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Silas Marner

Silas Marner

by George Eliot

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Quote #4

This is the history of Silas Marner until the fifteenth year after he came to Raveloe. The livelong day he sat in his loom, his ear filled with its monotony, his eyes bent close down on the slow growth of sameness in the brownish web, his muscles moving with such even repetition that their pause seemed almost as much a constraint as the holding of his breath. (1.2.10)

Silas's resistance to change makes him into something less than human. His monotonous life turns him into a spider in the middle of a "brownish web." Is change—like maybe growing up—what makes us human? If the people in Raveloe stick too closely to their traditions, do they also become dehumanized?

Quote #5

But about the Christmas of that fifteenth year, a second great change came over Marner's life, and his history became blent in a singular manner with the life of his neighbours. (1.2.11)

In case we haven't figured it out by now, Eliot lays it out: the whole book is structured around two major changes in Silas's life. She's exploring the psychological effects of external changes—in other words, figuring out how the interior changes when the exterior does.

Quote #6

I'd a baking yisterday, Master Marner, and the lard-cakes turned out better nor common, and I'd ha' asked you to accept some, if you'd thought well. I don't eat such things myself, for a bit o' bread's what I like from one year's end to the other; but men's stomichs are made so comical, they want a change—they do, I know, God help 'em. (1.10.23)

Dolly's odd little speech here associates men with change and women with stability. Men get restless, she suggests, and need to move about (we know some guys who would agree with that). This attitude jives with stereotypical ideas about Victorian gender roles: women stay at home and fix up the house while men go out and work in the world. But how seriously are we supposed to take Dolly here? After all, the village men are as stuffy and resistant to change as the women—possibly more so.

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