Work and Plot Overview
Marner: the Weaver of Raveloe (pronounced RAV
uh low) is a realistic
novel centering on a humble weaver who renounces
religion and humanity
after members of his church find him guilty of a
crime he did not commit.
After he moves to a new town, he suffers another
reversal when a thief
steals a small fortune he had amassed from his
weaving trade. The rest
of the novel focuses on his transformation from an
embittered man into
a happy and beloved member of his community after he
adopts a two-year-old
girl who mysteriously wanders into his home on a
snowy New Year's Eve.
usually classed as a realistic work, Silas
Marner contains elements
of a fairy tale, such as thoroughgoing villains, a
cache of gold, and a
Blackwood & Sons of Edinburgh, Scotland, first
published the novel
in 1861 in Edinburgh and London.
novel contains fifteen chapters in Part I and
twenty chapters and a conclusion
in Part II. The narrator begins the story in the
present in the village
of Raveloe, where Silas Marner lives in a stone
cottage and remains aloof
from the rest of the people in the community. The
narrator then flashes
back fifteen years to a time when Marner lived in
the village of Lantern
Yard. There, he was a respected member of a
community of churchgoers until
he was found guilty of a theft that he did not
commit. Next, the narrator
returns to the present to resume the story.
Finally the narrator flashes
forward sixteen years to reveal developments at
this later time.
action takes place in fictional rural locales,
Raveloe and Lantern Yard,
in central England (probably the county of
Warwickshire). The narrator
says Raveloe, where most of the action takes place,
"lay low among the
bushy trees and the rutted lanes, aloof from the
currents of industrial
energy and Puritan earnestness."
the first chapter, the narrator reports that the
action begins "in the
early years" of the eighteenth century. This
information, along with an
allusion to the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815) in the
same chapter and allusions
to King George III in Chapter 4 and Chapter 8, thus
indicate that the the
time at the beginning of the novel in the village of
Raveloe is a year
between 1800 and 1815. When the novel flashes back
fifteen years to present
an account of Marner's life in the village of
Lantern Yard, the time is
between 1785 and 1800. After the novel flashes back
to the present, between
1800 and 1815, most of the story unfolds in a single
year. Later, the novel
flashes ahead sixteen years to a time between 1816
and Social Background
novel opens in the village of Raveloe, a remote and
idyllic community that
has yet to experience the impact of the Industrial
Revolution and its smoky
factories and clanking machines. In Raveloe and the
landowners, farmers, and craftsmen such as
wheelwrights and shoemakers
remain the backbone of the economy. They are
religious folk, but not strictly
so, as the narrator points out: "Raveloe was not a
place where moral censure
was severe" (Chapter 3). The narrator also says,
of Raveloe were not severely regular in their
church-going, and perhaps
there was hardly a person in the parish who would
not have held that to
go to church every Sunday in the calendar would have
shown a greedy desire
to stand well with Heaven, and get an undue
advantage over their neighbors—a
wish to be better than the "common run," that would
have implied a reflection
on those who had had godfathers and godmothers as
well as themselves, and
had an equal right to the burying-service. At the
same time, it was understood
to be requisite for all who were not household
servants, or young men,
to take the sacrament at one of the great festivals:
Squire Cass himself
took it on Christmas day; while those who were held
to be "good livers"
went to church with greater, though still with
moderate, frequency. (Chapter
contrast, in Lantern Yard—where
lived before moving to Raveloe—the
of the tightly knit community are somber and strictly
in Calvinistic predestination. Unlike the easygoing
they do not take part in drinking and festive parties.
By the end of the
novel, the Industrial Revolution invades the
community, turning many of
its citizens into grimy factory workers.
they generally are not strait-laced, the Raveloe folk
enjoy a lively party,
dancing and fiddling, and a glass of ale at the
Rainbow, a public house
narrator calls attention from time to time class
distinctions. For example,
at a New Year's Eve party, the well-to-do participate
in the activities
while lowlier persons attend only as observers, as the
out: "Already Mr. Macey and a few other privileged
villagers, who were
allowed to be spectators on these great occasions,
were seated on benches
placed for them near the door; and great was the
admiration and satisfaction
in that quarter when the couples had formed themselves
for the dance. .
." (Chapter 12).
passage that underscores class differences is the
following: "It was the
rural fashion of that time for the more important
members of the congregation
to depart first, while their humbler neighbors waited
and looked on, stroking
their bent heads or dropping their curtsies to any
large ratepayer who
turned to notice them" (Chapter 16).
quotation preceding the novel is from "Michael," an
1800 pastoral poem
by William Wordsworth. The quotation reads as
child, more than
all other gifts
quotation looks ahead to
one of the main themes of the novel, as enunciated in
Isaiah 11:6 of the
Old Testament: And a little child shall lead them.
