Silas Marner

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Silas Marner published in 1996.
Chapter 1 Quotes

In that far-off time superstition clung easily round every person or thing that was at all unwonted, or even intermittent and occasional merely, like the visits of the peddler or the knife-grinder. No one knew where wandering men had their homes or their origin; and how was a man to be explained unless you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother?

Related Symbols: Raveloe
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Silas Marner is primarily set in the rural village of Raveloe in England in the early 1800s. This setting defines the character of the people who inhabit Raveloe—inclined to suspicion of differences, uneasy with change, and entrenched in their regular lives. Because travel is difficult and social circles are small, the unfamiliar is rare, but when it appears—even in the form of a traveling peddler or knife-grinder—it is met with suspicion. This passage captures the mood of the people of Raveloe toward outsiders and explains why Silas Marner, who moves there from Lantern Yard, is a social outcast and an oddity. Silas Marner’s job as a weaver leads to a solitary existence consumed by work, and his limited interactions with the other villagers categorize him as the type of “intermittent” visitor who is regarded with suspicion.

This thinking among the villagers is explained by their sedentary lives over generations. In this small community, every person is accounted for because their home has always been in Raveloe, as was their parents’ before them. A man is “explained” when his parentage is known. This sentiment is partly humorous, as Eliot asks these rhetorical questions ironically, but she also emphasizes that one’s parentage defines one’s situation and identity in a small village like Raveloe. Social classes and occupations are taken for granted and passed on through the generations, leaving little room for individuality or escape.


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“…there is no just God that governs the earth righteously, but a God of lies, that bears witness against the innocent.”

Related Characters: Silas Marner (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Silas Marner’s grim beginnings in Lantern Yard explain his move to rural Raveloe. In Lantern Yard, the young man was a respected and well-loved member of his community and congregation until he was accused of stealing church funds. His accuser was his closest friend William Dane. Despite this false accusation, Marner holds faith that God will reveal the truth. The church “draws lots,” a technique used to single out one individual, and Silas Marner is declared guilty. Marner’s faith is crushed by this outcome. He believes that the drawing of lots—a seemingly “chance” event—should be controlled by God to protect the innocent if He is a righteous God. It does not occur to Marner that the odds may have been manipulated against him by his suspicious friend.

Marner’s angry renouncement of God as “a God of lies” causes him to lose popularity among the congregation, who also believes him to be a thief. Effectively cast out from his community, Marner sees no choice but to find a new place to live. However, when he settles in Raveloe, he does not rejoin a community, but keeps to himself. His faith in God connected him to other humans. It gave him something to live for and made him happily seek fellowship with others, so without faith, Marner becomes a loner.

Chapter 2 Quotes

His life had reduced itself to the functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended. The same sort of process has perhaps been undergone by wiser men, when they have been cut off from faith and love—only, instead of a loom and a heap of guineas, they have had some erudite research, some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory.

Related Characters: Silas Marner
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Isolated from his fellow human beings, Silas Marner’s life consists of working and hoarding his gold, but without any long-term goal in mind. The actions themselves consume him, and he covets his gold, not because he has dreams of things to buy or build, but because he takes satisfaction in the gold itself. This process is described as an unhealthy one. His life has been “reduced” from something better.

This passage also universalizes Marner’s experiences by commenting that this same process has been “undergone by wiser men” who have latched onto “some erudite research.” “Erudite” means “highly studied,” and so Eliot is here referring to scholars who have committed themselves exclusively to research and study. This has isolated them from the world, a life they have chosen when they have been “cut off from faith and love.” This shows that faith and love are what connect humans to others. Without these things, one focuses intensely on isolating projects, be they research or labor.

Throughout the novel, Marner’s relationship with others in his community is key. He is ostracized from his community in Lantern Yard, and that separation from others is directly linked to a loss of both faith in God and faith in the goodness of other people. This passage highlights this cause and effect relationship: loss of love and faith leads to isolation. The novel demonstrates that the reverse is also true: finding love and faith connects an individual with others.

Chapter 3 Quotes

“I might tell the Squire how his handsome son was married to that nice young woman, Molly Farren, and was very unhappy because he couldn't live with his drunken wife, and I should slip into your place as comfortable as could be.”

