by George Eliot
Silas Marner Theme of Community
Raveloe is a stratified community. There are wealthy folks—the "parishioners," Eliot usually calls them—and there are poor (but respectable) villagers. They're tied together by a common church and by yearly rituals like the New Year's dance at the Red House. Everyone knows his place and everyone seems fairly content with it. The villagers help each other out with baked goods and laundry, and the parishioners stimulate the economy by purchasing goods and smoothing things over with gifts. But how seriously can we take Eliot's portrait of Raveloe, given that the unraveling of the community is written into the village's very name?
Questions About Community
- How many different kinds of communities does Silas Marner explore? What binds these communities together—blood, religion, geography?
- Eliot looks at communities as large as nations and as small as two-person families. Are the types of communities essentially the same, or does something change as they grow or shrink? Is Eliot suggesting that a nation ought to look like a family?
- What happens when communities are destroyed? Lantern-Yard has completely disappeared because it's been turned into a factory; what does Eliot suggest will happen to Raveloe?
Chew on This
The contrast between the troubled community of Lantern-Yard and the idealized community of Raveloe suggests that England's future lies in disintegrating communities and families.
In Silas Marner, community rather than individuality is the highest good. Functioning as an individual means dooming one's self to loneliness and even death.