Silas Marner

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The Individual and Society Theme Icon
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The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Silas Marner, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
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Silas Marner describes nearly thirty years of Silas Marner’s life, in which the protagonist loses his faith in God and in human society, and then slowly regains his faith years later when he adopts a loving orphan girl named Eppie. Silas Marner’s early faith is distinctly different from the faith he regains in later years. As a young man, Marner lives in Lantern Yard and his faith depends on the community and worship there. Marner believes in an unseen, benevolent God and in following only those practices that reflect faith in this God. Marner has acquired some knowledge of herbal remedies from his mother, but he refrains from using these, believing that prayer, without medicine, is a sufficient remedy. Marner loses his faith in a benevolent God when his friend William Dane falsely accuses him of stealing church funds. Upon being accused, Marner believes God will reveal his innocence, but when the church draws lots to make a decision, the lots declare his guilt. Marner lashes out at William Dane, accusing him of framing him, and accusing God of being a God of lies.

After this blasphemy, Marner moves to the simple village of Raveloe where he withdraws from his neighbors, hoarding and coveting his money, disenchanted with all human relationships. When Marner discovers Eppie, an orphan who wanders into his home, he cares for her and raises her. Through his love for her, Marner rediscovers an interest in human connection. As he seeks what is the best for Eppie, he again attends church and he makes friends in Raveloe. Marner again gathers medicinal herbs as he once enjoyed doing, and he feels light return to his life through the love Eppie has for him.

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Faith Quotes in Silas Marner

Below you will find the important quotes in Silas Marner related to the theme of Faith.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“…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.


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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 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 9 Quotes

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 14 Quotes

“…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.

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.