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Title:George Eliot's Early Fiction: The Movement From Alienation to Integration
Author(s):Carter, Margaret Larrabee
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:George Eliot's fiction depicts the processes of moral growth in individuals who discover they have held illusionary views about themselves and their relationships. Through the crisis of disenchantment they come to varying degrees of moral awareness. This study shows that in her early fiction moral progress depends upon harmonious integration of self with family and community. Males who fail in the process of integration manage to continue their diminished lives in exile; but females who are unable to adapt their individuality to the roles assigned by family and community lose their lives. At times their struggles against communal constraints threaten to subvert the affirmative theme of integration.
The movement from alienation to integration in Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, and Silas Marner is examined through the narrative techniques which are critical to the reader's imaginative participation: the network of narrative perspectives with narrator acting as mediator between author, readers, and characters; the management of plot structures to emphasize hidden connection and causal relationships; the patterns of image and symbol to depict the conditions of alienation and integration. Increasing sophistication of technique occurs in the use of narrative voice, manipulation of time and double plot, and blending of realistic and emblematic narrative.
The ideal process of moral growth in Eliot's early fiction comprises five stages: alienation, crisis of disenchantment, confession to wise counsellor, recognition of communal allegiance, integration into familial and communal life. Achieving the ideal requires an individual with moral imagination, a community fostering sympathetic love, and a reconciliation of individual aspirations with communal constraints. "Janet's Repentance," the final novella in Scenes of Clerical Life, comes closest to the ideal. In Adam Bede, the process is split between Adam's successful integration and Hetty's tragic alienation. In The Mill on the Floss inconsistent narrative perspectives and equivocal ending undermine the argument for integration. Silas Marner links the early with the later fiction. It resolves the issue of integration by depicting the integrative power of human affection in exiled lives, and introduces the theme of hidden causal relationships in lives of dissimilar destinies.
Issue Date:1983
Description:294 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1983.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8409884
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1983

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