George Eliot and Leo Tolstoy

Two nineteenth century masters of creative prose, both these amazing authors focussed on the inner lives of their characters and tried to show what it takes to become more fully human. Their interest was psychological and spiritual. They sought to document what it is that closes the soul up and inhibits the growth of the human Being. In Silas Marner George Eliot shows how a tragic negative response to personal rejection can lead to a life of isolation. She also shows how an accident of good fortune can then bring healing and rejuvenation into such an isolated life.


Tolstoy shows how a life lived obsessively in the eyes of others, with no attention to the inner self can also lead to being tragically cut off from a deep and meaningful engagement with reality. In “The Death of Ivan Illych”


and in “Master and Man”


the wealthy main characters destroy their lives through obsessive materialistic greed. In both stories it is the humble peasant folk who are shown to have a deeper and more meaningful grasp of reality. In this way George Eliot and Leo Tolstoy are on the same page although they are vastly different in their cultural and historical backgrounds.

Blog topics for this week:

1/Write a letter to George Eliot or to Leo Tolstoy telling them how valuable their insight into human nature has been to your own understanding of the purpose and direction of your life.

2/Write a letter to one of the central characters in any of the novels/ novellas mentioned above telling them how much you welcome what they have learned during the course of the story in which they have taken part.

3/It is often said that great fiction changes the world. Do you think that any of the works you have read in the last two weeks have the power to do just this?


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