THE AMERICAN WEST (mostly): Fact and Fiction (mostly fiction)

"NOBODY GETS TO BE A COWBOY FOREVER." -- Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) in MONTE WALSH (NG, 1970)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

SILAS MARNER by George Eliot

Dear Ms Park,

I finally finished reading Silas Marner.  Yes, I know you assigned it during my sophomore year in high school, but I didn't finish it until this past February.  I know I passed the test you gave us on the story and I even made a passing grade on the paper that I wrote about the story.  But I have to confess that it was Jake D.'s Classic Illustrated Comics version of the story that allowed me to make those grades.  Poor Jake.  Even after reading the comic book  from cover to cover he still failed both assignments.

Since I'm confessing and apologizing I suppose I should add one more thing.  I'm sorry you caught me that day in class reading a paperback copy of Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre that I had tucked inside my lit book when I was supposed to have been reading about Silas.  Now there was a writer.  Erskine Caldwell, I mean.  He could tell a story and, unlike Silas Marner, things happened in his books.
I had just gotten to a really interesting scene in this one when you caught me, the one with Darlin' Jill and the albino.  I can still see your hand dart across my shoulder and snatch the book away.  And then with everybody in the class looking, and while you held the book between your thumb and forefinger like it was a dead mouse, you looked at me and said one word, "Trash." Boy, was my face red.  I never did know if you were talking about the book or me -- or both.

But in my defense, neither I nor any other fourteen-year old boy should have been required to read Silas Marner, unless, of course, the goal was to instill a hatred of reading.  I say this as someone who always loved to read from the time that he first learned to read.  Discounting comic books, poor old Jake, on the other hand,  despised reading and had never read an entire book in his whole life.  He might have been enticed to read about the Three Musketeers or Robin Hood or Huck Finn, but never Silas Marner.
One of the problems that I had at first with the story was the fact that you told us that the author's name wasn't really George Eliot.  I remember thinking that I didn't blame him for not using his real name.  I wouldn't have either.  But then you told us that George's real name was Mary Ann Evans!  Well, as far as I was concerned that made George a lot more interesting than Silas.

I also remember you telling us that Eliot/Evans' most famous quote was: "It is never too late to be what you might have been."  Even at age fourteen, I found that to be profound and inspiring, much more so than the few pages I read in Silas Marner.  But I recently discovered that the quote does not appear in anything that she wrote and that there is no evidence that she ever said it. I am no longer inspired, just disappointed.

But, as I say, I finally read the whole story.  Here's my review: "It was better than I expected."

By the way, if you read my copy of God's Little Acre, the one you never returned, I bet you found it to be better than you expected, too.

Your former student,

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