In Silas Marner,
Silas's adopted child, Eppie, restores love to his
life and becomes a positive
influence on all the residents of Raveloe.
can offer to
with it, and
forward-looking thoughts. (lines 146-148)
weaver falsely accused of stealing money in the town
of Lantern Yard. When
he moves to Raveloe, he is a bitter man and lives
only to make money in
his weaving trade. After he amasses a fortune in
gold coins, a resident
of the community steals it. Marner is distraught,
but a baby girl comes
into his life after her mother dies. He adopts the
girl and becomes a changed
man. Marner occasionally suffers cataleptic fits
that immobilize him in
a trance. He was experiencing one of these fits when
another man took the
money that Marner was accused of stealing.
Silas adopts when she is two years old.
Mother of Eppie. An opium addict in declining
health, she dies on the side
of a road on a snowy New Year's Eve with her baby in
her arms. The child,
seeing the light in Silas Marner's cottage, wanders
into the house and
goes to sleep by the fireplace.
Raveloe widower with land and tenants. He lives in a
large mansion called
the Red House.
son and heir of Squire Cass. He is in love with
Nancy Lammeter but is secretly
married to Molly and is the biological father of
Evil son of Squire Cass. He is a drinker and gambler
who squanders money.
Dunstan blackmails Godfrey under the threat that he
will reveal that Godfrey
is married to Molly. One evening, he steals Marner's
and upstanding young woman of Raveloe who loves
of Nancy Lammeter and master of lands known as the
of Mr. Lammeter and sister of Mr. Osgood.
Raveloe resident well known for her charitable work.
She befriends Silas
and sometimes helps him look after Eppie.
and husband of Dorothy.
of Dorothy and Ben Winthrop. When he and Eppie grow
up, they fall in love.
apothecary who serves as a physician even though he
does not have a university
degree. He is Godfrey Cass's godfather.
Kimble's wife and sister of Squire Cass.
Rector of the Raveloe church.
rector of the Raveloe church.
owner and prominent citizen of Raveloe.
of Mr. Osgood. Silas makes table linen for her.
of Nancy Lammeter.
and parish clerk.
and talented fiddler who plays at a New Year's Eve
party given by Squire
of Nancy Lammeter.
daughters of a wine merchant from the town of
Lytherley. They attend a
New Year's Eve party at the home of Squire Cass.
at the New Year's Eve party of Squire Cass.
of Miss Ladbrook.
of the Rainbow, a pub.
of the stables at the Warrens.
of a school attended by Nancy Lammeter.
wife of Mr. Oates. She is cured by Silas Marner
after the doctor's treatment
little sister, who died when she was a child. She
was named after her mother.
Man who agrees
to buy a horse from Dunstan Cass. Cass pretends that
it is his horse, but
it actually belongs to his brother Godfrey. Before
delivering the horse
to the stables designated by Bryce, Dunstan rides
the horse in a hunt.
When he recklessly leaps fences to display his
horsemanship, the animal
is killed when it falls.
who presides at Raveloe and the town of Tarley. He
conducts an inquiry
into the theft of Marner's money.
peddler suspected of the theft of Marner's money.
Raveloe who handles legal matters for Squire Cass.
friend of Silas in Lantern Yard. He steals the
church money and blames
by Silas in Lantern Yard. After church members
falsely accuse him of stealing
money, she breaks off her relationship with him and
married William Dane.
of the church money in Lantern Yard. When he is
terminally ill, Silas sits
up with him. After the deacon dies, church members
discover that the box
in which he kept the their money has been stolen.
They find Silas guilty
of the theft.
of the church in Lantern Yard.
of the church in Lantern Yard.
who settles in Lantern Yard after Silas takes up
residence in Raveloe.
