLOSS; Hope and Betrayal

mill_on_the_floss(Spoilers ahead)

This book is a massive flop–overdone, perfected to a fault and clumsily ended–which plunges you into a deep foreboding of misery from the very outset. You tend to hope for an all-healing, happy denouement so that joy will be on par with sorrow, according to dictum. But no, George Eliot’s messy pen must needs end her most celebrated novel with just the same amount of tragic despair (as is in the exposition and the middle of the story) so that the ever-hopeful reader would mope around for days on end post-reading. It seems to me, towards the end of the book, Eliot grew tired of the hopeless futility (or drab ordinariness, as she herself relentlessly repeats over and over) of the lives she had set about storytelling. And thus the young ‘uns die while the oldies (including the unnamed, neuter-gendered narrator) who are put there to pass judgment on and evaluate youth as it ‘socially matures’ live on to tell the tale.

Besides, the narration commences in a fashion that beguiles you into a vulnerable state of ill-founded hope of the impropriety of evil in this, um, sad tale. Scattering a liberal amount of forebodings of death, The Mill actually does warn us about the tragic finale, but still, come on, who would drink poison if there’s no hope of something better or happier or promising in the future? And, you don’t really have any sure knowledge, even though Eliot cunningly tries to upgrade you to the level of a shrewd, perceptive confidante, while at the end you come to realize Continue reading