Related Characters: Dunstan Cass (speaker), Godfrey Cass, Squire Cass
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey’s younger brother Dunstan is aware of Godfrey’s secret: Godfrey is married to an unsuitable woman from a low social class, and the two have a little daughter. Dunstan holds this information over Godfrey’s head and repeatedly threatens to reveal his secret. In this way, he is able to blackmail Godfrey and control Godfrey’s actions. In this passage, Dunstan points out that if he were to reveal Godfrey’s secret, he would “slip into” Godfrey’s “place as comfortable as could be.” Dunstan, as the younger brother, is not the primary heir of his father’s estate and fortune. Social class and societal traditions have strongly influenced Dunstan and Godfrey’s relationship, because of the legal and cultural practice of making the firstborn child the primary heir. Dunstan’s power over Godfrey is not only social, but financial. Godfrey be shamed and embarrassed if Dunstan revealed his secret (and prevented from marrying Nancy, who he loves), and he would also lose his source of income and inheritance.

This power dynamic between the brothers shows how society impacts the lives of individuals. Losing the good opinion of society could change Godfrey’s life. One reason why Godfrey would lose the respect of others and his inheritance from his father if his secret were revealed is that he has married an "unsuitable" woman. Molly Farren’s unsuitability for Godfrey is defined by the expectations of society, who assumes Godfrey will marry a rich and fashionable woman of his class. Molly is unsuitable because of her low social class and “drunken” behavior.

His [Godfrey’s] natural irresolution and moral cowardice were exaggerated by a position in which dreaded consequences seemed to press equally on all sides, and his irritation had no sooner provoked him to defy Dunstan and anticipate all possible betrayals, than the miseries he must bring on himself by such a step seemed more unendurable to him than the present evil.

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass, Dunstan Cass
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey’s character and his circumstances contribute to his problematic moral dilemma. He is torn between defying Dunstan (in which case Dunstan would reveal his secret marriage and child) and obeying Dunstan (because the consequences of that reveal would be “unendurable”). This passage characterizes Godfrey as having “natural irresolution,” meaning he is bad at making and sticking with decisions, and “moral cowardice,” meaning that he is afraid of doing what’s right if this will hurt him. His character is not solely to blame for this indecision. His situation is one in which “dreaded consequences seemed to press equally on all sides.” This means that Godfrey sees both his alternatives—defying Dunstan and obeying Dunstan—as horrible. He describes defiance as bringing about miseries and his current situation as “the present evil.” Therefore, he isn’t inclined to choose one way or the other.

This passage shows how Godfrey’s personality, which is one of irresolution, is exacerbated by his situation, which has no happy options. Throughout the novel, characters’ lives and situations are impact by their personalities and moral choices. Godfrey’s situation is made worse by his indecisive personality, which seems to have led him into such a predicament to begin with. He isn’t able to acknowledge Molly as his wife, and he isn’t able to cast her out of his life completely. This moral irresolution causes him to remain in a situation in which he lives in fear of his secret being discovered.

Chapter 4 Quotes

If the weaver was dead, who had a right to his money? Who would know where his money was hidden? Who would know that anybody had come to take it away? He [Dunstan] went no farther into the subtleties of evidence: the pressing question, "Where is the money?" now took such entire possession of him as to make him quite forget that the weaver's death was not a certainty. A dull mind, once arriving at an inference that flatters a desire, is rarely able to retain the impression that the notion from which the inference started was purely problematic. And Dunstan's mind was as dull as the mind of a possible felon usually is.

Related Characters: Dunstan Cass (speaker), Silas Marner
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 30-31
Explanation and Analysis:

Dunstan arrives at Silas Marner’s cottage with a plan to ask the weaver for a loan because he has heard tell of the man’s wealth. When he arrives, however, the door is unlatched. Dunstan wonders if Marner could have slipped into the stone pits outside his hut, as the weather is so foggy. Immediately, his mind jumps from speculation about Marner’s death to questions about his money. This progression of thinking is here attributed to Dunstan’s “dull mind.” The narrator argues that a dull mind is inclined to latch onto an inference if this inference “flatters a desire.” In other words, if an inference, or guess, is made that seems favorable, the dull-minded thinker doesn’t stop to question the guess, but runs with that hypothetical situation. It is easy for Dunstan to forget that he only “guessed” Marner might be dead. The questions that follow from this guess help Dunstan justify taking the money.

