Silas Marner is a novel that explores many different key themes. George Elliot has made this novel a very deep and meaningful story with complex characters and twisting plot. She has used a very wide range of technical and methodological language to bring the character of Silas Marner to life.
Silas Marner is a weaver from the town of Lantern Yard. Silas suffers from cataleptic fits and left Lantern Yard after being accused of stealing money. William Dane set him up.
Silas felt betrayed by his friend and there was no Justice.
Silas moved to the village of Ravaloe where there is a close community. The villagers start to separate from him and exclude him from their community. Silas becomes very isolated and spends a lot of his time caring for and hoarding the gold that he has worked so hard for. This is bought across by Elliot’s words, “…for it was pleasant to him to feel them in his palm, and look at their bright faces, which were all his own.
”(P17) This makes the gold seem almost like something that is living. The reader feels that Silas is attached to his gold and that he looks to it as if it were a pet or a relative. The word “faces” makes them sound creature like and it is Elliot’s clever use of such metaphors that puts ideas into the readers mind throughout the novel.
Silas’ strange obsession with his gold adds to the suspicion of the villagers and separates Silas even more from their close-knit community.
The villagers of Ravaloe are all very close and have known each other all or most of their lives. They don’t accept people from other villages very well and Silas is not helped by his odd appearance and his cataleptic fits. The villagers are so involved in their own lives that Silas’ appearance and fits horrify them and they begin to label him as a freak. It was at church that the villagers first saw Silas have a fit. They started to say that he was to do with Satan. “This trance looked more like a visitation of Satan than a proof of divine favour, and exhorted his friend to see that he hid no accursed thing within his soul.” This shows the ignorance of the villagers and their negative attitudes toward outsiders. This view is carried throughout the first section of the novel and it is only when Silas approaches them that they become to accept him.
The villagers are very superstitious about people from outside their village or people that they don’t know. They wouldn’t try and socialise with them but instead start rumours and superstitions about the outsiders. They are exceptionally suspicious about Silas because of his strange appearance and his cataleptic fits. He is often referred to as an insect in the novel. For example – on page 17 his basic, lonely life is likened to the life of a “spinning insect.” It is almost a hint at him being a spider. The fact that he is a weaver and his life is likened to a spinning insect all refer to things a spider would do.
Silas becomes very close to his money and when he finds out it is missing he was horrified. He decides that it has been stolen and he accuses Jem Rodney. Silas decides to go to the pub and ask the villagers if they could help him retrieve his beloved money. The villagers are surprised by the appearance of Silas who enters the pub stating his loss. Jem Rodney denies the charge and Silas apologises, as he knows about being wrongly accused. The men are helpful and suggest that there must be some clues to track down the thief. Mr Dowlas and Mr Snell go out into the dark to help Silas. This is where the villagers begin to really turn towards Silas and begin to accept him into their tight community. The villagers even start to try and comfort Silas by visiting his house with gifts. Silas is even asked to go to church and he begins to become part of the community.
Another big turning point in the novel is when Molly’s baby is found by Silas. Silas sees the baby (Eppie) as his gold. “The heap of gold seemed to glow and get larger beneath his agitated gaze. He leaned forward at last, and stretched forth his hand but instead of the hard coin with the familiar resisting outline, his fingers encountered soft warm curls.” This shows how obsessed Silas became about his gold. What he was seeing was a babies golden hair but in his mind it is his heap of gold.
Silas becomes attached to the child and decides that he is going to keep it. The villagers begin to see Silas as a good man who is trying to bring up a child single-handed and they offer him advice. Silas has her christened Hephzibah, Eppie for short, after his mother. This chapter outlines Eppie being naughty and Silas cannot bring himself to punish her. The presence of the child starts to transform Silas.
Silas’ money is found along side Dunstan and Silas tells how his live revolved around his gold. Godfrey feels that he should make up for his brother’s behaviour and offers to take Eppie away from him and remove the burden. Eppie refuses and Silas loves her so much that he is prepared to fight to keep her.
Dunstan ends up with no child and is punished. Silas and Eppie become part of the community and the villagers no longer see Silas as a freak. Eppie has helped Silas become accepted because when Silas accepted her as his daughter the villagers began to comfort Silas and see him as a caring person. It is when they see that he is caring that they begin to see that he isn’t all the things that he is rumoured to be, but actually he is just like them.
Silas and Eppie go back to Lantern Yard and find that it has gone. Silas is saddened by this but realises that Ravaloe is his home now.