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Silas Marner

Silas Marner

by George Eliot

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Quote #7

"I should be glad to see a good change in anybody, Mr Godfrey," she answered, with the slightest discernible difference of tone, "but it 'ud be better if no change was wanted." (1.12.87)

Nancy tells Godfrey that she'd be glad if he improved his life but that she'd prefer it if he had been good from the start. This attitude calls up the Biblical parable of the Prodigal Son. In the parable, a man has two sons: one good, one bad. The bad one leaves, gets into trouble, and then finally comes back repentant. The father welcomes him with a feast, and the good son is a little mad—he's never gotten a feast. The father explains that it's good to celebrate when a bad person is redeemed. The parable is supposed to explain why God loves repentant sinners so much. Here, Nancy counters that story by suggesting that she would have preferred the good son. But does Eliot? Silas isn't "bad," exactly, but Silas Marner is definitely a story of redemption.

Quote #8

Marner took her on his lap, trembling with an emotion mysterious to himself, at something unknown dawning on his life. Thought and feeling were so confused within him, 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. (1.14.14)

You might say that the primary change in Silas Marner is the transformation of Silas's gold into Eppie. That change from one substance to another seems to match up with the Christian miracle of transubstantiation, in which bread is transformed into the body of Christ. Transubstantiation was (and is) a heated issue for Christians—different groups believe different versions of it. For many Protestants, Communion is just a memorial; for Roman Catholics, the miracle of transubstantiation really takes place. What's interesting is that transubstantiation brings the Christian community together in Communion. When Silas's gold transubstantiates, a similar communion takes place.

Quote #9

"I don't want any change," said Eppie. "I should like to go on a long, long while, just as we are. Only Aaron does want a change; and he made me cry a bit—only a bit—because he said I didn't care for him, for if I cared for him I should want us to be married, as he did." (2.16.17)

Like Nancy, Eppie is a woman resistant to change. She doesn't want any alteration; she's happy just as she is. It's Aaron who wants to change things by getting married. What's the relationship between change and gender? What is Eliot saying about women and men?

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