An irrational fear of the unknown characterizes the attitudes of the people of Raveloe. This fear of the unknown is a key factor in Silas Marner’s initial separation from the society of the village. On the first page of the book, the wary perspective of these people is described. The basis of their xenophobia is their narrow circle of acquaintances and the limited travel that would occur in any individual’s lifetime. The villagers of Raveloe are used to interacting with the same circle of people because the same families have lived in the village for multiple generations.
After Silas Marner is robbed, the local men discuss a peddler who carried a tinderbox like the one found by Marner near his house after the robbery. The highest element of suspicion in the peddler’s appearance and character was his “foreignness,” which is described by the villagers as evidence of his dishonesty. Marner also exhibits fear of the unknown. His return to Lantern Yard is marked by fear and distrust of the transition that has occurred in his old home. An anxiety with “the new” pervades the book, which ends with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, an increase in manufacturing, which was soon to rapidly change lives throughout England.
Fear of the Unknown ThemeTracker
Fear of the Unknown Quotes in Silas Marner
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?
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.
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.
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.