George Eliot’s novel Silas Marner has a profound influence in my life. The novel is in the First Language (First Paper) syllabus of West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. I was taught the novel in Class IX and X in St. Anthony’s High School for Madhyamik Examination 1994. It was my first acquaintance with an unabridged literary novel. Although the time it evoked (pre-industrialized rural England) and the usage of language peculiar of the age (Victorian) were initially daunting, under the able guidance of my English teacher, Mr. Steve Menezes, the novel became simple and endearing. No doubt, Silas Marner is regarded as one of the most “poetic” novels of George Eliot. The eponymous protagonist, along with Godfrey Cass, Nancy Lammeter, Squire Cass, Dunstan Cass, Dolly Winthrop, Aaron, Eppie, Mr. Macey, and a host of other characters, has reserved a special place in my memory and imagination. I must acknowledge, though, that their enduring appeal was increased immensely by listening to the audio recording of the novel in two cassettes that were available in the British Council Library.
I believe that all those individuals who fall into the group defined by the virtue of having first language English in Class X and studying Silas Marner at that early age (and probably getting more than 140 out of 200 marks in Madhyamik English exam), are equally, if not more powerfully, affected by the novel. The community formed by the said grouping shares an identity and bonding. Alas! There are so very few schools of the West Bengal Board that offer students English as first language in Madhyamik. But still over the years this small community must have a considerable membership and they might be diversely employed. And perhaps they have kept deserted the Rainbow Inn in their memory while the village of Raveloe still thrives in their imagination. Whatever may be the case, I invite all such members to share their thoughts and feelings with me (Post your comments here in my blog or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org). Let us all succumb to nostalgia as I recall the opening lines of the novel: “In the days when the spinning wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses and even great ladies clothed in silk and thread laces had their toy spinning wheels made of polished oak . . .”