This is an interesting moral dilemma. Dunstan is not acting in full awareness, as he doesn't take the money while certain that Marner is alive. Instead, he convinces himself of the reasonableness of taking the money, forgetting that Marner might not be dead. This is attributed to his “dull mind” which is “as dull as the mind of a possible felon usually is.” This shows a consistency among a type of person—a possible felon—someone who might be capable of small scale crime and cruelty, but isn’t always a criminal. In other words, Dunstan’s weakness inclines him to criminal activity, if the opportunity presents itself.

Chapter 5 Quotes

Was it a thief who had taken the bags? Or was it a cruel power that no hands could reach, which had delighted in making him [Silas Marner] a second time desolate?

Related Characters: Silas Marner
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Silas Marner is robbed of all the gold he’d hidden beneath the floorboards. Although the way this happens is traced by the plot of the novel and revealed to the reader, Marner is at a loss to explain how his gold has disappeared. This robbery seems particularly mysterious to Marner because his gold is well-concealed, yet someone went directly to the spot, removed the floorboards, and cleared away all the gold. Marner first wonders if it was a thief who took the gold, and then wonders if it was “a cruel power” set against his unhappiness. This procession of thinking, from practical explanation to fantastical explanation, shows what happens when something unbelievable occurs. Marner is quick to believe in God or god-like beings when something beyond rational explanation occurs. Human knowledge is limited, in the time period of this novel and today.

Marner repeatedly experiences events beyond his understanding and reaches for a supernatural explanation. He loses his faith in a benevolent God, but continues to ask, as he does here, about the existence of a cruel power that is negatively targeting him. This understanding of “morality” is one that is unpredictable and irrational. Marner doesn’t believe he has done anything to deserve his two losses—his lost position in Lantern Yard and his lost money—therefore, it must be some cruel power that is targeting him without reason. Actually, in both cases, another person has taken advantage of Marner—William Dane who accused him and Dunstan who robbed him—and yet it could also be argued that these humans were just the instruments of Fate or God.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Mr. Snell gradually recovered a vivid impression of the effect produced on him by the peddler’s countenance and conversation. He had a “look with his eye” which fell unpleasantly on Mr. Snell's sensitive organism. To be sure, he didn't say anything particular—no, except that about the tinder-box—but it isn't what a man says, it's the way he says it. Moreover, he had a swarthy foreignness of complexion which boded little honesty.

Related Characters: Mr. Snell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Raveloe
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

In a rare appeal to his fellow men, Silas Marner goes to the local pub for help after he is robbed. The villagers of Raveloe offer their advice, which ranges from suggestions of supernatural interference to suspicion of an unknown peddler who traveled through Raveloe. In this passage, Mr. Snell remembers several things about this peddler that make him an object of suspicion in the eyes of the villages. These suspicious traits reveal the xenophobia of the villagers, who are particularly afraid of anyone or anything that is different from themselves. These traits include a suspicious “look with his eye” and a “swarthy foreignness of complexion which boded little honesty.” The suspicion cast on this peddler is very insubstantial. The argument against him is the way he made Mr. Snell feel, and this is quickly attributed to his foreignness and the darkness of his skin. The villagers of Raveloe never feel good about foreignness.

Mr. Snell goes so far as to acknowledge that the peddler didn’t say anything particularly suspicious, so there is no real evidence against him. Furthermore, he must “gradually recover” the impression the man made on him, which shows that he is talking himself into his suspicions the longer he contemplates the peddler's foreignness. The villagers are much happier to suspect a foreigner than one of their own. 

Chapter 9 Quotes

He [Godfrey Cass] was not likely to be very penetrating in his judgments, but he had always had a sense that his father's indulgence had not been kindness, and had had a vague longing for some discipline that would have checked his own errant weakness and helped his better will.

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass, Squire Cass
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey Cass reflects on his father's indulgent treatment of him, and the fact that it's difficult for Godfrey to imagine confessing the truth about his marriage because of this upbringing. The Squire won’t hesitate to punish his son if he learns the truth, but his treatment of his older son has always been without regular discipline and according to the anger and whims of the father.