When Silas returns to Lantern Yard for a visit, he
asks the brush maker
for information about residents he knew.
narrator tells the story in omniscient
third-person point of view. The
narrator is thus able to reveal the thoughts of
the characters. However,
there are passages in the novel in which the
narrator pauses to speak to
the reader in first-person point of view, as in
the following passage:
there anything you can fancy that you would like
to eat?" I once said to
an old laboring man, who was in his last illness,
and who had refused all
the food his wife had offered him. "No," he
answered, "I've never been
used to nothing but common victual, and I can't
eat that." Experience had
bred no fancies in him that could raise the
phantasm of appetite. (Chapter
Michael J. Cummings...©
a stone cottage near the edge of a stone pit on
the outskirts of the village
of Raveloe in central England, Silas Marner plies
his weaving trade at
a loom in his home. Villagers regard him with
suspicion. First, he practices
a trade that superstitions of his time associate
with the devil. Second,
although he has lived near the village for fifteen
years, he is considered
an outsider, for townsfolk still do not know much
about him or the place
he came from—a mysterious district known to them
as “North-ard.” After
he set up shop, “he invited no comer to step
across his door-sill, and
he never strolled into the village to drink a pint
at the Rainbow, a pub,
or to gossip at the wheelwright's: he sought no
man or woman, save for
the purposes of his calling, or in order to supply
himself with necessaries.
. .” (Chapter 1). Third, he is an oddity, a
fearsome one. Local mole-catcher
Jem Rodney once saw Marner standing rigidly
upright like a statue. When
Jem spoke to him and shook him, Marner did not
respond. His hands, with
which he held his bag, were like iron. When he
came out of his trance,
Marner said, “Good night” to Rodney and walked
are those who speculate that Marner had suffered a
fit. But the parish
clerk, Mr. Macey, says a fit causes the victim to
fall down. Marner did
not. It is possible, some say, that during such
trances Marner's soul leaves
his body, then reanimates it when it
knowledge of charms and herbs, passed on to him by
his mother, also arouse
suspicion. And it is a puzzle how he managed to
cure the cobbler's wife,
Sally Oats, enabling her to sleep peacefully after
suffering a rapid heartbeat
for two months under the care of the local doctor,
of their suspicions about Marner, the villagers
fear him. Consequently,
they do not ridicule him or his peculiarities. In
fact, housewives with
money actually welcome his presence, for he is the
only weaver in the region.
It is said that over the years he has accumulated
a vast fortune earned
from his trade.
settling at Raveloe, Marner lived in the town of
Lantern Yard as a respected
citizen and church member. It was one of his
trances that helped to build
the esteem he received. He experienced one during
a church service, and
parishioners interpreted it as a sign of
best friend was a young parishioner, William Dane.
They talked frequently
about salvation, and Dane once told Marner he had
a dream in which he saw
the phrase “calling and election sure.” He took
the dream as a sign that
he would be saved.
became engaged to a servant girl, Sarah. When they
were together on Sundays,
Dane occasionally accepted their invitation to
join them. On one occasion,
he raised the subject of Marner's trances,
suggesting that they could be
the work of the devil. He then advised Marner to
examine the condition
of his soul. A short while later,
began exhibiting a coolness toward Silas.
the senior deacon of the church became gravely
ill. Because he was a widower
and had no children, church members took turns
tending him. One night,
during Marner's shift, Silas looked over and
discovered that the deacon
had stopped breathing. He was dead. It was 4 a.m.
Because Dane was supposed
to have relieved Marner at 2 a.m., Silas wondered
whether he was asleep
when the deacon died. After reporting the death,
Marner went home while
the minister and other members of the congregation
took care of the deacon's
six o'clock, Marner was summoned to the church.
There, before other members
of the congregation, the minister accused Silas of
stealing a bag of church
funds that had been kept in a drawer of a bureau
to the deacon's desk.
In its place was a pocketknife that belonged to
Silas. Marner proclaimed
his innocence and theorized that someone must have
taken the money while
he was asleep or perhaps in one of his trances.
But the minister was unconvinced,
saying Marner was the only one in the room when
the deacon died. Dane acknowledged
that he was supposed to relieve Silas but said he
felt ill at the time
and did not go to the deacon's house.
an attempt to exonerate himself, Marner then
invited the minister to search
him and his home for the money. When the search
was undertaken, Dane found
the bag of money behind a chest of drawers in
Marner's home. Silas continued
to plead his innocence, but the church members
found him guilty of the
theft. When everyone rose to leave, Silas
remembered that the last time
he used the knife was to cut a strap for Dane. He
then accused Dane of
the theft and of a plot to implicate Silas. But no
one accepted this explanation.
In the next few days, Sarah withdrew from her
engagement to Silas and,
within a month, had married William Dane. Shortly
thereafter, Silas left
Lantern Yard and settled at Raveloe, a remote
village in a hollow that
was an hour's ride from the nearest main
was bitter. His faith in God had been shaken. So
he lost himself in his
loom, working hard during the day and sometimes
far into the night to complete
Mrs. Osgood's linens and the orders of other
customers. When she paid him,
he received five guineas. In the past, he received
a small weekly salary
from a wholesale dealer and then donated a goodly
portion of it to religious
and charitable causes. In Raveloe, he was on his
own, and he was making
excellent money. Because of the antipathy he
developed toward others and
because he had lost his devotion to religion, he
kept the money for himself.
