Silas Marner Outline and Story Analysis

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This sample paper on Silas Marner offers a framework of relevant facts based on the recent research in the field. Read the introductory part, body and conclusion of the paper below.

The novel ‘Silas Marner’ is a story of old fashioned village life in a remote place called Raveloe, showing how the community responds to the old weaver, Silas Marner, who was once a respected member of a narrower evangelical congregation. The story, set in Raveloe in 1805, was written by Mary Ann (Marian) Evans under her pen name George Eliot.

The tale soon flashes back to events that took place before 1805, to the late 18th century, and reflects times past, even for the readers of George Eliot’s time.

The author uses an omniscient narrator, but her own preaching judgements and summaries can often be seen coming through – as can some of William Wordsworth’s ideas and views on the value of what can be learned from the natural world and the innocence of childhood.

This preaching demonstrates many of her own opinions, formed largely through her own experience of the religious outlook of the evangelical churches that sprung up in larger towns and cities and to which she had briefly belonged.

William Wordsworth’ ideas, of the importance of childrens’ influences on adults rather than the adults’ influence on children, shine through as we read, for example: “. . . for the little child had come to link him once more with the whole world.” These words suggest that Eppie has brought Silas back to life (having lost everything at Lantern Yard, when he was framed for stealing and for a second time when his gold was stolen.

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) She opens him up and introduces him into the community of Raveloe.

Silas Marner Outline

Her true father’s rejection of her has the opposite effect. He ends up in a childless marriage and only then does he want her back. But he is too late – 16 years too late.

If Silas’ story had never intersected with another character’s, that of Godfrey Cass, then Godfrey would have carried on living a lie and we would never have been shown the different views of each character about ‘what a father’s duty is,’ and which is wrong and which is right.

It is this crossing of stories that exposes Godfrey’s dark secret and provides us with obvious similarities of circumstances, though each has a different background, and quite obvious differences of character. The differences of character allow us to examine moral problems in their social context, which is one of Eliot’s great interests – she always wrote with moral purpose.

Through her narrative, George Eliot creates a sympathetic background for Silas Marner in the opening two chapters so that we like him more even though he totally excludes himself from the community. Lack of detailed background information for Godfrey has the opposite effect. The setting plays a part in evoking this sympathy – Raveloe is an isolated and old-fashioned community where newcomers are not welcome: “And Raveloe was a village where many of the old echoes lingered, undrowned by new voices.” (Pg. 11.) This suggests that “old echoes” or old fashioned ways still remain in the village and new people cannot change them. The secluded village also escapes the effects of industrialisation.

The country folk are described as “mostly not clever” and we find out that anyone with a skill in handicraft or anyone who is clever is an object of suspicion because the people of Raveloe are so simple-minded they fear the unknown and don’t want to venture into it. Emigrants from other towns were “to the last regarded as aliens” by their fellow neighbours, as was Silas (even after 15 years of living there.)

Silas’ knowledge of herbs and his suffering of cataleptic fits also adds to the villagers’ suspicion (being so narrow-minded they couldn’t accept anything different to their backward way of life.)

Using flashback the author creates sympathy for Marner, providing detail of how he was betrayed by his best friend – William Dane – who framed him for theft whilst he was in one of his fits. Of course this elicts sympathy as his best friend betrayed him in a community where he was well respected and was of a high status. After the drawing of the lots (which wrongly pointed to his guilt,) he was forced out of his hometown and lost everything – his friends, his respect, his status, his home, his faith in God and his fiance (who married William.) This technique tends to make us like Silas more and Godfrey less so that when he ends up in deep regret over Eppie we feel he deserves it.

During Silas’ solitude in Raveloe, his money builds up and “Marner drew less and less for his own wants.” His money was not there to spend any more, but to be his only companions in the lonely life he now lived. “…when his work was done, that he drew them out to enjoy their companionship.” He didn’t want to spend them because they were something to live for – more money. His days became repetitive – working for more guineas, never to be spent.

In relation to this, Marner’s life is compared to that of an insect – meaningless, not cared about by anyone, a nobody. “…all these immediate promptings helped to reduce his life to the unquesting activity of a spinning insect.” The quote also refers to the repetitiveness of his weaving and gives a visualisation of his life being small (insect size.)

Eliot, however, decides not to create sympathy like this for Godfrey. She does not describe Godfrey’s past – how he grew up without a mother. This has a different effect on the reader : we don’t like him and we don’t feel sorry for him either. We also wrongly assume that because he is rich, he has everything he wants and is simply being ungrateful and selfish. This contributes to us feeling that Godfrey deserves the childless marriage he ends up with and that Silas Marner deserves to keep Eppie when Godfrey comes to take her back 16 years after he deserted her. This leaves Godfrey regretting what he has done and leaves Silas never happier, with his daughter, Eppie.

