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Silas Marner

Silas Marner

by George Eliot

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Quote #1

At the end of fifteen years the Raveloe men said just the same things about Silas Marner as at the beginning: they did not say them quite so often, but they believed them much more strongly when they did say them. (1.1.4)

Here's a good example of how Eliot seems to be suggesting that country life is defined by its resistance to change. Instead of changing their opinions over time, the people of Raveloe just believe them even more firmly. By contrast, change defines both urban and modern life.

Quote #2

But while opinion concerning him had remained nearly stationary, and his daily habits had presented scarcely any visible change, Marner's inward life had been a history and a metamorphosis, as that of every fervid nature must be when it has fled, or been condemned to solitude. (1.1.5)

Village opinion may not have changed, but Silas sure has. And it's not good. He's gone from a trusting young man into an embittered old miser. But the change isn't visible on the outside (except, we're guessing, that he's gotten a little old and ugly).

Quote #3

He began to think it was conscious of him, as his loom was, and he would on no account have exchanged those coins, which had become his familiars, for other coins with unknown faces. (1.2.7)

"Change" and "exchange" are closely related words. The thing about money is that it's supposed to be changeable. That's what's important about moving from a barter system to a cash system—instead of trying to figure out how to get someone to give you a sack of grain for your goat, you can just sell your goat and buy whatever you want. But Silas doesn't see it that way. For him, money can't be changed into goods or even into other coins. So what's the point of working?

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