The nineteenth (19th) century was a period of great change and accompanyingsocial unrest in the British Isles. Most outstanding among the changes was theindustrial revolution. As everything in life, it brought good, but it alsobrought evil. The industrial revolution combined with the expansion of theBritish Empire made the United Kingdom, the richest and most powerful country inthe world.
Some of the islanders became unbelievably wealthy, but others,unfortunately, became unbelievably poor. Writers from this historical periodcognizant of the human suffering, became social critics of what was taking placein England, of how the rich and powerful became more oppressive than before andhow the very poor, were evenly more oppressed. Among these writers were CharlesDickens and George Eliot. In his novel, Felix Halt the Radical, Eliot (nee MaryAnne Evans) describes graphically the conflict and battle between these twogroups. In the novel, Eliot portrayed British society as having two types ofpeople, the oppressors, who were the landowners who had the ability to vote andserve in government and then there the oppressed, who are the back breakingworkers. The factory workers and miners (the oppressed) were denied basic humanrights and their opinion and beliefs were discarded as being useless.
Theseworkers wanted change and reform, however they did not speak out against theirmasters or government because of fear of retaliation by the oppressors, ofpunishment and also because of the lack of leadership skill to organize arevolt. The leadership that was needed was that of Harold Transome, a radical,and of his political agents that began preaching the need for change and forequality among the workers. Traditionally, two main political parties existed inGreat Britain, the Whigs and Tories, which forced society to choose what sidewould represent them. The split in society caused conflict in which people wouldonly associate with those individuals who supported the same party.
Adding tothese conflicts, political candidates gave false hopes and promises in order tosway the opinion of people. Nonetheless a rise of uncertainty for the twoparties began when Harold Transome returned home and brought with him enoughwealth to gain the support needed to back up his political movement. Transomehad made his fortune trading in the Far East of the empire. Despite his vastfortune there was one vast obstacle in Transom’s plan to rebuild his estate andbuild a political career, which was that he wasn’t the actual heir to hisfamily’s estate. Long ago, the principal of the estate was sold off to theBaycliff family.
Legally the estate belonged to Tommy Transome, an illiteratepeasant who had been paid off to keep quiet. If anything were to happen to TommyTransome, the rights to the estate would pass to any existing heir of theBaycliff family. Harold Transome the lord of the Transome estate was a stronghandsome man who left home to find his fortune in the Middle East in trade. Heworked in banking in Smyrna, currently Izmir, a city in western Turkey.
Hereturned to England when he had a sizable sum which he would use to rebuild hisestate and support his political actions. Harold envisioned change, a change forthe good of the workers. He disliked the Whigs and Tories because theyrepresented everything old and unmodern. Being a radical meant new, improvement,change and modernization.
He had modern opinions and ideas to change the outcomeof society, however he still believed that women were silly creatures who didnot have any ability nor right to discuss or work with what he considered”men’s work,” such as politics and running estates. Mr. Johnson, oneof Transome’s agents was a charismatic person with a strong passionate voice andconvincing manner, with which he was able to rile up the workers. He claimedthat their support of the radical movement would improve their lives.
Accordingto Mr. Johnson, “this country will rise to the tip-top of everything, andthere isn’t a man in it but what shall his joint in the pot, and his spare moneyjingling in his pocket, if we only exert ourselves to send the right men toParliament – men who will speak up for the collier, and stone cutter, and thenavy, and will stand no nonsense” (p. 114). Harold Transome was the man forthis job. He could put extra money in the worker’s pocket and alter thepolitical arena. In return for a chance of a better life, Mr.
Johnson wanted theworkers to show their support for Harold Transome and the radical movement. Healso demanded that the working men united themselves and give their “handsand voices for the right man,” and when you shout for Transome, rememberyou shout for more wages, and more of your rights, and you shoot to get rid ofrats and sprats and such animals, who are the tools the rich make use of tosqueeze the blood out of the poor people,” (p. 117). If left to themselves,these workers would have never conceived the idea to rally against theiroppressors. A strong influence was needed, a catalytic agent, in order toinstill in them the idea that change was needed and rising against the leadersof society their oppressors would bring about the best results.