The habits of the squirearchy are described as “a feverish way of annulling vacancy,” which could be compared to Silas Marner’s weaving because this ‘habit’ is also repetitive and is also a way of hiding from the emptiness of his lone life. In absence of all Silas used to have (faith, friends, an important position in the community,) Silas moves to an isolated village named Raveloe and retreats to anull vacancy in a way that we can understand.

Although there is a parallel between the squirearchy’s habits (gambling) and Silas’ weaving, Silas’ weaving is fair, hard work for money, whereas Godfrey’s gambling is “frowned” upon. George Eliot makes us feel sorry for Silas but not Godfrey. She does this through flashing back to Silas’ background and how he lost everything at Lantern Yard that fateful day. She does not do this for Godfrey though.

At first, Godfrey Cass seems to be a good, open man but thanks to the narrator we find out that he does, in fact, have a dark secret – he is already a husband and a father. But in chapter 3 Godfrey is said to be “the eldest, a fine, open-faced, good natured, young man…” (Pg. 33.) This isn’t true. It is ironic because he certainly isn’t open-faced because he already has a secret wife and child he has deserted. In this respect he is even worse than his brother, Dunstan, although in most other ways he is much more respectable. At least he isn’t proud of what he does like Dunstan, who takes pride in gambling and dealing. Godfrey does regret and is sorry for the mistakes he has made. He is, however, weak as a person. The villagers like him because he keeps his secret so they don’t even know what kind of person he is. They described Dunsey though, as “a spiteful, jeering fellow, who seemed to enjoy the drink the more when other people went dry – “Dunstan got Godfrey into this mess about selling Wildfire by stealing the £100.00 in return for his silence.

In Godfrey’s attempt to find £100 rather than tell people about his marriage, he entrustes his horse – Wildfire – to Dunstan to sell, however, Dunstan takes the horse and decides to race it before selling it. It jumps badly over a fence and is staked. So Dunstan leaves the horse lying in its blood, and chooses to go by Silas Marner’s cottage to persuade him to lend the money. When he arrives, the door is open and Silas has gone out. Dunstan, seeing the give away fingerprints in the sand, sweeps it across and opens the trapdoor, beneath which he finds all Silas’ savings. He takes it and leaves into the fog and darkness. This is the second time that Silas has lost everything but this time it is different because it is the first time Silas seeks help from the village and the people.

As the loss of the gold gradually becomes less topical in Raveloe, Christmas approaches. Christmas in the weaver’s cottage is very different to the Christmas at the Red House. He spends it in loneliness, “eating his meat in sadness of heart…” The evening is described as “lifelong” and Silas spent it “pressing his head between his hands and moaning.” He was very unhappy and very lonely.

Christmas at the Red House was very different: “there was a buzz of voices” The people there were much happier and far from alone, like Silas. This contrasts with how unhappy Silas was, even at the ‘happiest’ time of year, but all this changes when Eppie arrives; Eppie “warmed him into joy because she had joy.”

The annual New Year’s ball at the Red House was also very well prepared – “there was hardly a bedroom in the house where feminine compliments weren’t passing,” as ‘ladies from far and wide arrived and made themselves ready for the grand event.

The enormous gap between the two lifestyles is shown here. But while the Squire continues to make comments about marriage and “roses blooming this winter” who else is on her way to the ball? Godfrey’s wife, and she has his child with her. She is planning to expose him.

However, the journey has been long and cold and she craves the last phial of opium she is carrying. Unable to resist her addiction, she swallows it and lies down to rest in the snow, oblivious of the danger. She freezes, so she wasn’t able to confront Godfrey in front of Nancy or anyone else. The child in her arms crawls towards the only light visible and enters Silas’ cottage. At this time Silas had been staring dreamily out of his front door wandering if his money could ever return when his catalepsy took over. He did not notice the little girl go right past him into the warm. When his sensibility returns he continues his action of shutting the door and turned to the hearth. His blurred vision told him that his gold was right there on the floor! He reached forward to feel the familiar hard outline of the gold but instead, he felt soft warm curls. It was a sleeping child. These curls felt better than coins because they were indeed, part of a better treasure.

Silas got all the pleasure from bringing Eppie up, Godfrey got all the regret. This was because Silas knew the real duty of a father. Godfrey thought proving materially was enough. This is the moral in this book – a father’s duty is more than making sure your child has money. Eppie proves this to us when she rejects the offer to go and live with him just because he could provide better for her. She made this decision to stay with Silas alone, despite his telling her to choose as she wished. Deep down though, Silas was desperate to keep her, he loved her so much. He was the one who’d been there for her all of her life. Godfrey only wanted her because he knew now he couldn’t have his own child with Nancy.

Godfrey and Silas do have similarities; their own ways of nulling vacancy is one, but they also have very important differences: particularly their different ideas of fatherhood. It turns out Silas is right and Godfrey’s rejection of his child brings him only deep regret, which Eliot’s creation of sympathy for Silas and not Godfrey, makes us feel he deserved.

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Silas Marner Outline and Story Analysis. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Silas Marner Outline and Story Analysis
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