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Type of Work and Plot Overview
.......Silas 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.
.......Although usually classed as a realistic work, Silas Marner contains elements of a fairy tale, such as thoroughgoing villains, a cache of gold, and a happily-ever-after ending.
Year of Publication
.......William Blackwood & Sons of Edinburgh, Scotland, first published the novel in 1861 in Edinburgh and London.
.......The 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.
Time and Place
.......The 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
.......In 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 1831.
Religious and Social Background
.......The 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 surrounding countryside, 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,
The inhabitants 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 10).......By contrast, in Lantern Yard—where Silas Marner lived before moving to Raveloe—the people of the tightly knit community are somber and strictly religious, believing in Calvinistic predestination. Unlike the easygoing Raveloe residents, 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.
.......Because 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 (tavern).
.......The 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 narrator points 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).
.......Another 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).
.......The quotation preceding the novel is from "Michael," an 1800 pastoral poem by William Wordsworth. The quotation reads as follows:
A child, more than all other gifts This 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.
That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts.
Silas Marner: Linen 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.
Eppie: Child whom Silas adopts when she is
two years old.
Molly Farren Cass: 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
Squire Cass: Wealthy Raveloe widower with land and tenants. He lives in a large mansion called the Red House.
Godfrey Cass: Oldest 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 Eppie.
Dunstan (Dunsey) Cass: 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 gold coins.
Nancy Lammeter: Pretty and upstanding young woman of Raveloe who loves Godfrey Cass.
Lammeter: Father of Nancy Lammeter and master of lands known as the Warrens.
Mrs. Lammeter: Husband of Mr. Lammeter and sister of Mr. Osgood.
Dorothy Winthrop: Raveloe
resident well known for her charitable work. She befriends Silas and sometimes helps him look after Eppie.
Ben Winthrop: Wheelwright and husband of Dorothy.
Winthrop: Son of Dorothy and Ben Winthrop. When he and Eppie grow up, they fall in love.
Dr. Kimble: Raveloe apothecary who serves as a physician even though he does not have a university degree. He is Godfrey Cass's godfather.
Mrs. Kimble: Dr. Kimble's wife and sister of Squire Cass.
Mr. Crackenthorp: Rector of the Raveloe church.
Mr. Drumlow: Former rector of the Raveloe church.
Mr. Osgood: Farm owner and prominent citizen of Raveloe.
Mrs. Osgood: Wife
of Mr. Osgood. Silas makes table linen for her.
Gilbert Osgood: Cousin of Nancy Lammeter.
Jem Rodney: Mole catcher.
Mr. Macey: Tailor and parish clerk.
Mr. Tookey: Deputy parish clerk.
Solomon: Former clerk and talented fiddler who plays at a New Year's Eve party given by Squire Cass.
Priscilla: Sister of Nancy Lammeter.
Fashionable daughters of a wine merchant from the town of Lytherley. They attend a New Year's Eve party at the home of Squire Cass.
Miss Ladbrook: Guest at the New Year's Eve party of Squire Cass.
Mrs. Ladbrook: Mother of Miss Ladbrook.
Mr. Snell: Landlord of the Rainbow, a pub.
Mr. Dowlas: Farrier.
Mr. Kench: Constable.
Mr. Lundy: Butcher.
Mr. Cliff: Builder of the
stables at the Warrens.
Dame Tedman: Operator of a school attended by Nancy Lammeter.
Mr. Oates: Cobbler.
Sally Oates: Ill wife of Mr. Oates. She is cured by Silas Marner after the doctor's treatment fails.
Jinny Oates: Cobbler's daughter.
Hephzibah: Marner's little sister, who died when she was a child. She was named after her mother.
Bryce: 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.
Keating: Friend of
Justice Malam: Official who presides at Raveloe and the town of Tarley. He conducts an inquiry into the theft of Marner's money.
Peddler: Itinerant peddler
suspected of the theft of Marner's money.
Fowler: Tenant of Squire Cass.
Cox: Attorney in Raveloe who handles legal matters for Squire Cass.
William Dane: Supposed friend of Silas in Lantern Yard. He steals the church money and blames Marner.
Sarah: Woman courted 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.
Senior Deacon: Custodian 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.
Mr. Paston: Minister of the church in Lantern Yard.
Other Deacons: Members of the church in
Brush Maker: Man 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.
Point of View
.......The 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
"Is 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 1)Plot Summary
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2010
.......In 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 away.
.......There 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 returns.
.......Marner's 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, Kimble.
.......Because 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.
.......Before 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 holiness.
.......Marner's 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
.......Marner 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, Sarah
began exhibiting a coolness toward Silas.
.......Meanwhile, 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 body.
.......At 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
.......In 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 road.
.......He 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.
.......He 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.
.......The 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 marriage.
.......One 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.
.......The 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.
.......On 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.
.......Meanwhile, 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 him.
.......After 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.
......."You 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 Squire.
Godfrey 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.”
.......Meanwhile, 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 good.
.......“They're the same as
is on the pulpit-cloth at church,” she says.