In this passage, Godfrey’s character, one of “weakness,” is attributed to the failings of his father in raising him without discipline. The narrator assigns blame to Squire Cass as a poor parent. A good parent understands that indulgence is not kindness, and that discipline is required for healthy development. This idea of parenting is considered and reworked later in the novel when Marner and Dolly Winthrop discuss Eppie’s upbringing. Notably, Godfrey is also blaming his father. Godfrey, because of his weak character, always looks outside himself for solutions to his problems. He blames his father, rather than taking responsibility for his actions. He wants to marry Nancy because she will keep him on the right track in life through her focus and goodness. His weakness of character is key in bringing about his unfortunate marriage, which continues to impact him for years.

Favourable Chance, I fancy, is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in. Let even a polished man of these days get into a position he is ashamed to avow, and his mind will be bent on all the possible issues that may deliver him from the calculable results of that position.

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage universalizes Godfrey’s experience as he hopes for a resolution to his terrible marriage to Molly. Because Godfrey is ashamed of his secret relationship, and he cannot resolve this situation through his own actions either by confessing or persuading Dunstan to keep the secret, he hopes for a chance occurrence that will rescue him. The voice of the narrator appears in this passage with an “I” voice and an opinion. Normally, Silas Marner focuses on the thoughts and actions of the characters, but occasionally it pauses to provide more universal reflections from the narrator.

In this universal reflection, the narrator points out that it naturally follows that if a person is in an undesirable situation, he will focus irrationally on events that could allow him to escape without consequences. This is notable because it presents a counterpoint to the idea highlighted in other parts of this novel that one’s character determines one’s fate. In much of this book, good characters bring happiness into their lives through their kindness, and weak characters make mistakes and poor choices that continue to haunt them. This passage acknowledges that even a “polished man”—one of wealth, good social standing, and (presumably) good character—would rely too much on chance if he were in a situation like Godfrey’s. Even good characters are inclined to look outside themselves for help, to rely on chance, when their poor circumstances seem beyond their control. 

Chapter 10 Quotes

Formerly, his [Silas Marner’s] heart had been as a locked casket with its treasure inside; but now the casket was empty, and the lock was broken. Left groping in darkness, with his prop utterly gone, Silas had inevitably a sense, though a dull and half-despairing one, that if any help came to him it must come from without; and there was a slight stirring of expectation at the sight of his fellow-men, a faint consciousness of dependence on their goodwill.

Related Characters: Silas Marner
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

When Silas Marner loses his gold, the loss shakes him out of a routine pattern for his daily life. This change is described with the simile of a locked casket. Marner’s heart was “locked” because it was focused only on the gold inside. Without the gold, the casket (his heart) is empty. The gold is described in this passage as Marner’s “prop,” the thing he relied on every day. Because of this dramatic shift in his focus from the gold to the absence of the gold, Marner thinks for the first time about his fellow humans. He feels that “if any help came to him it must come from without.” Therefore, the loss of Marner’s gold is not a bad thing, although Marner sees it that way. The reader definitively learns in this passage that the gold was blocking Marner from focusing on connection with other people.

Marner now begins to feel “expectation” at the sight of others and has a sense of “dependence on their goodwill.” This shows that his faith in other people has never been completely lost. Despite his anger and bitterness after his dramatic departure from Lantern Yard, he is still somewhat inclined to believe in the goodness of others. Without his gold blocking his view, he is able to see the importance of other people in his life.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Molly knew that the cause of her dingy rags was not her husband's neglect, but the demon Opium to whom she was enslaved, body and soul, except in the lingering mother's tenderness that refused to give him her hungry child. She knew this well; and yet, in the moments of wretched unbenumbed consciousness, the sense of her want and degradation transformed itself continually into bitterness towards Godfrey. He was well off; and if she had her rights she would be well off too.

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass, Molly Farren
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

Molly Farren sets out one winter night to find Godfrey and reveal the truth of their connection. She is motivated by bitterness, because Godfrey is enjoying an extravagant lifestyle at his father’s house and she is living in poverty. This passage captures both Molly’s rational understanding of her situation and her emotional understanding of her situation. From a rational point of view, Molly knows that she is poor because of her opium addiction. Her money goes toward acquiring the drug. But when she is sober, when she feels wretched “unbenumbed consciousness,” she feels bitter toward Godfrey because she sees her poverty in contrast to his wealth.

