English Literature
George Eliot

George Eliot

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

Discover the Life and Works of the Revolutionary Writer George Eliot

George Eliot, a prominent female author, made a significant impact on literature during the Victorian era. Her versatility as a writer was unmatched, excelling in various genres such as novels, poetry, translations, and journalism. Her most famous works include The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), and Middlemarch (1871-2). Let's delve into the life and works of this influential writer, exploring her novels, short stories, and poems, as well as some notable quotes from her writings.

Biography of George Eliot

On November 22, 1819, Mary Ann Evans was born in the United Kingdom to Robert and Christiana Evans, as their third child. Growing up, Eliot had a comfortable upbringing, as her father was the manager of a large estate. However, when she began publishing fiction, she adopted the pen name George Eliot. It was common for female authors to use male pseudonyms during that time, ensuring their work would be taken seriously instead of dismissed as "women's literature." Additionally, as she lived with a married man, the pseudonym may have been a way to avoid negative associations with her writing.

Eliot spent her childhood in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, a rural community close to the rapidly growing industrial towns in England. Her upbringing greatly influenced her work, as she received a relatively good education for a young girl of that time and showed a natural aptitude for learning. She attended boarding school until her mother's death in 1836, which required her to return home and take on domestic duties. During this time, she often clashed with her father over her desire to study subjects considered "masculine," such as Latin and Greek. Despite these limitations, Eliot had access to a vast library on her father's estate, where she read extensively, particularly the Greek classics, which heavily influenced her later works. She also disagreed with her father's religious beliefs, as she began to question her own beliefs while her family followed the Anglican denomination, and her father expected her to attend church regularly.

In 1841, Eliot and her father moved to Coventry, where she had the opportunity to engage with like-minded intellectuals, including Charles and Cara Bray. The Brays were known for hosting discussions on progressive and unconventional ideas, such as religion, at their home, and Eliot was a frequent attendee. Inspired by these discussions, she translated D.F. Strauss's controversial book Life of Jesus (1846), which raised significant questions about traditional religious beliefs and sparked controversy. She continued her translation work for several years and also began writing and editing for the Westminister Review after her father's passing. Her articles on Victorian society and organized religion garnered attention and recognition.

In 1851, Eliot met George Henry Lewes, a critic and philosopher, and the two began living together in 1854. This caused a scandal at the time, as Lewes was already married and had children with another woman. However, Lewes and his wife had an unconventional and separated relationship, which was not accepted in Victorian society. Despite the unconventional circumstances, Eliot and Lewes shared a loving and intellectual relationship, and he encouraged her to explore fiction writing alongside her other roles. It was during this time that she adopted the pen name George Eliot. She published a few short stories and, in 1859, released her first novel, Adam Bede. This was followed quickly by The Mill on the Floss in 1860 and Silas Marner in 1861. Her work Romola, inspired by her time in Florence, was serialized in 1862-1863. Her novels gained popularity, earning her significant wealth.

As Eliot's writing progressed, she began incorporating more political themes in her works. This led to the publication of Felix Holt, Radical in 1866. However, it was her novel Middlemarch, released between 1871-1872, that solidified her reputation as a prominent and influential writer. The novel delves into the complexities of life in a provincial town and remains one of her most recognized and celebrated works.

In conclusion, George Eliot was a remarkable writer who defied societal norms and became a leading female author during the Victorian era. Her diverse body of work continues to inspire and influence readers to this day, and her legacy lives on through her novels, short stories, and poems.

Exploring the Life and Literary Works of Victorian Novelist George Eliot

George Eliot is the pen name of renowned Victorian novelist Mary Ann Evans. Born in 1819 in Warwickshire, England, Evans grew up in a religious household and received a thorough education from her father. Despite societal expectations for women at the time, Evans pursued her passion for literature and moved to London in 1851 to begin her writing career.

In 1854, Evans met George Henry Lewes, with whom she developed a close personal and intellectual relationship for the next 24 years. Though they never officially married, they lived together as partners. Tragically, Lewes passed away in 1878, leaving Evans devastated. She later found comfort in her marriage to banker J.W. Cross, but her life was cut short by kidney disease in 1880 at the age of 61.

The Unique Novels of George Eliot

Throughout her lifetime, George Eliot wrote a total of seven novels, the last of which was published in 1876. Each of her works has its own distinct writing style and delves into thought-provoking themes and complex characters. Let's take a closer look at two of her most notable works.

The Mill on the Floss (1860)

Considered one of her greatest accomplishments, The Mill on the Floss explores the relationship between siblings Maggie and Tom Tulliver. The story was partially inspired by Eliot's own difficult relationship with her brother. As they navigate societal expectations and family dynamics, Maggie prioritizes love and intellectual pursuits, while Tom chases success and societal status.

