Silas Marner

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Gold Symbol Icon
Silas Marner becomes obsessed with the acquisition and hoarding of gold after he losses his faith in God and in other people. Gold, as an object, becomes the recipient of all the human love and affection that he once directed toward his friends and community. Marner not only saves and hides his gold, but he admires it lovingly. He gives it attention and care worthy of a child. The gold symbolizes Marner’s isolation and his exclusion from human love and affection. His heart is directed toward the cold and unfeeling gold, and he appears cold and unfeeling to those around him. Only through Eppie’s appearance does Marner begin to love and cherish other human beings again. Eppie’s golden hair allows her to resemble the gold, creating a strong connection between Marner’s reactions to his gold and to his adopted child. His love for gold isolates him; his love for Eppie re-connects him to the community.

Gold Quotes in Silas Marner

The Silas Marner quotes below all refer to the symbol of Gold. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Faith Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Silas Marner published in 1996.
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.

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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 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

[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 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.

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Gold Symbol Timeline in Silas Marner

The timeline below shows where the symbol Gold appears in Silas Marner. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...if from instinct, like a spider. Upon completing his first project, Marner was paid in gold, and the five guineas shone brightly in his hand. Money, in the past, had been... (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Marner’s stash of money grows, and, with it, his desire for more gold. He stashes his money beneath some loose bricks in the floor under his loom. In... (full context)
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Marner’s life has withered to the solitary practices of weaving and hoarding his gold. After twelve years in Raveloe, he is fetching water from the well one day when... (full context)
Chapter 4
Morality Theme Icon
...Marner. Dunstan walks toward Raveloe through the misty evening, all the while tapping Godfrey’s inscribed gold whip that he carries. (full context)
Chapter 5
Faith Theme Icon
...a habit, as he’s never had reason before to suspect a thief might take his gold. Marner is looking forward to a gift of cooked pork for his supper and to... (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...all his faith, and his isolation has turned his power of loving onto only his gold. He decides to take out his gold before supper and admire it as he eats.... (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
...Was it some cruel supernatural power, and not a human thief, who had taken his gold? His thoughts fix on Jem Rodney as the probable thief. Jem had once lingered too... (full context)
Chapter 7
Faith Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...apprehensive of his ghostly appearance. Marner whirls on Jem and accuses him of stealing his gold. The landlord encourages Marner to sit down and to share his full story and the... (full context)
Chapter 10
Faith Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...goes to visit Silas Marner. Marner receives them without impatience. Before the loss of his gold, any interruption would cause him to lose work time and profit, but after his loss... (full context)
Chapter 12
Morality Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
...time had passed and, turning to his hearth, he saw, with his poor vision, his gold on the hearth. (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Stretching his hand out to his returned gold, Silas Marner touches curly hair. Marner examines the sleeping child. Is this a dream? He... (full context)
Chapter 14
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Silas Marner’s gold, when it had been the center of his attention, needed nothing, and could be worshipped... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...links Marner with the community and with other people. He no longer is interested in gold, other than as a means to secure what Eppie needs. (full context)
Chapter 19
Faith Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...the quiet of being alone with only Eppie. Near them on the table is the gold, arranged as Marner used to arrange it. He has been telling Eppie of how he... (full context)