Her bitterness is not without some foundation, however, as she points out that “if she had her rights” she would be wealthy like Godfrey. By this she means that if Godfrey were to acknowledge her as his wife, she would be entitled to his wealth. Although Godfrey provides for wife and daughter, Molly sees that this is different than how he would treat a different woman. Her bitterness is a rebellion against social classism. She wants to be treated the same way as any other woman married to Godfrey would be treated. Molly’s situation is partly in her control and partly beyond her control, but her choice to link herself to Godfrey leads to her perpetual unhappiness.

[Silas Marner] was stooping to push his logs together, when, to his blurred vision, it seemed as if there were gold on the floor in front of the hearth. Gold!—his own gold—brought back to him as mysteriously as it had been taken away!

Related Characters: Silas Marner
Related Symbols: Gold, The Hearth
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Silas Marner finds the baby Eppie sleeping on his hearth. The proximity of the sleeping child to the place he used to hide his gold, and the similar color between the gold and the hair of the child leads to his confusion. This reaction shows Marner’s focus on his gold, which he immediately thinks of when confronted with the same color on his hearth. Marner’s mistake strongly links Eppie and the gold in more ways than one, however. In addition to their similarities, and the precious role they play in Marner’s life, both the gold and Eppie disappear and appear without an easily understandable explanation. The child appears “as mysteriously” as the gold was “taken away.” As with the disappearance of the gold, the appearance of Eppie is explained to the reader, but not to Marner. Although it seems unlikely that the child would have been left near Marner’s cottage and would have wandered inside, it is possible. To Marner, however, it seems impossible that this child could have appeared without some influence from a divine power. Therefore, the mysterious nature of the gold's departure and the child's arrival further contributes to Marner’s sense that Eppie has replaced the gold in a spiritual sense. 

Chapter 13 Quotes

Godfrey felt a great throb: there was one terror in his mind at that moment: it was, that the woman might not be dead. That was an evil terror—an ugly inmate to have found a nestling-place in Godfrey's kindly disposition; but no disposition is a security from evil wishes to a man whose happiness hangs on duplicity.

Related Characters: Silas Marner, Molly Farren
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

Silas Marner finds Molly's body outside his hut and rushes to Squire Cass’s party in search of the doctor. Godfrey overhears the news and hurries with the doctor, Mrs. Winthrop, and Silas Marner to inspect the woman. Godfrey waits outside Marner’s hut in great agitation as the doctor cares for Molly. He wonders as he waits if she is really dead, and he feels terror at the thought that she might not be. This passage explains Godfrey’s terror as the natural consequence of his circumstance, which has twisted his heart and mind enough that he wishes for another person's death. His wish arises from a desire to protect himself and his happiness. If Molly is dead, Godfrey's secret dies with her. 

This passage describes how such a cruel thought could arise from the mind of a man like Godfrey, who is weak of character, but kind. Eliot universalizes Godfrey’s experience, pointing out that any man who is living a duplicitous life will succumb to evil when it is necessary to maintain the duplicity his happiness is based on. For Godfrey to be happy, he must wish for Molly’s death. If he had never gotten himself into this situation, Godfrey would never have been the type of person who wished any ill on another being.

Chapter 14 Quotes

Thought and feeling were so confused within him [Silas Marner], that if he had tried to give them utterance, he could only have said that the child was come instead of the gold—that the gold had turned into the child.

Related Characters: Silas Marner, Eppie
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

As seen before, Silas Marner sees a strong connection between the gold he has lost and the child he has found. Their physical similarities (gold color and golden hair), their mysterious disappearance and arrival, and their location near his hearth, link the two in his mind. The timing of the loss of one and discovery of the other also leads Marner to have many confusing thoughts and feelings. He is devastated by the loss of his gold, which was the only thing he held dear to his heart. The child fills the gap left by the gold, and, as the novel shows, takes up her place in Marner’s heart in a more meaningful way.

In this passage, Marner understands the loss of the gold and the arrival of the child as less of a replacement and more of a transformation. He thinks, “the gold had turned into the child.” This transformation is his way of explaining something that is beyond his ability to understand. Instead of thinking about a cruel power that is bringing him unhappiness, Marner is considering a fantastical transformation that isn’t one of loss and gain, but one of change. He is reworking his bitter understanding of the loss of his gold, as he grows to believe that he hasn’t lost the gold, only that it has changed into something far better.

“…the little child had come to link him [Silas Marner] once more with the whole world.”

