Silas House’s book Eli the Good is an epitome of intrigue, symbolism, and an excellent interpretation of the society in the ’70s. His examples of culture, music, and art give the reader a feeling of the70’s. The author further provides a vivid description of characters and scenes, with sound, smell, weather, and other elements, a skill that makes the reader part of the story. House is attentive and gives clear descriptions of color and moods and carefully brings out conflict in the story, guiding the reader from the beginning to the end. He brings out the whole set up through Eli’s life, starting with his childhood as he recalls the summer of 1976. The older Eli introduces his younger self as a young aspiring writer who takes the reader through the events of that summer from a journal he kept when he was ten. As Eli takes the readers on a journey from childhood to early adulthood, the reader gets a mental picture of the story’s setup through House’s outstanding writing skills. Aside from this, House uses real examples of 1976 set up things such as music and culture. Through Eli’s eyes, readers get a virtual tour of the Book’s family problems and surroundings. With these, readers can confidently conclude that Eli the Good is more than just a rite of passage novel, and it touches on all aspects of life differently.
The young Eli finds himself in the middle of the family storm. His father struggles with PSTD resulting from the Vietnam War’s aftermath, which gives him nightmares at night. Eli is curious to find out what troubles his father. There is always a lot of tension in the family, ranging from his father’s change of behavior that threatens to destroy the family, his sister’s Josie constant power struggle with his mother, and Aunt Neil’s conflict with her father following her protest about the Vietnam War. Eli’s refuge from all this turmoil is his friend Edi. The two friends share a passion for reading, riding bikes. They also have a great love for trees. House uses natural elements such as trees and rivers, to symbolize spiritual truth touching these two characters.
House skillfully uses trees to reveal hidden characters about Eli and Edie. He uses different trees to represent each character. The beech tree has slow growth with longevity, dense canopy, and ability to retain smooth ages with time. The author uses this tree to symbolize Eli’s life. His dream to become a writer is illustrated by the longevity of the beech tree. Myers describes the tree with characteristics like slow growth, large canopy, and need no much care (174). As a writer, Eli’s information will remain for generations. Eli wishes that his fast-changing life would be slow and smooth like the beech tree. At ten, he has already undergone much pain, torment, and anxiety. He thrives on making his father happy, and this worries him. He wishes for calmness in his life. This wish is reflected in this statement, “I appreciated beeches in particular because their leaves don’t fall off in the autumn but cling to the branches until new, bright green leaves come back in the spring. All through the winter, the brown, shriveled autumn leaves hang there, staying with the tree” (92). The willow tree’s use represents sadness and emotions like tenacity, stability, healing, and strength and firmness to withstand challenges (Wilkes 86). House uses this tree about Edie. Whenever Edie encountered trouble, the willow trees were her refuge, especially with her parents’ constant fight who were about to divorce. Eli supports this representation by writing, “Usually when this happened, Edie hid out in the high branches of her willow tree” (51). From his words, the reader understands the tree’s usefulness as Edie’s safe house from her parents’ fights. The tree reflects Edie’s source of consolation and comfort.
Another element used by House in the Book is a river to symbolize the ups and downs in Eli’s life. As the river flows and bends across all topographies, the waters continue to move. Similarly, human life must continue despite the obstacles we face. Eli faces many challenges as a boy but continued to fight on with great strength. He even overcomes his childhood cowardice and stands up against bullies by fighting. House portrays the characters’ deep connection with nature, as Eli remembers the elements’ comforts during his hard years. He goes down memory lane, remembering, “I recall Nell saying to me that she came back to see all of us that summer but also came back to see the trees, that you never forget the trees of your childhood, and that –more important – they never forget you. She was right” (291). Even as the character grows, House shows that their strong connection with nature remains.
House beautifully brings out the story with themes such as family, growing pains, and different forms of war. With all these, the Book ranks higher than just a rite of passage novel. We witness the case of the Vietnam War, the battle between Aunt Neil and the state, as well as Josie’s war with each other. Despite all these misunderstandings, the family still holds together. They are signifying strong family ties. Eli the Good is a rich source of growth insights, crafted in a way that keeps the reader entertained and intrigued. However, one can argue that the author puts too much on a child’s mind, with thoughts and information that young children at young Eli’s age cannot relate. As the book ends, readers are hopeful for a bright future, as the author concludes in style. Though readers would wish to find out what happens at the end, they can only hope for the best. This can be seen from Eli’s peaceful sleep and his father retrieving him with a promise of better tomorrow (292).