.......Dolly 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 is absent.
.......On 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 changes.
.......Outside, 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.
.......Marner 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 Silas says,
.......“No—no—I can't part with it; I can't let it go.
It's come to me—I've a right to keep it."
.......Godfrey, 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.
.......When 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.
......."Till 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 mazed."
.......Silas 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.
.......Meanwhile, 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 father.
.......Sixteen 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.
.......Silas 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
.......One 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.
......."It's Dunstan—my brother Dunstan, that we lost sight of sixteen years ago. We've found him—found his body—his skeleton."
.......After 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.
.......“Everything 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.”
.......He then tells her about his past—about Molly, about his child, about everything. But Nancy does not become angry. Instead, she says,
......."And—O, 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."
.......She 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
.......After 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 they can.
.......Silas 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 to you."
.......And so Aaron and Eppie settle down with Silas in his cottage, which Godfrey has remodeled and enlarged.
Love: the Greatest Treasure
.......After 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 earthly possession.
A Child Shall Lead Them
.......Eppie's 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 11:6).
Justice and Retribution
.......Marner 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
.......William 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 spiritual nourishment.
The Love of Money
.......Dunstan 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.
William must live with the sins of theft and betrayal on his soul.
Suspicion and Distrust
.......After 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:
The shepherd's dog barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men [weavers] appeared 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 theme:
[A] settler, if 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 least, not 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 to the last regarded as aliens by their rustic neighbors. . . .Climax
.......The climax occurs when Molly's child enters Marner's life, a turning point that begins to restore his faith in God and humanity.
.......Silas 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.
.......Marner's 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
William Dane's Dream and Betrayal of Marner
.......William 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.
The Role of Marner's Sister
.......The 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:
Could 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 12).......In 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
.Figures of Speech
.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the story.
Repetition of a consonant sound
a garment suggesting a coachman's greatcoat, cut out under an exiguity of cloth that would only allow of miniature capes, is not well adapted to conceal deficiencies of contour (Chapter 11)
Irony and Paradox
Treacherous snow-covered pools and puddles (Chapter 11)
Mrs. Kimble was the Squire's sister as well as the doctor's wife—a double dignity (Chapter 11)
the stillness and the wide trackless snow seemed to narrow his solitude (Chapter 12)
1. When Silas 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. Metaphor
2. Fortune means misfortune for Dunstan Cass. After he runs
away with the cache of gold, he falls into the stone pit and dies.
Comparison of Unlike Things Without Using Like, As or Than
Godfrey Cass was taking draughts of forgetfulness from the sweet presence of Nancy (Chapter 12: comparison of forgetfulness to a beverage) Following is an extended metaphor comparing Silas Marner to a ghost.
Molly knew 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)
sixteen years after Silas Marner had found his new treasure on the hearth (Chapter 16: comparison of Eppie to a treasure such as gold)
Yet 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
Combining contradictory words to reveal a truth or present an apt description
Sightless eyes (Chapter 12)Personification
Giving humanlike qualities or human form to objects and abstractions
Time, who has laid his hand on them all (Chapter 16) Simile
hope, folding her wings, looked backward and became regret?
Comparison of unlike things using like, as, or than
He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. (Chapter 2) Glossary of Allusions and Names
the child 'ull grow like grass i' May, bless it -- that it will." 14 Dolly Winthrop
The door was open, and it walked in over the snow, like as if it had been a little starved robin. 14
a sincerity clear as the flower-born dew 16
Athanasian Creed (Chapter 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 creed. ..
city of destruction (Chapter 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.
David (Chapter 1): See Jonathan.
Durham: Breed of cattle with short horns.
Hephzibah: Hebrew 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 be married."
I.H.S.: Abbreviation of the Greek word for Jesus.
Jonathan (Chapter 1): Devoted friend of David, the future
king of Israel, as recounted in the Old Testament in Samuel I and II.
King Alfred: Alfred the Great (849-899), king of Wessex in southwestern England and scholar who promoted learning.
King George (Chapter 4, 8): George III (1738-1820), king of England from 1760 to 1820.
Michaelmas (Chapter 17): Feast of St. Michael the Archangel on September 29. Anglicans refer to it as the Feast of St. Michael and All
Old Harry (Chapters 6, 10): Nickname for the devil.
war times (Chapter 1): Allusion to the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815).
Study Questions and Essay Topics
1...Using information from the story and from reliable research sources, write a psychological profile of Silas Marner or Godfrey Cass.
2...Who are the most admirable characters in
the novel? Who are the least admirable?
3...In your opinion, why did Molly become an opium addict?
4...How does Marner's
catalepsy affect plot developments?
5. 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 Chapter 6:
"Lor bless you!" 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 area.
6. The amount stolen from Marner was two hundred and seventy-two pounds, twelve and six-pence. How much would that sum be
worth in modern English or American money?
7. Write an essay comparing and contrasting Silas Marner with Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.
8. Silas Marner's 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, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Prader-Willi
9. Which people in Silas Marner are happiest, those of high social status or those of low social status?