It felt good in his hands.
carried on this way for fifteen years while
enduring the suspicions his
neighbors. His only solace was in his money. Now,
each night he takes it
from beneath the floorboards and counts it. Oddly,
though, he uses little
of it, and lives meagerly.
wealthiest and most honored citizen of Raveloe is
Squire Cass, who lives
in a magnificent red house with stables in the
back and a flight of stone
steps in the front. His wife has been dead for
some time. He has three
sons. From oldest to youngest, they are Godfrey,
Dunstan, and Bob. Dunstan
gambles and drinks and has an evil temperament.
Godfrey is pleasant and
easygoing but in recent times has been walking the
same road as his brother.
Townspeople wonder whether his behavior will sour
his relationship with
the beautiful Nancy Lammeter, a morally upstanding
young lady of the town.
What the people do not know is that Godfrey is
already married to a servant
girl, Molly Farren, an opium addict. Godfrey
married her in a moment of
weakness, “partly due to a trap laid for him by
Dunstan, who saw in his
brother's degrading marriage the means of
gratifying at once his jealous
hate and his cupidity.” The marriage thus enables
Dunstan to blackmail
Godfrey under the threat that he will reveal the
day, Godfrey asks Dunstan—or Dunsey, as he is
called—to return rent money
that Godfrey had collected from one of his
father's tenants, a man named
Fowler. Godfrey had given it to Dunstan as the
price of his silence. However,
Godfrey says his father—believing that the tenant
has not paid his rent—is
now threatening to seize the tenant's property.
Consequently, Godfrey must
now give the money to the Squire to avoid trouble.
But Dunsey refuses to
return the rent. They argue and come to an
agreement. Godfrey must give
his horse, Wildfire, to Dunsey, who will then sell
it to repay the money.
next day, Dunstan rides Wildfire to a hunt in open
country. There, he encounters
a young man named Bryce, who has long admired the
horse. Bryce offers Dunstan
one hundred twenty pounds for it, payable when the
horse is delivered to
Batherley Stables. Dunstan accepts the offer. But
rather than turn over
the horse immediately, he decides to ride it in
the hunt to show off his
horsemanship. When jumping fences, he takes one
too many chances. The horse
falls and a stake pierces and kills it.
his long walk back to Raveloe, he comes upon
Marner's home. Aware of reports
that the weaver has a vast sum hidden in the
house, Dunstan decides to
introduce himself to Marner and find a way to
cheat him out of money. When
he knocks on the door and receives no answer, he
discovers that the door
is not locked. Inside, Marner is nowhere to be
seen. Dunstan conducts a
search and notices loose bricks on the floor. When
he removes them, he
finds two heavy leather bags containing Marner's
gold. After replacing
the bricks, he runs off with his find.
Marner is returning from the Lammeter home, where
he has delivered some
of his handiwork to Mrs. Lammeter. Once inside, he
decides to eat his meal
while looking at his gold guineas. But when he
removes the bricks, he finds
only emptiness. After he reports the theft, the
burglary is the talk of
the town. When the church rector, Mr.
Crackenthorp, discuss the crime with
members of his congregation, Mr. Snell theorizes
that the culprit might
be a peddler who had passed through town. The
glazier's wife and the cobbler's
daughter both remember the man. Marner himself
says the peddler had called
at his house, but Silas did not let him in and did
not buy anything from
Godfrey learns from Bryce about Wildfire, he
decides to come clean and
tells his father that he lent Dunsey the hundred
pounds in rent money that
he received from Fowler. When the squire asks why
he gave Dunsey the money,
Godfrey simply says he doesn't know.
don't know? I tell you what it is, sir. You've
been up to some trick, and
you've been bribing him not to tell," said the
is taken aback at how close his father is to the
truth. His father then
lectures Godfrey on his errant ways and asks him
why he has not yet asked
Nancy Lammeter to marry him. The Squire even
offers to ask the Lammeter
family for her hand on Godfrey's behalf. Godfrey
shudders at this thought
and tells his father that a “man must manage these
things for himself.”
Marner is downhearted about the loss of his money.