Related Characters: Silas Marner, Eppie
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

When Silas Marner takes in the little orphaned child, the villagers of Raveloe gain a new interest in Marner and grow to see him in a new light. The once-frightening weaver is approachable with the little girl at his side. Mothers from the village come to Marner with help and advice. The child gives the people of Raveloe a reason to reach out to Marner, in addition to a new understanding of him as a kind-hearted, if lonely, soul. Therefore, it is through Eppie that Marner is once again “linked” with “the whole world.” This transition presents a parallel (yet opposite) transition to Marner's departure from Lantern Yard. There Marner severed ties with the world because others saw him as a threat. He was seen as a thief and a liar and he was cut off from his community.

The people of Raveloe's dramatic change shows that the opinions of society play a critical role in the relationship between society and the individual. If the individual is mistrusted, he is cast out. If the individual is well-liked, he is embraced as part of the group. This can be either logical or illogical. Marner deserves the respect of the villagers for taking care of Eppie. On the other hand, Marner was falsely accused in Lantern Yard and public opinion turned against him without good reason.

Chapter 16 Quotes

By seeking what was needful for Eppie, by sharing the effect that everything produced on her, he [Silas Marner] had himself come to appropriate the forms of custom and belief which were the mould of Raveloe life; and as, with reawakening sensibilities, memory also reawakened, he had begun to ponder over the elements of his old faith, and blend them with his new impressions, till he recovered a consciousness of unity between his past and present.

Related Characters: Silas Marner, Eppie
Related Symbols: Raveloe
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

Silas Marner loves Eppie and seeks out everything that is best for her, and, in the process, his personality changes from one of cold isolation into one who participates in the “forms of custom and belief” in Raveloe. This has the effect of helping Marner fit into Raveloe and become a part of the community. It also has the effect of restoring Marner to something like the person he was before his first hardship (his expulsion from Lantern Yard). This earlier person was a man of faith, and faith is one thing Marner regains as he raises Eppie and becomes part of Raveloe society. Marner must recover elements of his “old faith” and “blend them with his new impressions.” This integration of the old and the new is important because it allows Marner to see his episode as an isolated weaver as an interruption in a connected past and present. He is not meant to be that sad and isolated person forever. He regains his natural care for others and the faith he had as a young man.

Notably, part of Marner’s transformation involves taking on the “mould of Raveloe life.” Not only does he become part of a community, but he adjusts himself to specific traits and ideas of that community. This is later very apparent when Eppie and Marner visit Lantern Yard. Both miss the ways of life in Raveloe to which they are accustomed.

Chapter 18 Quotes

“Everything comes to light, Nancy, sooner or later. When God Almighty wills it, our secrets are found out.”

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass (speaker), Nancy Lammeter
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey finally finds the strength to confess the truth about Molly and Eppie to his wife Nancy. This strength is born of the shame he feels when Dunstan’s body is found at the bottom of the stone pits with Silas Marner’s stolen gold. As he begins to explain his secrets to Nancy, he starts with this proclamation: that everything hidden is at some point revealed. He sees the hand of God in what has happened to Dunstan. Despite the long time his brother was missing, the truth of his cruelty in robbing a lonely man is finally revealed. The chance events that led to this secret coming to light convince Godfrey that all secrets are eventually revealed, and he had better not tempt fate by continuing to lie.

This is a change for Godfrey, who once struggled to confess his secrets, but always failed. Godfrey has clearly grown as a person, although he has not entirely changed. His willful plan to adopt Eppie, regardless of Marner’s wishes, shows that he is still self-focused. But he has a new faith and understanding of God, and he sees events as the products of God’s will. Where once he relied on chance to save him, knowing no other way, now he actively engages with the idea of a God who controls events. Nancy has a very strong faith and seems to have influenced her husband’s thinking and character, as Godfrey once hoped that his father could have more positively shaped his character.

Chapter 19 Quotes

“…then, sir, why didn't you say so sixteen year ago, and claim her before I'd come to love her, i'stead o' coming to take her from me now, when you might as well take the heart out o' my body? God gave her to me because you turned your back upon her, and He looks upon her as mine: you've no right to her! When a man turns a blessing from his door, it falls to them as take it in.”

