Winter’s glow

Winter’s glow
When the cold wind doth blow, the heart needs something to keep it fuzzy and warm. And what could be more comforting than the familiar? So put aside those contemporary must-reads and let’s head to the good ol’ classics, to a tale as heartwarming as visions of hot chocolate by a glowing fireplace. Ah, there’s that word: glow…there’s a lot of glowing stuff here in this tale of an old, heartbroken loner of a weaver who suddenly arrives at a town called Raveloe. And the book’s most wonderful moment occurs at Christmas Eve, too. You got it; this is George Elliot’s — Mary Anne Evans, actually — Silas Marner we’re talking about.

Silas Marner is one of those early 19th century books that feature country folks and their dialects, their community life and their minds. Marner is a solitary entity for 15 long years in this closely knit community, a man who becomes feared for this very trait… becoming a weaver of spells to the minds of the simple folk. The book’s opening portions are your desolate ‘winter chill’… cold, hard, devoid of hope…a wounded man’s heart that, being a victim of betrayal and injustice by his faith and his community, has lost the power to love. Marner’s character is a curious case of a heart clutching for something to hold onto, where he substitutes the glow of gold for the glow of love. A growing pile of gold coins is his comfort, which he stacks and counts, moving them over and over in his fingers every night. And then of course, there’s the moment where desolation peaks — his gold, his only fallback, is stolen from him — from right under his nose when he’s in the throes of a cataleptic fit. The defining moment occurs when, courtesy another one of his cataleptic fits, something enters his life soundlessly… something that glows like gold by his hearth — something that he mistakes for his gold coins…“Gold! His own gold — brought back to him as mysteriously as it had been taken away!” But this gold brought to him so mysteriously is purer and brighter still, for it is the golden hair of an abandoned child who crawls her way not just into his home but also his heart, finding comfort and peace there.

The other characters in the story, particularly Marner’s neighbour Dolly Winthrop, the Squire Godfrey Cass — the real father of the child —and his wife Nancy, embody the different forces that affect and alter his life; their decisions subtly changing the track of his life without his knowledge.

The girl Eppie, short for Hepzibah — named by Marner after his sister — moves like the warm touch of sun throughout the story, lighting it up slowly and melting the frost round Marner’s heart, taking him back to his childhood, rekindling his lost feelings of love, concern and most of all, faith. “Yet men are led away from threatening destruction, a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land… and the hand may be a little child’s.”

Oh, yes…nothing beats the classics for a bit of good, traditional faith and dollops of heartwarming cheer.

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