However, many villagers
who were suspicious of him now regard him in a
kindly light. As the Christmas
season arrives, they offer him words of
consolation when they see him on
the streets. Several villagers, such as Mr. Macey,
visit him in his home
to cheer him up. Dolly Winthrop, the wife of
wheelwright Ben Winthrop,
calls on him one Sunday afternoon with her boy,
Aaron, age seven. She presents
Silas lard cakes inscribed with the letters I.H.S.
(an abbreviation derived
from the Greek word for Jesus). Although she does
not know their meaning,
she assures Marner they stand for something
the same as is on the pulpit-cloth at church,” she
urges him to go to church, saying he will be the
better for the experience.
She has Aaron sing “God rest ye, merry gentlemen”
for him, hoping it will
awaken to religion. Although grateful for her
visit, Silas is relieved
after she leaves—“relieved that he might weave
again and moan at his ease.”
When Christmas arrives, he spends the day alone.
Elsewhere, the Cass family
celebrates Christmas with relatives, but Dunstan
New Year's Eve, Squire Cass hosts his annual dance
party, a gala event
attended by people from Raveloe and the nearby
town of Tarley. Among the
guests are Nancy Lammeter and her sister,
Priscilla, for whom places are
reserved near the head of the tea table. Mrs.
Kimble, the Squire's sister
and wife of the town doctor, greets her warmly.
Nancy looks radiant but
plans to avoid Godfrey because of his erratic
behavior of late. However,
after he dances with her and pays close attentiont
to her, her attitude
on the snowy streets, Molly is making her way
toward the Cass house with
her and Godfrey's child in her arms. Feeling
bitter toward him because
he ignores her, she plans to enter the home and
reveal herself as Godfrey's
wife. She is cold and weary. For comfort, she
drinks opium from a phial.
As she continues on her way, she becomes drowsy
and eventually slouches
down against a furze bush with her arms around the
baby. The snow is soft;
she does not feel its coldness. A moment later,
she slips from consciousness
and the child tumbles from her arms. Seeing a
light at a nearby house,
the child toddles toward it, walks through the
open door, and goes over
to the fire and warms herself. After a moment or
two, she lies down on
Silas Marner's coat, which he had laid before the
fire to dry.
had left the door open in the hope that someone
would come in with news
of his money. After the child is nestled at the
fire, he comes into the
room, closes the door, goes over to the fire, and
discovers the child.
His first reaction is to think he is dreaming of
his little sister, who
died when she was a child. Then the reality of the
matter settles in and
he wonders where the child came from. When it
awakens and cries, he feeds
it porridge and comforts it. Later, he follows the
child's imprints in
the snow and finds Molly. With the child in his
arms, he hurries to the
Squire's and tells Mr. Crackenthorp he has
discovered a woman in the snow
near his house. She appears to be dead, he says.
While Crackenthorp informs
Dr. Kimble, Mrs. Kimble suggests that Silas leave
the child with her. But
can't part with it; I can't let it go. It's come
to me—I've a right to
who knows that the child is his but does not say
so, hurries out and fetches
Dolly Winthrop to go with him to see the woman.
When he and Dolly arrive,
Dr. Kimble is inside Marner's house with the body
of Molly. When he comes
out, he tells Godfrey that the woman is dead.
Silas arrives with the baby, Godfrey asks him
whether he will be taking
her to the parish the next day. But Silas says he
plans to keep the child.
anybody shows they've a right to take her away
from me," says Marner. "The
mother's dead, and I reckon it's got no father;
it's a lone thing—and I'm
a lone thing. My money's gone, I don't know
where—and this is come from
I don't know where. I know nothing—I'm partly
calls the little girl Eppie. As he rears her,
Dolly Winthrop assists him
from time to time. All the villagers and country
folk now treat Silas with
respect, for they have grown to admire him for
taking the child in. When
he delivers his linens to farmhouses, he generally
takes Eppie with him.
Everyone greets him with a smile. Servant girls
like to take Eppie into
the farmyards to show her the animals or into
orchards to shake cherries
from the trees.
Godfrey Cass is a new man. For one thing, Dunstan
has not returned to torment
him. There is talk that he became a soldier or
went to a foreign country.
For another, Godfrey is now free to marry Nancy
Lammeter. He has not forgotten,
however, about his child. He resolves that he will
provide well for her,
although he decides to keep secret that he is her
years pass. Godfrey and Nancy are husband and
wife. Their only child has
died, and Nancy has been unable to have another.
Upon the death of his
father, Godfrey inherited all the Cass property.