Related Characters: Silas Marner (speaker), Godfrey Cass
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey and Nancy explain the biological connection between Godfrey and Eppie to Silas Marner and the girl. They state their wish to adopt Eppie and to give her a better (that is, upper-class) than the life she has with Marner. Marner is very upset by this, because he loves Eppie as his own child. He speaks of losing Eppie as the same as taking his heart out of his body. His emotions show clearly how much he cares for the girl, especially in contrast to Godfrey’s measured arguments.

Marner is upset because he loves Eppie, but he also offers compelling arguments for why Godfrey doesn’t ethically deserve to take his child. Marner points out that Godfrey “turned his back upon her” with full knowledge of the identity and whereabouts of his daughter. This means that Godfrey has no right to her. In contrast, Marner has taken her in and cared for her, and, therefore, she is his in God’s eyes. Marner’s faith is an important part of his claim on Eppie, because he believes her to have come into his life through God’s will. Marner expands his point to say that any blessing a man turns from his door can be claimed by anyone who will take it in. This is a sort of “finders keepers” argument. The language of ownership in this passage may be startling to a modern reader, as each man claims Eppie is "his." Marner argues that belonging is defined by care, and Godfrey argues that belonging is defined by biological connection.

“…but repentance doesn't alter what's been going on for sixteen year.”

Related Characters: Silas Marner (speaker)
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey says that he wants to adopt Eppie to repent for his past wrongdoings, but Marner argues that repentance cannot change the past. Godfrey has ignored Eppie and his responsibility to her every day for sixteen years. At any point he could have chosen to care for his daughter. He does finally do so, but it happens sixteen years too late. Forgiveness and repentance are important concepts in religious faith. Marner, unlike God, is not interested in granting forgiveness for Godfrey’s wrongdoing. He sees the choice that Godfrey made as irreversible. And in many ways he's right: there is no way Godfrey can turn back time and spend sixteen years devoted to his growing child. During that time, Eppie has found a family in Silas Marner and in the villagers of Raveloe who move in different social circles than the wealthy Godfrey and Nancy.

This passage shows that choices have long-term consequences, and also that the novel as a whole provides moral justice. Characters suffer or benefit from choices they make, and repentance does not always alter these outcomes. Godfrey continues to suffer because he ignored his daughter for sixteen years, and he cannot change his past choices through present action.

Chapter 20 Quotes

“She thinks I did wrong by her mother as well as by her. She thinks me worse than I am. But she must think it: she can never know all. It's part of my punishment, Nancy, for my daughter to dislike me.”

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass (speaker), Godfrey Cass, Eppie, Nancy Lammeter, Molly Farren
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

After Godfrey and Nancy fail to convince Eppie to live with them, Godfrey reflects on Eppie’s dislike of him. He is troubled by Eppie’s refusal, which is the reason the couple agrees to leave the girl with her adoptive father. Godfrey says that he knows Eppie blames him for what he did to her, as well as to her mother. He thinks that Eppie’s opinion of him is too harsh, but resigns himself to this fact because it is part of his “punishment.” Godfrey’s odd opinion shows both his inherently selfish nature, as well as the ways he has begun to repent for his past actions. He is reluctant to think ill of himself, and, as usual, pushes the blame off onto another person. He thinks Eppie is too harsh because she “can never know all” of what he’s been through. But, at the same time, he is more willing to accept Eppie’s opinion than he once would have been. He sees her opinion as fate, or the will of God. It is inevitable that she dislike him because of his past actions.

At one point, Godfrey would have been happy to escape scot-free from any blame for his misdeeds. Now, he is more willing to bear the burden of living childless after having chosen to reject a biological child. Despite this new understanding of God’s will, Godfrey is as ready as ever to play the victim, rather than to take responsibility. His imperfect character ends the book in imperfect happiness, a prime example of the book’s "moral" lesson.

Chapter 21 Quotes

“It's gone, child," he [Silas Marner] said, at last, in strong agitation—“Lantern Yard's gone. It must ha' been here, because here's the house with the o'erhanging window—I know that—it's just the same; but they've made this new opening; and see that big factory! It's all gone—chapel and all.”

Related Characters: Silas Marner (speaker), Eppie
Related Symbols: Lantern Yard
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

Even though Silas Marner’s life has been changed for the better because of Eppie, he still feels unease about his past in Lantern Yard. He wonders if his name was ever cleared from the crime for which he was blamed. Seeking answers to these questions, Marner and Eppie visit Lantern Yard, only to discover that the town has grown into a city and has been completely transformed by the Industrial Revolution. A big factory has replaced the local chapel and the community where Marner lived. Despite these changes, Marner recognizes the location by a house with a distinct overhanging window. This confirms for him that the place he once knew, and the people he knew there, are gone.

