George Eliot was one of the prolific and extraordinary writers of the 19th century England and she is known for her novels and translations.. Her works dealt with human problems and the solutions would be obtained through morals and values like love and sympathy were given utmost importance. During her times, new inventions and development of science shook the strong pillars Of religion.
The biggest blow that religion faced was from Darwin and his theory of Evolution. This theory challenged the age old elisions beliefs and traditions of people and on this subject did all her novels centered on. Darning’s theory of evolution and Mathew Arnold’s endeavors to regain the faith of religion through his literary works clashed. All her protagonists of her novels had religious beliefs. Her second novel The Mill on the Floss(1 860) dwells largely on the Biblical references and its implications in reality.
I intend to show that though George Eliot was inclined on science, she was not completely indifferent to the religion by listing out some instances that prove this and also few examples that show her inclination on science. I proceed to list out the references to Bible and its significance and influence on the lives of the Delivers, especially on Maggie whose character is framed and polished with the values of Christianity that include renunciation, sacrifice, love, sympathy. Also intend to show the other references to Bible such as floods in the end of the novel that reflects the story of Nosh’s ark.
The conflicts of opinions about religion and science that raised doubts in faith were reflected in several literary works. Many supported the new theory of Danni while many others believed in their religion. George Elite’s family leveled in their religion. Her views changed after she entered into the filed of literature. She believed in the theory of evolution and Darning’s works influenced her largely. But this does not mean that she was an atheist. She was not against religion but was against its rigid principles and dogmatic rules. This shows ambivalent nature towards religion.
She absorbed only those values of religion that supported humanity. In The Mill on the Floss, when her protagonist Maggie Deliver decides to renounce her desires lest there should be no limits to her desires, the counter argument comes from Philip Wake who opposes this idea of hers as illogical but he is not shown to be insulting her feelings. Also George Eliot has depicted how these principles come to her rescue in the end. The portrayal of the life of Maggie as a religious person and how she manages to face the adversities are certain examples that show her indifference to religion.
Her inclination on science can also be seen on the characters of the novel. According to Darwin the offspring inherits its character naturally but the society or the parents have got nothing to do with their nature and attitudes. Maggie is such character that has no influence of society or parents on her. To show her distinctiveness, Lucy can be compared to Maggie. Her behavior, her way of thinking, her response to the situations are different. Maggie is stubborn, naughty and views everything differently from her family’s point of view.
Whereas Tom Deliver, Lucy, the Dodson are the products of nurture. Another example is of Tom who can be called as a Darwinian character as he always tries to predominate in his work and in his life. Both Tom and his father and the family of Dodson have this predomination nature. So we conclude that there is influence of both science and religion on the characters of her novels, though the influence of science is much less compared with religion. George Eliot has maintained a balance by not completely rejecting religion but not even submitting to its rules and traditions.
Through this novel, through the character of Maggie, she Seems to be asserting that religion offers consolation and comfort to people. One of the most important values that influences Maggie largely is renunciation. Religion seems to be the only source of comfort to Maggie as he finds all her questions answered in the book Thomas a Kemps. George Eliot did not shrink from admitting a point that religious texts and books offer comfort to people who are in distress and who need guidance and religion shows the right path to people.
But its up to the people on how far does he/ she follows it. . Maggie has umpteen questions on why she had to suffer so much and she grows more and more impatient. This book talks of renunciation as the solution to satisfy one’s needs. This book talks about no attachment to all things which keeps one away from sorrows that are inevitable if the attachments are strong. Jesus Chi iris says that there should be renunciation as centre of thoughts, faith, hope and life. George Eliot tells how the meanings of religious texts can be misinterpreted by people.
Because Maggie renounces her desires which are natural to read books. She decides to remain unattached to the things she loves the most and renounce her wants and desires to avoid pain. Her implication is wrong as the context in which this had been said might be different. Selfish desires often lead to one’s destructions and which have to be renounced whereas Maggie fails to understand that her wants are natural. She is not bent on accumulating money or gold, she is not stealing the happiness of others but all she wants is books which hill Wake considers pure.
This non attachment value can be applied to Mrs. Deliver who is so occupied and attached to the sorrow Of losing her furniture that it blinds her to the greater sorrows of others like Maggie and her father. So here, Maggie takes the wrong step by renouncing what she loves. Maggie trembles when she hears Philip Wake putting the argument that she is only increasing her pains by doing this. George Eliot is aging up the issue of blind faith and reasonable or logical thinking. The wrong step that Maggie takes can be justified by the fact that she was young then.
As the right implication of this value is seen when she is in greater troubles. It was her unlimited and unsatisfied desires then, that made her repress her feelings in childhood but now, its her powerful passions that can destroy the lives of her old friends. The old lessons that she learnt in childhood come to her rescue and guide her to the right path in the end. Also the sense of guilt and selfishness make her renounce Stephen. The sayings of Jesus make her judge correctly in the time adversity. She does not choose her selfish desires to marry Stephen but she chooses her old ties.