Eppie has grown into a
beautiful eighteen-year-old who dearly loves
Silas. He has told her the
story of how she came to him on that cold winter
night while her mother
was lying dead next to the furze bush. He has also
given her a lacquered
box containing her mother's wedding ring, which
she cherishes. She asks
Silas now and then about her mother but exhibits
little curiosity about
her biological father.
now attends church with her. Walking behind her
one Sunday is a handsome
young man, Aaron, Dolly Winthrop's son. When he
overhears Eppie express
a desire to have a garden, he volunteers to dig
it. Silas approves of the
idea. At Eppie's request, Aaron transplants to the
garden the furze bush
where her mother was found. To keep animals out of
the garden, the Marners
build a wall with rocks from the stone pit, which
is being drained to provide
water for fields formerly owned by Mr. Osgood but
now owned by Godfrey
day, Godfrey comes through the door of his home
with a pale face and tells
his wife to sit down, for he has shocking news.
She at first thinks something
has happened to her father or sister Priscilla,
but he assures her that
it doesn't concern them.
Dunstan—my brother Dunstan, that we lost sight of
sixteen years ago. We've
found him—found his body—his skeleton."
the stone pit was drained, workers found the
skeleton at the bottom, along
with his watch and a hunting whip. They also found
Marner's money. What
had happened became clear: Dunstan stole Marner's
money. While running
away, he fell into the pit and drowned. Nancy
senses that there is more
to the story, and of course she is right.
comes to light, Nancy, sooner or later,” he says.
“When God Almighty wills
it, our secrets are found out. I've lived with a
secret on my mind, but
I'll keep it from you no longer.”
then tells her about his past—about Molly, about
his child, about everything.
But Nancy does not become angry. Instead, she
Godfrey—if we'd had her from the first, if you'd
taken to her as you ought,
she'd have loved me for her mother—and you'd have
been happier with me:
I could better have bore my little baby dying, and
our life might have
been more like what we used to think it 'ud be."
also tells him it is his duty to provide for Eppie
and reveal publicly
that he is her father. “I'll do my part by her,"
Nancy says, "and pray
to God Almighty to make her love me."
they tell Silas and Eppie the full story, Eppie
says she is content to
remain with Silas. Godfrey and Nancy say they will
support her in any way
later returns to Lantern Yard—which has been
invaded by a factory and the
Industrial Revolution—to learn whether he was ever
exonerated of the theft
of the church money. But the town has changed
considerably since he left
it, and he cannot find the answers he seeks.
Nevertheless, he is happy
to live on as the proud father of Eppie. In time,
she marries Aaron. On
the day of the wedding, she tells Silas, "You
won't be giving me away,
father"; "you'll only be taking Aaron to be a son
so Aaron and Eppie settle down with Silas in his
cottage, which Godfrey
has remodeled and enlarged.
the Greatest Treasure
church members at Lantern Yard find Silas Marner
guilty of a crime he did
not commit, he becomes bitter—bitter against
religion, bitter against his
fellow man. He derives consolation only from the
money he makes as a weaver.
In time, he builds a small fortune and grows to
love his gold coins. They
are his children, his family, and he frequently
takes them out feel them
and dote on them. Then one day his money is gone.
In its place is a child,
who brings love back into his life. In the end,
the love she gives to him—and
he to her—proves a far greater treasure than any
Child Shall Lead Them
presence heals Silas of his bitterness and helps
to bring together the
people of Raveloe. She demonstrates the truth of
this Old Testament passage:
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb: and the
leopard shall lie down with
the kid: the calf and the lion, and the sheep
shall abide together, and
a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah
first loses his reputation, then all of his money.
But divine justice gives
back his reputation and replaces his money with
something far greater,
the love of a child. Meanwhile, the villainous
Dunstan Cass, who stole
Marner's money and schemed against his brother, ends
up dead in the bottom
of a pit.
Dane deceives Silas into believing that he is his
friend, then steals the
church money and blames Silas. Godfrey deceives
everyone when he conceals
his marriage to Molly. He continues his deceit when
he refuses to acknowledge
that he is the father of Eppie. After arriving in
Raveloe, Silas deceives
himself into believing he needs no friends or no
Love of Money
loves money and will do anything to get it:
blackmail, steal, lie, gamble.
William Dane betrays Silas to get the church money.
Silas devotes himself
entirely to the accumulation of money. But, as the
Bible says, “the love
of money is the root of all evil.” Silas prospers
only after he loses his
money. Dunstan dies after stealing money.
must live with the
sins of theft and betrayal on his soul.