The outcome ofMr. Johnson’s speech resulted in a very short-lived revolt with much chaos. Theday of the election saw upset drunken workers who wanted the blood of those whoput them in their sorry state. Their demonstration consisted initially of theiranger by throwing vegetables at the people eligible to vote and at store windows(p. 264).
The people in the mob, however, grew even more hostile. The mobdecided to inflict some pain on Spratt whom was a Sproxton man who did notsupport the radical movement Spratt was found in the Seven Stars, a well knownestablishment known for supporting the Troy political side. They invaded the innin which he was staying and dragged him out into the streets kicking andscreaming. The mob taunted him in order to see how much they could frighten himbefore they really hurt him. They continued their rampage until thy reached thetown’s center (Treby Manor) where they invaded the manor and proceeded todestroy whatever they could.
The mob was destructive and out of control that themilitary was called in to put a stop to them. As a result of such rash actionsby the mob, three people died, many of innocent people were wounded and therewere damages to property and businesses, (p 281). Tragically, one of the men whodied was Tommy Transome, which means that the estate would pass to EstherBaycliff, legal heir to the Transome estate. During all this chaos, there wasonly one person who remain calm and collected and who tried to swayed the mob inanother direction. Felix Holt, was a watch repairer by trade, but a fighter forequality and the rights of man.
Mr. Holt knew that he would be unable to stopthe mob so his mission was to divert them in a direction where no one would behurt nor injured. He did succeed in some aspects. Holt realized that the mob wasnot going to listen to reason so he decided to pretend to be a part of the mobin order to manipulate them and hold them down until reinforcement arrived. Hewas able to get the crowd to forget about Spratt, however, he wasn’t able todeflect them from Treby Manor. For his efforts to help, Holt was shot in theshoulder and sent to jail for manslaughter, assault and rioting, (p.
270). Ibelieve that the fact that the author, George Eliot is a woman is a significantfactor to this novel. Eliot clearly shows that during this time that women werenot considered important in the eyes of men. Their main duty was to produce anheir.
However, the women during this time did have capable minds with their ownthoughts and ideas, for example, Mrs. Transome, Harold’s mother. She was able torun the estate in the absence of her son but when he returned, he treated her asan invalid. Women are forced by society to depend on men, as it was the case forMrs.
Holt, Felix’s mother. Felix Holt would not allow his mother to sell herhomemade remedies for illnesses but she has no one to depend on when he isthrown into prison. Eliot depicts a life of unhappiness and misery for the mostwomen in this novel. Mrs. Transome is a woman suffering with anguish and purehatred for her son that leaves her to be a bitter woman. As I was reading thisnovel, I was intrigued to find out that George Eliot was a woman because itanswered many my questions.
In my opinion, the novel was a very descriptive one. It emphasized on the power and strength of males within society and how their”machismo” behavior effects the outcome of how society behaves. As anoutsider looking into a complex world, I am able to see things clearly. It ismales within the society who are dangerous because they are the ones who strivefor power and success and they also conjure movements that may have negativeimpact. Harold Transome’s problem was that he was trying to modernize and tryingto solve problems for just part of the puzzle.
He failed to take into account ofthe whole puzzle. Harold did not think before acted and he did not take theadvise of his mother who foresaw the troubles that his movement would bring. Ina way, I believe that Eliot is trying to show the reader that society would beextremely different if it was women who held control of it and dominant over themales. The world would be quite different if women were in charge because womenhave a more of tendencies to express their emotions and talk things out. Inaddition, they also have the tendencies to look beyond and find the root of theproblem.
As Eliot describes the scene to the reader and the beavers of people atdifferent stages of society, there is a hint of romance in all this. The authordisguises herself behind a masculine name but her identity is revealed by thechance of her characters finding “true love” and “happily everafter”. Esther’s dream was to be rich, to have a position and a title andshe was granted he r dreams. She had everything she thought she wanted, however,she did not have Felix Holt, her true love. Felix was sentence to four years inprison for his alleged crimes during the elections. Esther decided to give upeverything she ever wanted and pass the estate into the hands of Harold in orderto wait for Felix in lifestyle that she found comfort, happiness and love.European History