Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: March 2012

4 - Hearing the Many Whispers ‘in the Roar of Hurrying Existence’ in Felix Holt, The Radical

from Part One - ‘The Utmost Intricacies of the Soul's Pathways’—Syntax and Individuality


Prosaic Rhythm

Felix Holt is generally seen as a novel of solid political and social commentary; this story of a ‘Radical’ whose beliefs are revolutionary only in the sense that they are not what is traditionally accepted as radical is also understood by many critics to be a political failure. Terry Eagleton seems to view the title as something of a naïve misnomer, citing the novel's ultimate lack of political action due to a ‘reformist trust in moral education’ coupled with ‘a positivist suspicion of political change’. Eagleton, along with other critics both Victorian and current, also finds the title-character himself quite troubling, for like Romola, Felix's consciousness fails to emerge from the text as vividly as that of a Maggie Tulliver, a Silas Marner, even a Tito Melema. In the introduction to the Clarendon edition of the novel, Fred C. Thomson hypothesizes that the political aspects of the text were actually a secondary thought and that George Eliot's first inspiration for the work was the tragedy of the Transome family, an argument that would help to explain the perceived distance between Felix and readerly sympathy, as well as between Felix and political action. Yet I would like to argue that Felix's is more of a constructive failure than that which we see in Romola, and not only in the fact that Felix himself manages to escape Romola's state of permanent personal isolation.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO