Is 'Silas Marner' a Moral Tale

Topics: OtherSheep

A moral tale is a recalled story with a deeper, meaningful lesson to be learned hidden in it. The earliest moral tales probably originate from the Bible. One such moral tale in it was about a shepherd who had one hundred sheep. But when a lamb strayed away, the shepherd left his flock of ninety-nine and looked for that one lost sheep. When he found the lamb, he took it back to the flock. And the moral of this tale? Everyone is just as worthy/valuable as everyone else.

Many of these moral tales appear in other books as well. One common trait in many moral tales, is that they are quite simple, or at least the moral part normally is.

And the moral within the story is easy to spot. It is a lesson on how to treat others/ or how to behave or act. The setting and atmosphere at the beginning of ‘Silas Marner’ is the simple village, Lantern Yard.

You get the impression that Lantern Yard is a very religious village, and has minimal contact with the outside world and new technology. They aren’t greedy, nor is food as plentiful as in Raveloe. In the first paragraph, Silas Marner, and weavers in general, are described as near aliens, and the craft they are skilled at, couldn’t “be carried on entirely without the help of the Evil One” the evil one being the devil.

George Eliot is trying to make the point in the first few lines of ‘Silas Marner’, that people judge people and things that they don’t understand.

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And you get the feeling that the residents of Lantern Yard are almost primitive, in the sense that they don’t even understand the simple craft of weaving. The name, Lantern Yard, also has a meaning. The yard in Lantern Yard, gives you the sense that the village is enclosed and lantern being warm and homely. Silas Marner is first introduced in the book as a mysterious weaver living in a stone cottage by a stone pit in Raveloe.

But the description of the noise from the loom, “so unlike the natural cheerful trotting of the winnowing-machine or the simpler rhythm of the flail”, gives the feeling that he was perceived as unknown to Raveloe. He is described as someone obsessed with his work, and his “large brown protuberant eyes in Silas Marners’ pale face really saw nothing very distinctly that was not close to them” although the Raveloe kids believed he could “dart cramp, or rickets, or a wry mouth” with a single stare. And because of this description, he must look very daunting and almost spooky and frightful.

I believe some of George Eliot’s life mirror themselves in this book in an abstract form. Parts in the book about Silas Marner losing faith. She also lost her faith (George Eliot=Mary Ann Evans) and maybe she is putting her point across in this book. In previous books, namely The Mill on The Floss, she added many of her own experiences, and I believe she has done the same in ‘Silas Marner’. In the way that he is treated in Raveloe and Lantern Yard. For instance in Raveloe, he is ignored and silenced from social events, and the same happened to Mary Ann Evans after she ran off with the already-married George Henry Lewes.

And in Lantern Yard, Silas is judged by the parishioners and friends, the same as Mary Ann Evans was. After the introductions to Raveloe and Silas Marner himself, it is revealed why Silas was forced to leave Lantern Yard and how he came to live in Raveloe. And there is a moral question in lantern Yard that a man should be judged by a kind of ‘pulling straws’ method. I think in this way, Mary Ann Evans, is trying to put a point across, that you cannot judge anyone with ‘hocus-pocus’ as it were. Because you know that Marner is innocent, yet he is dealt with injustice, and I think she may also be hitting out at believers in God.

When he is falsely accused and judged at Lantern Yard, all that he believes in, his main object in life is shattered, and the only thing he can do and wants to do is isolate himself from people, the rest of this new world called Raveloe and God, who he believes has betrayed him. Maybe she believes that whether you believe in Him or not, you are still accused and judged, good or bad, innocent or guilty. The contrasts play a major part in Silas Marner. Lantern Yard is a very religious village, and the church plays a major part within the village.

The village itself is very isolated from the outside world and new technology. Food is not as in much excess as it is in Raveloe, because unlike Lantern Yard, “orchards looking lazy with neglected plenty; the large church in the wide courtyard, which men gazed at lounging at their own doors in service time… “. And this extract, is pointing out the contrasts between Lantern Yard and Raveloe. In Raveloe, food is plentiful, and orchards with apple trees in them, stand full of ripe fruit, yet the apples are not taken from the tree, because there is so much food, that they are not needed.

