by George Eliot
Silas Marner Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
The weaver's hand had known the touch of hard-won money even before the palm had grown to its full breadth; for twenty years, mysterious money had stood to him as the symbol of earthly good, and the immediate object of toil. (1.2.4)
Money stands for something—but what? It's not an earthly good in and of itself; it stands for an earthly good. The key word here seems to be "mysterious." Money is baffling. It can't be spent, and it doesn't improve Silas's standard of living. Here's Eliot's being all philosophical: money is a symbol of something, and not a thing in itself.
He spread them out in heaps and bathed his hands in them; then he counted them and set them up in regular piles, and felt their rounded outline between his thumb and fingers, and thought fondly of the guineas that were only half-earned by the work in his loom, as if they had been unborn children—thought of the guineas that were coming slowly through the coming years, through all his life, which spread far away before him, the end quite hidden by countless days of weaving. (1.2.10)
This image could be funny—a man literally "bathing" in his money, rolling around on a pile of gold coins like a cartoon miser on his pile of $100 bills or a dragon snoozing on a heap of treasure. But Eliot infuses it with pathos. Silas clings to coins because he has nothing else. His community has been snatched away from him, and it will be a long time before he learns to join a new one.
If she could come to be mistress at the Red House, there would be a fine change, for the Lammeters had been brought up in that way, that they never suffered a pinch of salt to be wasted, and yet everybody in their household had of the best, according to his place. Such a daughter-in-law would be a saving to the old Squire, if she never brought a penny to her fortune, for it was to be feared that, notwithstanding his incomings, there were more holes in his pocket than the one where he put his own hand in. (1.3.3)
Like readers of Us Weekly speculating on celebrity marriages, the villagers agree that Nancy would be a good wife for Godfrey because she'd bring thrift and frugality to the Red House. Although none of the villagers approach Silas's level of obsession about money, they do think about it a lot.