George Eliot: Brother Jacob

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George Eliot: Brother Jacob


The story by George Eliot on Brother Jacob unfolds a kind of conflict of two brothers as well as the temptations of sugar. This product tells the story’s sense of lightheartedness. However, the sugar that is in the middle decades of 19th century in Britain or England was the centerpiece of intense economic and moral debate. All this was connected to slavery, free trade, emancipation and generally the social definition of things. It is a study of the reverse, that is, a study that concentrates on change of identity, secrecy and deceptive. In this story of Brother Jacob, the young confectioner steals guineas from his mother and then heads for Jamaica. Particularly, this Jacob lived with a dream to go up the ladder and reach its top even when the tip is the heaven.

This Jacob’s endeavor borrows heavily from the biblical Jacob, and just as the story of biblical Jacob has inspired the Christians, this story of Jacob is inspiring where the character wants to climb the ladder to success. Ladders are supposed to represent hope, that is, at one time, somebody would be able to reach the peak where each one of us who wants achievement. Therefore, the ladder that is in this story for Jacob is a kind of ladder that represents a beanstalk with the ultimate aim to climb just like others who have made to go to the top.  Poverty and other forms of social problems can make one be only wishing of getting anything for the sole purpose of surviving. The story highlights the problem especially the hunger that reins in the family that Jacob and his brother were. As would be seen later stealing is part of the results that occur after the problems reins on them to the extreme.

Actually, how is possible for somebody to learn that while he or she eats food that does not have salt, there are others who feed on food with salt and with more added flavor. This is what drives the character in the story to give him another character or attitude to start dreaming of getting to the top. Therefore, the aspiration are those of a person who has had turned his life to another, from extreme lack of something to affluence of having something. Eliot (4) quotes that, “I have known a man who turned out to have metaphysical genius, incautiously, in the period of youthful buoyancy, commence his career as a dancing master…” These are the dreams that exist in the characters in the story, and they make them have fantasies of acquiring affluences as well just like any other person who lives in this world. Stealing is one of these ways of acquiring what is required of persons, and this is in attempts to justify themselves there needed not to be inequality.

Actually, another problem that persists in the likes of Jacob and his brother in the story is lack of appreciation in a comfortable life. When a man lacks this, he can have any kind of thoughts just to acquire this, and he dreams of a ladder that can take him up to his dreams. David’s mind was cycling around this with his aspirations being the utmost limits in this life, and especially of his geographical knowledge. That is in such of a country that could have men of pasty visage, stumpy hair and lipless mouth and where he could be received with warmth other than his current area of residence. He had the idea of supplying himself with money that could provide this and for sometime, life seems that it was directed to the life that he aspired to have; the life of a rich person, and a person who only experiences little of the struggles that he has.

This story as noted earlier has references to the biblical story of Jacob, and therefore, George Eliot wants to portray a man who has problems but at the end, there is an opening for the person to live as he wishes. Actually, the author notes at the end that the old days would go, and what would remain is a land full of angels that are guiding men, taking them by their hands. Even though there is not white winged angels in the story, men are led away from their lands that are threatening when hands are put around them. These lead them from the destruction world to the land of affluence, and this means that the bright hand is the hand of God that had seen their cries. Even this book and the story could be portrayed as a bizarre, it may not be the same case to many who view it as an inspiring story of how people can turn themselves from worse to better with the help of a little hand.

Rodstein (295-317) particularly notes of this book as, “It’s tone-bizarre, facetious, and satiric-does not accord with the Eliot Canon of high moral seriousness.” She even tries to note that even the writer noted of the low profile of the book, but when reviewed, it is not possible to note of a book that is lacking sense. This book has sense of persons who can transform themselves from their low like living, to a kind of living that can be appreciated by everybody. This story unfolds in a kind of conflict of two brothers, one being Jacob, and there is the temptations and then it sets the pace for the story. This sugar is the center of the story with it having intense moral, emancipation, and economic debate over slavery, free trade and the social definition. What comes out is that there are so many differences between people of different color, different class, and different living regions and generally, history of their families gives a clear demarcation of the affordability of essential amenities (Rodstein, 295-317).

Later, as Gray (407-423) notes, this book was to be acclaimed as a book that has had focus and noting it as “fine piece of writing”. This is agreeable as even though the language as most reviewers have noted is to be criticized, the message sails across, and the main message is received to show the major demarcation that exists in persons who live different worlds. In early times in England, slavery was a norm, and for a slave, to put proper food in the stomach was just a dream, yet, he or she could seen his or her masters having good food. Therefore, the story is a kind of this reflection where, the poor lives in the land where they are not able to get sufficient, yet, their neighbors are themselves affluent. Nothing to stop these young ones from dreaming of having a life that correlates to the one they could see, and this would have meant that even going to the extremes as stealing.

David had a lot of imagination, and to my analysis, these imaginations are justified; they are of a person who is keen on finding out what the other end holds for him, and perhaps for his brother. He wants to have his master’s money being in his pocket; however, he would do this in a most conscious manner. As Mallen (41-75), George Eliot puts her in the category of prolific writers, especially of those who seem to care for the ones who are down trodden. In this story, she puts and compares the lives of those people who live extremely affluent with others who are their neighbors yet living in a most complicated kind of life. Jacob and his brother would wish, just like other kids to have their families affording everything they want, but this is not the case. Their life is riddled with puzzles; puzzles of how to come out of immense problems. However, she acknowledges that such kind of people can have their living uplifted if they take up their matter to high level, and then having someone to guide them towards their dreams. For most people, the lives that were lived by the two boys would have presented a difficult position for them, but as we see, these two do not lose hope and especially the brother who sees his life as having a ladder to climb.

One may ask a question as to what David would have done with his circumstances, and by her view, it is actually hard to imagine and to emerge as somebody who can cater for himself. However, he thinks twice to take his mother’s money even though he then gets himself trapped, as there was no way of getting any. He actually was a behaved boy to his mother and he would often speak high of her. Therefore, taking away the money would be like going against what he has been practicing for long; however, with such a life, and with a strong vision to succeed in life, then, there had to be some means of getting away to a life that would be helpful. His stealing from his mother was not justifiable, and actually, if his mother had the means, then, she would have probably supported him on his course, and the stealing would have not been the case. Despite this unappealing character of him as we would expect, we can appreciate his determination to move forward from the current situation, and perhaps stealing in this case is justified.


From this story, we can only get an active mind of a boy, who does not agree with what he is now. He wants to move forward and acquire what any other kind of a person could have; not food without salt, but food that has salt just as the master and other persons have. This active mind attracts both criticism and praise, but for me, it is total praise for David. However much we may disapprove of his character, especially that of stealing from his mother, we get another picture of a boy who is determined to transform his life, from the current situations to a kind of situation that can support everybody in his line. People live because they have determination to move forward, and are the ladder we find in this boy who tries to go forward despite the problems driving him backwards.

Works Cited

Eliot, George. Brother Jacob. Middlesex: The Echo Library, 2009.

Gray, B. Pseudoscience and George Eliot’s “The lifted Veil”. University of California Press, March 1999, Vol. 36 (4), pp 407-423.

Mallen, RD. George Eliot and the Precious Mettle of Trust. Victorian studies, autumn 2001, Vol. 44(1), pp 41-75

Rodstein Susan. Sweetness and Dark: George Eliot’s “Brother Jacob”. A journal of Duke University Press, 1991, Vol. 52(3), pp 295-317.


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