But this is not the case in Lantern Yard, where they have to take in as much food as possible, as food cannot be wasted there, for there isn’t enough to be wasted. And then it describes men, lounging at their own front doors, but in Lantern Yard, it was a different story, and the villagers of lantern yard would be eager to go to church, but in Raveloe, there is no need for all that, and not many people do go to church in Raveloe, yet you would of thought they would have more to be grateful for, and I think that is what Mary Ann Evans is trying to put across.

I believe she is trying to say that whether you worship God or not, and go to church regularly, it doesn’t matter. you still maybe poor or hungry, and going to church and worshipping God would not change that. So if ‘Silas Marner’ is a moral tale, it is going against everything the Victorians believed in. And that if you don’t believe in God, you can still be well off with plenty of food on the table. When Silas was exiled from Lantern Yard, the reason he does not go to church in Raveloe, is not only because he wishes to be isolated, it may also be the connection to Lantern Yard and God.

In Lantern Yard, they are not as well off , and need to work harder for their food. But in Raveloe, there is a sharp contrast. Raveloe is a secular town, and the church plays a minor role in the town and it’s residents. There is also plenty of food, “… there were several chiefs in Raveloe who could farm badly quite at their ease, drawing enough money in those war times, to live in a rollicking fashion, and keep a jolly Christmas, Whitsun and Eastertide”, meaning Raveloe was a thriving economy, where you didn’t have to work hard to make a good bit of money, and that everyone was well off and well fed too.

In the second chapter, The Groove Made by Fifteen Years in Raveloe, the mood is set that Silas is “unhinged” from his “old-faith”, and “the past becomes dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the present too is dreamy because it is linked with no memories”. What Mary Ann Evans is trying to say is that when you are in a new space, a new environment, everything becomes blurred, and dreamy, because you do not know this place and have no memories of it.

And that memories are what make a place, for example, home is not home, unless you have memories of that place, and you know people there. But for Silas, Raveloe is like a new world, and it is all dreamy to him, because he has no memories of that place. The town’s people in Raveloe, because they don’t understand him, do not trust him either and keep their distance. Silas after his exile from Lantern Yard, doesn’t trust God or people and they do not trust him back. He rarely leaves his cottage, except to get essentials, and doesn’t talk to anyone.

So they think he is a bit mysterious, and therefore don’t trust him. “His first movement after the shock had been to work in his loom; and he went on with this unremittingly, never asking himself why, now he was come to Raveloe”, and this extract, tells us Silas’ reaction to moving into Raveloe, and his instinct almost tells him to work. But at first, he doesn’t care for the money, only to work: but “it was pleasant to him to feel them in his palm”, the five gold guineas he held. And this is when his motives for weaving change, from an instinct, too a greed for gold.

But it doesn’t start of as greed, at first it is a fascination, because in Lantern Yard, he probably would never have seen this much money before. And “it was another element of life, like the weaving and the satisfaction of hunger” and this gives us an insight, that Silas loves his weaving as much as satisfying a hunger, and he now has this new “element of life”, and that is gold. There is a lot of moral comment through each character. And they all get their ‘just deserts’ in the end. Many are either punished, or rewarded, and that is why I think this book is a moral tale, but a very complex one with more than one message.

For instance, Dunstan, Godfrey’s brother, is really hated in Raveloe because he is rude, dishonest, and disrespectful to them. Then he does the worst, and steals Silas Marner’s gold, and the description of Dunstan when “he stepped forward into the darkness” has a double meaning. One, it is a descriptive sentence, and it describes how dark it is, and him stepping into that darkness. The second, is an abstract account, of Dunstan doing something much worse than he ever has before, and stepping forward to a new evil.

And the moral message in Dunstans story, is that the truth will always come out, because at the end of ‘Silas Marner’ it is discovered that Dunstan has drowned, and silas’ money is returned to him; but because of his new love in Eppie, it cannot hold him like it did before. Another character with a moral comment within him is Dunstans brother, Godfrey Cass, who lies for many years about a secret marriage he has with a drug-addict, and who is a victim to the “demon opium” and a secret child to that wife.