Their father's bankruptcy forces Tom to abandon his education and take on business responsibilities, transforming him into a more pragmatic and detached individual. Meanwhile, Maggie finds solace in her relationship with Philip Wakem, a man who shares her ideals but is disliked by her family. When their secret relationship is uncovered and Tom intervenes, it leads to tragic consequences for the Tullivers. The novel explores themes of family estrangement, forgiveness, and gender roles.

Middlemarch (1871-2)

Considered one of the greatest realist novels of the Victorian era, Middlemarch was originally published in eight volumes. Set in the fictional town of Middlemarch, the novel follows the lives of several interconnected characters over the course of three years. It serves as a reflection of the societal and political changes occurring in England during that time.

The central character is Dorothea Brooke, an ambitious young woman with a strong intellect who aspires to engage in charitable work and pursue intellectual endeavors. She lives with her uncle and sister, both of whom are also orphans. Through the various characters, the novel tackles themes of love, marriage, politics, and societal expectations.

In Conclusion

George Eliot's novels continue to captivate readers and receive acclaim for their complex characters, thought-provoking themes, and engaging storytelling. Her unique writing style and realistic depiction of Victorian society have solidified her place in literary history, making her a lasting and influential figure in English literature.

Challenging Societal Norms and Gender Roles in George Eliot's Middlemarch

At the young age of nineteen, Dorothea defies societal expectations and marries the much older and wealthy Reverend Edward Casaubon in pursuit of her intellectual aspirations. However, their significant age gap and Casaubon's lack of interest in Dorothea's goals result in a loveless and restrictive marriage. This theme is also evident in the Vincy family, where eldest son Fred's failure to complete his university education leads to disappointment, while his sister Rosamund is preoccupied with superficial matters and societal expectations.

Meanwhile, the arrival of a young doctor, Tertius Lydgate, and his unconventional scientific ideas cause skepticism among the traditional citizens of Middlemarch. When Fred falls ill, Rosamund sees Lydgate as a potential suitor due to his wealthy family background. Despite initial hesitations, they marry. However, like Dorothea and Casaubon, their marriage also fails as Lydgate finds Rosamund shallow and self-absorbed, and she realizes that his work as a doctor takes priority over her.

The Multi-Faceted Talents and Themes of George Eliot

George Eliot, a renowned Victorian writer, is most renowned for her iconic novels such as "The Mill on the Floss" and "Middlemarch." However, her lesser-known works, including short stories and poetry, offer a deeper insight into her perspectives and beliefs on society, gender, and religion.

Personal Tensions and Struggles in Eliot's Short Stories

Within her collection "Scenes of Clerical Life," Eliot introduces characters facing societal constraints and personal conflicts. In "Janet's Repentance," the titular character finds solace and strength in a reverend's guidance while battling her abusive husband's alcoholic tendencies. Through her storytelling, Eliot sheds light on the complexities of domestic relationships and the resilience of women in the face of adversity.

Interconnected Themes in Eliot's Fiction and Short Stories

Eliot's short stories also delve into thought-provoking themes that are prominent in her novels. These include the limitations imposed on women by society and the clash between scientific advancements and traditional beliefs. Through her characters, she challenges societal norms and encourages a deeper evaluation of long-held beliefs.

An Unexplored Side of Eliot's Career: Poetry

In addition to her fiction, Eliot's poetic works offer a unique insight into her inner struggles and journey towards self-discovery. Through her writing, she grapples with religious beliefs and the concept of heaven, as seen in her famous poem "The Choir Invisible."

Discovering the Hidden Gems of George Eliot's Literary Collection

The works of George Eliot hold much more than meets the eye. Beyond her iconic novels lies a wealth of thought-provoking short stories and poetry that delve deep into societal norms and personal beliefs. Her writing offers a diverse and multi-dimensional view of the complexities of life, making it a must-read for fans of Victorian literature.

Exploring the Influence and Legacy of George Eliot

Contrary to traditional Victorian beliefs, George Eliot believed that making a positive impact in the world through group efforts was the true path to heaven. Through both her poetry and fiction, she delved into themes of humanism and the importance of improving society based on what we as humans understand to be true.

Eliot's works are still widely studied and analyzed today, offering insight into the complexities of Victorian society and the role of women during that time. Her distinct perspectives and unflinchingly honest depictions have solidified her as a significant figure in the literary world.


  • Nathan Uglow. 'George Eliot'. The Literary Encyclopedia. 2002.
  • 'George Eliot: Poems.' Poem Hunter. https://www.poemhunter.com/george-eliot/poems/.
  • 'George Eliot.' Biography. https://www.biography.com/writer/george-eliot.

Through her novels and lesser-known works, George Eliot's contributions to literature have cemented her place as a notable figure in Victorian literature. Her timeless themes continue to resonate with readers, making her an enduring source of inspiration.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime