Silas Marner

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Silas Marner Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dunstan Cass rides Wildfire to the hunt the next morning, and, on his way, he passes by Silas Marner’s cottage. Dunstan realizes that the weaver must have saved a large sum of money and wonders why he never thought of manipulating Godfrey into taking a loan from the old man. Such a suggestion would surely be agreeable to Godfrey, who would want the chance to preserve his secret and keep his horse. But Dunstan, eager to sell the horse and drive a bargain, continues onward.
Dunstan’s first noting Marner’s cottage and reflecting on the weaver’s supposed wealth serves as foreshadowing for his theft of Marner’s money. The reader is aware that Dunstan is self-centered and spendthrift, and that he is thinking of the wealth of the weaver and hoping to manipulate Marner.
Themes
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Dunstan meets two men—Bryce and Keating—at the hunt and tells them that he has swapped his own horse with his brother’s and now owns Wildfire. The two men nevertheless discern Dunstan’s true purpose of selling the horse, and eventually the bargaining concludes with Bryce agreeing to buy Wildfire upon his safe delivery to Bryce’s stables.
The buying and selling of Wildfire demonstrates Dunstan’s underhanded character. He is not forthright about his intentions to sell the horse or about why he has his brother’s horse to sell.
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Despite a fleeting thought that he should deliver the horse and return home, Dunstan decides to ride Wildfire on the hunting course. He pushes the horse too hard and the horse falls. Dunstan is uninjured, but Wildfire dies. Dunstan, glad that others did not witness his mistake, decides to leave the horse and walk home so as not to encounter anyone else.
Dunstan’s immediate concern upon Wildfire’s death is that others will see what happened and think poorly of him. He is focused on his own reputation, not on the waste of a high quality horse and its needless death.
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Dunstan is unconcerned by Wildfire’s death as he plans to suggest his earlier idea to Godfrey: taking a loan from Silas Marner. Dunstan walks toward Raveloe through the misty evening, all the while tapping Godfrey’s inscribed gold whip that he carries.
Dunstan carries Godfrey’s inscribed whip, a detail that will eventually help identify his body sixteen years later. He again contemplates Marner’s money.
Themes
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Dunstan sees light gleaming through the mist as he nears the Stone Pits and realizes it is the light from Marner’s cottage. As he walks, Dunstan fantasizes about the bribing and threatening necessary to secure a loan from Silas Marner, and he decides to go speak with the weaver directly when he sees the light from his cottage. At the very least, he hopes to borrow a lantern from the weaver.
The light from Marner’s cottage is what guides Dunstan to the door. Likewise, the light encourages Eppie to follow it when her mother lies dead. Light is commonly associated with faith or goodness, and Marner’s light shines into the world causing several key changes in his life.
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Dunstan knocks loudly at Marner’s door only to be met with silence. He intends to shake the door, but it swings open before him to reveal a blazing fire in Marner’s inviting hearth. Marner’s dinner is cooking on the fire, and Dunstan wonders if he left for some brief errand, but slipped into the Stone Pits, never to return. If the weaver is dead, who has a right to his money, Dunstan ponders.
Dunstan’s assumption that the weaver may be dead is not logical or supported by evidence. However, this idea leads him to the idea of robbery. The author demonstrates the danger of assumptions and poorly founded opinions, and shows how Dunstan rationalizes his way into committing crimes.
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Dunstan wonders, where is the money? He does not stop to consider that Marner might not, in fact, be dead, but quickly notes the one spot on the floor well covered with sand and the marks of fingers. Dunstan lifts up the loose bricks and discovers the two bags of money. Feeling a sudden dread, Dunstan hurries out of the house into the darkness. The rain and darkness thicken as he moves quickly beyond the light from the cottage.
Dunstan steals the gold and tries to hurry out of the light of the cottage, which could reveal him in the act of theft. Again light has a link to the good or the just. Dunstan’s willingness to take the gold is unsurprising to the reader after the development of his underhanded, self-centered character.
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