Marner arrives in Raveloe, some residents regard him
with suspicion, viewing
him as a dark soul who is perhaps in league with the
devil. Here is what
the narrator says about Silas and other weavers:
barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men
on the upland, dark against the early winter sunset;
for what dog likes
a figure bent under a heavy bag?—and these
pale men rarely stirred abroad without that
mysterious burden. The shepherd
himself, though he had good reason to believe that
the bag held nothing
but flaxen thread, or else the long rolls of strong
linen spun from that
thread, was not quite sure that this trade of
weaving, indispensable though
it was, could be carried on entirely without the
help of the Evil One. .......Here
is another Chapter 1 passage that underscores this
he came from distant parts, hardly ever ceased to be
viewed with a remnant
of distrust, which would have prevented any surprise
if a long course of
inoffensive conduct on his part had ended in the
commission of a crime;
especially if he had any reputation for knowledge,
or showed any skill
in handicraft. All cleverness, whether in the rapid
use of that difficult
instrument the tongue, or in some other art
unfamiliar to villagers, was
in itself suspicious: honest folk, born and bred in
a visible manner, were
mostly not overwise or clever—at
beyond such a matter as knowing the signs of the
weather; and the process
by which rapidity and dexterity of any kind were
acquired was so wholly
hidden, that they partook of the nature of
conjuring. In this way it came
to pass that those scattered linen-weavers—emigrants
from the town into the country—were
last regarded as aliens by their rustic neighbors. .
climax occurs when Molly's child enters Marner's
life, a turning point
that begins to restore his faith in God and
Marner suffers occasional bouts of catalepsy, a
seizure in which the muscles
become rigid and the victim fails to respond to an
external stimulus, such
as Jem Rodney's attempt to rouse Marner by
shaking him. Catalepsy
may be a symptom of various physical and
psychological disorders, such
as epilepsy, hysteria, and schizophrenia. A
cataleptic trance may last
for minutes, hours, or even days. The narrator
does not elaborate on the
cause of Marner's trances.
catalepsy contributes to plot and character
development in several ways:
(1) It helps the author to Silas him apart as an
outsider, someone who
is strange and different from other Raveloe
residents; (2) it provides
the means for William Dane to steal the church
money and blame Marner;
(3) it demonstrates the tendency of people of an
earlier time to attribute
inexplicable phenomenon to a paranormal, divine,
or satanic activity.
Dane's Dream and Betrayal of Marner
Dane tells Silas that he had a dream in which he saw
the words "calling
and election sure," which he interprets as a sign
that assures him of salvation.
Shortly thereafter, he steals the Lantern Yard
church money, plants it
in Silas's home, and blames Silas for the theft. His
action suggests that,
feeling assured of salvation by his dream, he could
execute his nefarious
plot against Silas with moral impunity. The entire
episode could represent
the author's rebuke of the Calvinistic doctrine that
God chooses certain
persons for "election" to heaven.
Role of Marner's Sister
impression Marner's little sister, Hephzibah, made
on him appears to have
influenced his decision to adopt Eppie. Note that
when he first sees Molly's
little girl, he immediately thinks of the time when
he cared for his sister:
this be his
little sister come back to him in a dream -- his
little sister whom he
had carried about in his arms for a year before she
died, when he was a
small boy without shoes or stockings? That was the
first thought that darted
across Silas's blank wonderment. Was it a dream? He
rose to his feet again,
pushed his logs together, and, throwing on some
dried leaves and sticks,
raised a flame; but the flame did not disperse the
vision -- it only lit
up more distinctly the little round form of the
child, and its shabby clothing.
It was very much like his little sister. (Chapter
Hebrew, the name Hephzibah means "my delight
is in her." A reference
to Hephzibah in Isaiah 62:4 says, "Thou shalt no more
be termed Forsaken;
neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate:
but thou shalt be called
Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord
delighteth in thee, and thy
land shall be married."
are examples of figures of speech in the
of a consonant
garment suggesting a coachman's
out under an exiguity of cloth
that would only allow of miniature capes,
is not well adapted to conceal
deficiencies of contour
was the Squire's
as well as the doctor's
and the wide trackless
to narrow his solitude
Marner has a small fortune in gold, he is poor (in
spirit). After Dunstan
steals his gold, Silas becomes a rich man, thanks to
the presence of Eppie.
Fortune means misfortune
for Dunstan Cass. After he runs away with the cache
of gold, he falls into
the stone pit and dies.