That child later becomes Eppie, and while Godfrey’s wife goes to see him and tell the truth to his family and friends, she dies in the snow where she does not feel “the bed was cold”, and this two has another meaning, that she was cold and heartless. While her child wanders into Silas’ house, and he believes it to be a ‘present’ from God. But when Godfrey learns of his wife’s death, he is pleased, and wishes to propose to Nancy Lammeter, and care for his child. But he cannot bring himself to tell the truth to his wife, and so keeps it from her, and lets Silas Marner look after her instead.

But sixteen years later, Godfrey tells Nancy all about Eppie, and she says to Godfrey, “Godfrey, if you had but told me this six years ago, we could have done some of our duty by the child. Do you think I’d have refused to take her in, if I’d known she was yours? ” And you feel great sympathy for Godfrey, for if he had told Nancy all that time ago, he may now be the father of Eppie. They do go to Silas’ but she has known only Silas to be her father, and stays with him.

He is almost, the tragic hero of the story, but for one secret, one lie, he been punished for the rest of his life. But Eppie does bring happiness to Silas, who, after losing his gold, falls into a sort of numbness, but when he finds Eppie on the floor, in her golden hair and his short eyesight, he sees his gold. And this is symbolism, because he sees the only thing he had loved in Raveloe, in this little girl, and a new, warmer love starts to fill him. So in Silas’ story, he gets what he deserves, happiness.

He was a good man, who was unfortunately thrown out of Lantern Yard, but he finally found happiness in Eppie. Nancy, was just unfortunate to get caught up in it all. A sort of innocence almost, and she shares her sorrow with Godfrey. When Eppie does come to Silas, it is like a message from God. For all these years, he had been exiled from Lantern Yard, and no friends, relatives, or just people he knew in Raveloe. But when Eppie comes, it is redemption and forgiveness from God. Eppie is innocence from an evil background. A background of her mother and opium.

In the end, the truth is always revealed, and I think this is the main moral in Silas Marner. The truth about Godfrey being Eppie’s father and about Dunstan stealing Silas’ money. When Nancy and Godfrey, tell Eppie if she comes with them she can become a proper lady, but Eppie doesn’t want this. She has realized she does not need riches and money to be happy and loved, all because of Silas. This is almost Godfrey’s punishment, if he had told the truth, he could have had Nancy and Eppie, but because he didn’t, he paid the price of not being Eppie’s father.

Dunstan dies in a river, and after taking the choice of “stepping forward into the darkness”, he is punished for it, he steals money, and for what? He doesn’t get a chance to spend it, a chance to be evil. Near the end when Eppie marries Aaron, they are happy, yet do not have much money. And I believe what the author is trying to tell us is that you don’t need great amounts of wealth and money, in the case of Eppie and Silas. Silas found love and happiness in Eppie even though he had lost his money, and Eppie and Aaron found love in each other, without having much money and riches.

Their garden is a symbol of their simple happiness, and I think the author has put this in deliberately. And to say that you only need a simple life to have simple pleasures, and this is the same with Silas. I do think ‘Silas Marner’ is a moral tale. But not just about the way we behave. I think it is trying to tell us that we don’t need great wealth to be happy, that happiness cannot be bought with money, and this moral is repeated in Silas’ and Eppie’s stories. Also, that the truth always comes out sometime, and you can’t keep a secret or lie forever.

Dunstans secret about him stealing the money comes out in the end, it takes sixteen years for the truth to come out but it does come out, and I think that is what the author has tried to emphasis; it may take a while, but the truth does come out eventually. I think a very old moral also appears, “treat your neighbor has you would like to be treated” and I think this is the case with Silas and Dunstan. They both either disrespect people, or try to isolate themselves from them, and they both got the same treatment back.

But Dunstan, among other things was just disrespectful, and he was punished for that. Silas though, he did have an almost plausible reason for his actions, and at least he never did any wrong. I think what the main moral within the book that the author is trying to get across is to try to be kind, honest, truthful, and respectful, and the same will happen to you. And I think this story has come from many of the authors own imagination, but also from her own experiences with religion, society, and also social life and differences.

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Is 'Silas Marner' a Moral Tale. (2017, Oct 28). Retrieved from

Is 'Silas Marner' a Moral Tale
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