This dramatic change shows a contrast between Raveloe and Lantern Yard. In the rural village, little has changed over the course of the book, but Lantern Yard is transformed. This transformation heralds the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which will affect even rural places like Raveloe. This historical context for the novel hints at the changes that England will face in the near future, which exist ominously in relationship to the villagers of Raveloe’s fear of change.

Although Marner once defined himself in relationship to society in Lantern Yard, this society is gone—and Marner remains. Society is not more permanent than the individual, but is always in flux. Yet the consistency and familiarity of Raveloe also offers comfort and security to both Marner and Eppie. Marner is eager to return home after visiting Lantern Yard—similarly, Eppie didn’t want to live with Godfrey and Nancy because it would mean leaving the comfort of Marner's familiar society.

“It's the will o' Them above as a many things should be dark to us; but there's some things as I've never felt i' the dark about, and they're mostly what comes i' the day's work. You were hard done by that once, Master Marner, and it seems as you'll never know the rights of it; but that doesn't hinder there being a rights, Master Marner, for all it's dark to you and me.”

Related Characters: Dolly Winthrop (speaker), Silas Marner
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

Marner discusses the changes he saw in Lantern Yard with Dolly Winthrop after he returns to Raveloe. He worries that he will never know whether the truth of his false accusation was uncovered. Mrs. Winthrop comforts Marner by pointing out that there are some things that will never be known to humans, but this shouldn’t impact the things that are certainties in our lives. Mrs. Winthrop speaks of the will of “them above” that keeps humans in the dark. This attributes omniscience to God (or gods), while pointing out that some things will always be mysterious to humans. This view encourages Marner to accept those things he cannot know about or change. On the other hand, Mrs. Winthrop says that she never feels confusion about what “comes in the day’s work.” She knows the things in her daily life and she feels contented with what she knows. This furthers her argument that there is value in accepting the limitations of human knowledge. It is enough to know small-scale things.

Mrs. Winthrop also points out that just because Marner doesn’t know something doesn’t mean that the right thing hasn’t happened in the world. Only “them above” can see and understand the big picture, and “the right thing” may be happening in the big picture even if Marner cannot see and understand how it is happening. Perhaps God has a reason for Marner never discovering the truth about his past in Raveloe, even if this reason isn’t clear to Marner.

“Since the time the child was sent to me and I've come to love her as myself, I've had light enough to trusten by; and now she says she'll never leave me, I think I shall trusten till I die.”

Related Characters: Silas Marner (speaker), Eppie
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

Marner tells Mrs. Winthrop that Eppie has changed his life because she brought light enough for him to “trusten by.” This idea of light and trust is two-fold. First, Marner is continuing a metaphor Mrs. Winthrop began earlier in their conversation when she referred to some things that are “dark” to humans: things we cannot explain or understand. On the other hand, those things that are "light" to us are so clear and obvious that they will never be questioned. Silas Marner feels this way about his love for Eppie. Marner also gains a newfound trust in God and in humanity because of Eppie’s presence in his life. Her love showed him the value of companionship and the value of being part of the society of Raveloe, and seemed to show him that a benevolent God brought Eppie to him in the first place.

Part 2, Conclusion Quotes

“…he [Silas Marner had brought a blessing on himself by acting like a father to a lone motherless child.”

Related Characters: Silas Marner
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

The villagers of Raveloe praise Marner for his kindness in taking in Eppie years earlier. This praise directly links Marner’s act of kindness to his own good fortune years down the road. Because he was a father to an orphaned child, he has “brought a blessing on himself.” This statement supposes that one’s actions have direct and long-term consequences in one's life. As a whole, this novel upholds this idea, as good characters meet good ends, bad characters meet bad ends, and morally ambiguous characters have mixed ends to their narratives. This gives the novel a moral tone, as it presents a lesson about the way decisions continue to influence one’s life for years to come. It also relies on a sense of trust that, despite bumps along the way, people who hold onto their faith and act out of kindness are blessed. The world of this novel is not a world of chance occurrences—actions and character traits are rewarded or punished according to moral standards. 

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