April 07, 2004

Parental units

Another point on Silas Marner. The central event in the book is when Silas, after losing his gold, discovers an orphaned child in his hearth. He adopts the kid, and over the course of raising the little rascal, Silas comes into “consciousness,” as Eliot calls it—drops his funny hermit ways and leads a more social and fulfilling life, etc. etc.

Well of course from a literary perspective this all seems very plausible. Like Wordsworth says in “Michael”:

A child, more than all other gifts
That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts.
Touching, those Romantics. But does the “child effect” happen on a larger, sociological scale? We all know that good parents have a salutary effect on children. Do children tend to have a beneficial effect on parents, making them more responsible, or social? I’m not sure what sort of experiments could determine this. Obviously there are deadbeat dads all over the place, but what if there’s a pattern of irresponsible blokes who, after having a child, settle down and shape up? Why, we could encourage people to have kids. Republicans should be all over this (as if we need reasons to read Eliot).
-- Brad Plumer 11:48 PM || ||