If we take a look at both cases, the first case being the renunciation of her books and the second, the renunciation of Stephen, the one thing that is common is repressing her desires. The main difference is that in the first case, her decision encloses her and benumbs her but in the second one, it actually releases her from the entanglements Of relationships. But the argument is strong in both the cases, she is inflicting more pain to avoid pains. The reasonable answer would be the suffering in the second case is subsided by the love she gets from her sister and Philip Wake.
So it is however the love of her old friends that makes her take this decision. The second important value that defines Magpie’s character is sacrifice and this value is also imparted by that religious book. The book on Christianity asks people to sacrifice their happiness for others. “Sorrows borne willingly” which means the little disconnectedness that one feels due to one’s attachment to the object of sacrifice becomes smaller in comparison to the distraction that one gets by making others happy.
This moral value has shaped Magpie’s character as Maggie who was once naughty and disobedient child, transforms completely with new qualities and morals. She gets known in the town for her agreeable character. Though sometimes it prevents her from being herself, she sacrifices her likes and dislikes to please her mother. One of the huge sacrifices that Maggie does is sacrificing friendship and love for her brothers sake. First she sacrifices Philip Wake and the n she sacrifices Stephen Guest. All through her life, Maggie lives for others just like Christian belief that says the life of a Christian is a life of sacrifice.
Jesus says that the sacrifices that one makes have to be voluntary but not compulsory. But the sacrifices made by Tom can be called more as compulsory because it was his duty to look after his family after his father. Yet it is a sacrifice as he gives up his dreams and fancies of his childhood and most important of all, he sacrifices his childhood. He gets into his job at a tender age and gives u many things without hesitation to take the responsibilities. His dedication to his job has to be appreciated. One more Biblical reference is evident in the end of the novel when Maggie risks her life to save other people.
She concerns for her brothers life and her friends more than for herself. This can be taken as a reflection of an incident of the life of Jesus Christ who came as a savior to the people by sacrificing himself. The selfless service and attitude that Maggie has for her friends make her savior of her family. The third important topic in this novel is the idea of temptation, sin and redemption. This is a reference to the story of Adam and Eve in Bible. Eve feels tempted to at the forbidden fruit and commits the sin. Maggie feels the first temptation when Philip Wake makes her go against her principles.
Whatever goes against her brother’s wish is sin to her. To have selfish desires is sin to her. Magpie’s strong foundation of her morals is shaken when she meets Stephen Guest and she falls in love with him. She finds it difficult to resist the temptation which may make her do that she had previously decided against. She could have chosen him to satisfy her wants but her morals do not allow her to do so. This is the incident that we have to connect with the one of her holding and it is plain what significance the religious morals have on her character.
Had she chosen him, our emotional connection with Maggie would have been shifted. She renounces Stephen and goes back to her older ties. It is her moral system that gives her strength and her love for her friends defeat her love for him. She seeks apologies and repents later. It is believed that a person who realizes his/her mistakes and seeks mercy is given salvation. If viewed through this perception, the floods in the end can not be called as God’s wrath but it can be viewed as God’s attempt to save her from even egger sins and sufferings as the temptation haunts her even after she has repented.
To make the flood scene seem realistic, George Eliot has mentioned about the floods more than twice in the novel. The flood scene is also reference to the Bible in which floods occur in order to clean the Earth as the living beings go against the laws of humanity and an ark was constructed called Nosh’s ark to save the remnant of the living beings. Apart from this connection to the Bible, the other reasonable point would be that if there had not occurred floods, the indention would have worsened for Maggie, Stephen, Lucy and Philip and the cycle of tem Patton, sin, redemption would not have stopped.
Some of the other references to Bible include love, sympathy and revenge. Elite’s representation of her protagonist in all her novels is as the one that promotes humanity. Magpie’s immense love for her brother and for the rejected ones of the nature tells us Lilies view of humanity. Bible believes in brotherhood. Though the old testament encourages revenge, the new testament opposes the former. Maggie has no enmity with the person who as the source of all her problems and extending this hatred towards Philip Wake seems unchristian and unreasonable to her.
Had Mr.. Deliver and Mr., Philip renounced the thought of revenge, things would have been much better. Eliot shows how the decision taken by elder ones spoil the lives of younger ones after all, Mr.. Outlier’s wish of avenging his enemy turns out to be bad for himself. Though this novel is not religious, it dwells largely on the values of Christianity. The morals that she George Eliot has chosen for her novels are brotherhood, sympathy, love ,sacrifice etc. All these morals are ere important to maintain peace.
Her religion is Humanity as she has concentrated more on the values of Humanity than on Christianity. The concept of religion is acceptable to her as long as it deals with the welfare of people.