Two societies are at the heart of Silas Marner: Lantern Yard and Raveloe. These societies are drastically opposed to each other. By the end of the novel, Lantern Yard is a large town filled with factories, busy men, strangers, and travelers. It has experienced the transformative force of the Industrial Revolution. Raveloe is rural and intimate and changes very little from generation to generation. The inhabitants of Raveloe all know each other and are resistant to new or dramatic events in their small village.
The theme of society encompasses both the nature of life in these very different places and Silas Marner’s own changing relationship to his neighbors in Raveloe. Marner’s exclusion from Lantern Yard’s society, his initial willful distance from Raveloe’s society, and his eventual inclusion in this society cause his losing and regaining of faith. The loss of Marner’s money and his finding of Eppie are both presented in terms of his connection with those around him. After he is robbed, Marner is more open to help from others because he feels alone and directionless. Marner is changed from a miserly, isolated weaver into a caring father as he seeks what is needed for his adopted daughter, Eppie. By caring for Eppie, Marner adjusts to Raveloe society, acquiring the customs and beliefs of his new home.
The social conventions of Raveloe dictate what the town’s inhabitants perceive to be right and wrong. Social events, such as the New Years’ Eve dance at Squire Cass’s home, occur according to tradition. Such traditions define Raveloe’s unique identity and society over generations. At the end of the novel, Marner and Eppie travel to Lantern Yard. The village has transformed into a great manufacturing town, made more unsettling by the strong contrast it presents to the intimate village of Raveloe. Men on the streets of Lantern Yard are too busy to stop and assist Marner and Eppie, and both characters long to return to the familiar comforts of Raveloe. Similarly, Eppie is uninterested in Godfrey and Nancy’s offer to adopt her, as this would separate her from the society of those “lowly” folks who she knows and cares for. Eppie and Marner are both happy at the end of the novel because of the connections they have formed with each other and with Raveloe society.
The Individual and Society ThemeTracker
The Individual and Society 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?
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“…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.”
“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.”
“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.”