by George Eliot
Silas Marner Tradition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
I says to myself, "Is't the meanin' or the words as makes folks fast i' wedlock?" For the parson meant right, and the bride and bridegroom meant right. But then, when I come to think on it, meanin' goes but a little way i' most things, for you may mean to stick things together and your glue may be bad, and then where are you? (1.6.38)
Here, the parish clerk is remembering the Lammeters' wedding, when the priest mixed up the language. He was—and years later, still is—super concerned that the wedding didn't "take" because the words weren't right. What matters, the meaning or the words? The feeling or the form? If it's the words that matter most, as Mr. Macey seems to think, then tradition is more important than what the priest meant to say. Saying the wrong words would make the wedding invalid.
It was the great dance on New Year's Eve that made the glory of Squire Cass's hospitality, as of his forefathers', time out of mind. This was the occasion when all the society of Raveloe and Tarley, whether old acquaintances separated by long rutty distances, or cooled acquaintances separated by misunderstandings concerning runaway calves, or acquaintances founded on intermittent condescension, counted on meeting and on comporting themselves with mutual appropriateness. (1.10.58)
The traditional New Year's Eve dance helps keep the community together by reinforcing social bonds among equals—in other words, it's like a yearly conference for, say, dentists to network and schmooze. What's kind of interesting is that Eliot describes the yearly ritual in terms that make it seem as though Raveloe exists outside of history in a kind of time loop: nothing ever happens, and nothing ever changes.
Miss Nancy had no sooner made her curtsy than an elderly lady came forward, whose full white muslin kerchief, and mob-cap round her curls of smooth grey hair, were in daring contrast with the puffed yellow satins and top-knotted caps of her neighbours. (1.11.5)
The "puffed yellow satins" and "top-knotted caps" refer to town, as opposed to country, fashions. Eliot seems to be suggesting that country dress, like everything else about the country, is traditional, while innovation and newness comes from the city. But check it out: the kerchief and mob-cap, traditional 18th-century country dress, are "daring." It's cool to be retro.