Without Using Like, As or Than
taking draughts of forgetfulness from the sweet
presence of Nancy (Chapter
12: comparison of forgetfulness to a beverage)
an extended metaphor
comparing Silas Marner to a ghost.
that the cause
of her dingy rags was not her husband's neglect, but
the demon Opium (Chapter
12: comparison of opium to a demon)
years after Silas
Marner had found his new treasure on the hearth
(Chapter 16: comparison
of Eppie to a treasure such as gold)
the next moment
there seemed to be some evidence that ghosts had a
more condescending disposition
than Mr. Macey had attributed to them; for the pale
thin figure of Silas
Marner was suddenly seen standing in the warm light,
uttering no word,
but looking round at the company with his strange
unearthly eyes. The long
pipes [smoked by the tavern patrons] gave a
simultaneous movement, like
the antennae of startled insects, and every man
present, not excepting
even the skeptical farrier, had an impression that
he saw, not Silas Marner
in the flesh, but an apparition; for the door by
which Silas had entered
was hidden by the high-screened seats, and no one
had noticed his approach.
Mr. Macey, sitting a long way off the ghost, might
be supposed to have
felt an argumentative triumph, which would tend to
neutralize his share
of the general alarm. Oxymoron
words to reveal a truth or present an apt description
qualities or human form to objects and abstractions
who has laid
his hand on them all (Chapter 16)
folding her wings,
looked backward and became regret?
using like, as, or than
seemed to weave,
like the spider, from pure impulse, without
reflection. (Chapter 2)
of Allusions and Names
'ull grow like
grass i' May, bless it -- that it will." 14 Dolly
was open, and it
walked in over the snow, like as if it had been a
little starved robin.
clear as the
flower-born dew 16
10): Christian profession of faith on the
doctrines of the Trinity
and the Incarnation, as expounded by St. Athanasius
of Alexandria (born
circa AD 296 and died 373). Athanasius himself
probably did not write the
14): Allusion to the cities of Sodom and
Gomorrah in the Old Testament.
Chapters 18 and 19 of Genesis report that God
destroyed both cities because
of the wickedness of their inhabitants. However,
angels escorted the righteous
people in the city to safety.
cattle with short horns.
for "my delight is in her." A reference to Hephzibah
in Isaiah 62:4 says,
"Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither
shall thy land any more
be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called
Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah:
for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall
of the Greek word for Jesus.
(Chapter 1): Devoted friend of David, the
future king of Israel, as
recounted in the Old Testament in Samuel I and
the Great (849-899), king of Wessex in southwestern
England and scholar
who promoted learning.
4, 8): George III (1738-1820), king of England
from 1760 to 1820.
Feast of St. Michael the Archangel on September 29.
Anglicans refer to
it as the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.
6, 10): Nickname for the devil.
times (Chapter 1):
Allusion to the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815).
Questions and Essay
information from the story and from reliable
research sources, write a
psychological profile of Silas Marner or Godfrey
are the most admirable characters in the novel? Who
are the least admirable?
your opinion, why did Molly become an opium addict?
does Marner's catalepsy affect plot developments?
Many of the characters
in Silas Marner speak with a dialect
prevalent in the English Midlands
early in the 1800s. Following is an example from
said Mr. Macey, pausing, and smiling in pity at the
impotence of his hearer's
imagination -- "why, I was all of a tremble: it was
as if I'd been a coat
pulled by the two tails, like; for I couldn't stop
the parson, I couldn't
take upon me to do that; and yet I said to myself, I
says, 'Suppose they
shouldn't be fast married, cause the words are
contrairy?' and my head
went working like a mill, for I was allays uncommon
for turning things
over and seeing all round 'em; and I says to myself,
'Is't the meanin'
or the words as makes folks fast i' wedlock?' For
the parson meant right,
and the bride and bridegroom meant right. But then,
when I come to think
on it, meanin' goes but a little way i' most things,
for you may mean to
stick things together and your glue may be bad, and
then where are you?
And so I says to mysen, 'It isn't the meanin', it's
the glue.' And I was
worreted as if I'd got three bells to pull at once,
when we went into the
vestry. . . . Write a
paragraph of about the
same length that imitates a conspicuous dialect spoken
in a city or rural
from Marner was two hundred and seventy-two pounds,
twelve and six-pence.
How much would that sum be worth in modern English or
Write an essay
comparing and contrasting Silas Marner with Ebenezer
Scrooge, the miser
in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.
affliction, catalepsy, arouses suspicion of him. Write
an essay about illnesses
today with unusual symptoms that cause people to stare
at or even ridicule
those suffering from the illnesses. As a start,
consider researching the
following disorders: echolalia, Tourette's syndrome,
disorder, and Prader-Willi Syndrome.
Which people in
Marner are happiest, those of high social
status or those of low social