Study Guide

Silas Marner Analysis

By George Eliot

  • Tone

    Observant, Sentimental, Snarky

    Snarky and sentimental? You betcha.

    Eliot's narrator veers from cloying to caustic so abruptly that you might need Dramamine. For example, she goes from describing Mrs. Kimble as having "a double dignity, with which her diameter was in direct proportion" (1.11.3)—i.e., she's fat—to praising Nancy as giving "the same idea of perfect unvarying neatness as the body of a little bird" (1.11.9). Elsewhere, the narrator has a man describe his wife as "too fat to overtake [a child]: she could only sit and grunt like an alarmed sow" (1.13.47). But Eppie! Eppie is just the cutest little thing. When we meet her, she "toddles" twice in one paragraph and then is described as "gurgling […] like a new-hatched gosling" (1.12.3.). It's even worse when she grows up: she skips about and calls Silas her "little old daddy" (1.16.20).

    What these snarky and sentimental descriptions have in common is a keen eye for detail. Eliot's narrator spends a lot of time describing not only people's appearances but their personalities through direct narration, dialogue, and action. Above all, she an observant watcher, giving the impression that she's actually lived among this community.

    There's a telling line when she narrates Godfrey's last look at dead Molly: "at the end of sixteen years every line in the worn face was present to him when he told the full story of this night" (1.13.38). The implication here is that Godfrey told the story to the narrator, or at least told it to someone who told it to her. This kind of gossipy writing makes the narrator as much a part of village life as any of the characters she's observing.

  • Genre

    Pastoral; Realism; Fairytale

    The tricky thing about Silas Marner is that it's both incredibly realistic and totally implausible. The realist bits come through in the style (see "Writing Style" for more about that). The setting is pastoral: it takes place in a village full of charming local character; the village's allegorical name suggests that we aren't supposed to take the realism too seriously; and the story centers around the idealized rural celebrations of Christmas and New Year's.

    And the plot? Miserly old man hordes a plot of gold until it's magically transformed into a living, breathing child (who just happens to be from a much better family) who redeems him and then marries the handsome neighbor boy. Heard this story before? It might as well come straight out of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. The basic plot outline is sheer fairytale.

    So which genre do we choose? The beauty of novels is that you don't really have to.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Silas Marner, the Weaver of Raveloe

    By titling her novel Silas Marner, Eliot is participating in a long tradition of naming books after their protagonist: Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Samuel Richardson's Pamela, Jane Austen's Emma, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and so on. But there are two rather more interesting things to note about Silas Marner.

    First, a lot of the book isn't really about Silas Marner at all. The narrator spends a lot of time on Godfrey's story, and quite a bit of time on the village and villagers. This tension between the individual (Silas) and the community (Raveloe) gets at exactly one of the novel's main interests: what is the relationship between an individual and his neighbors?

    And (second) that's where the subtitle comes in. The subtitle takes away from the focus on the individual by locating Silas in a community and giving him a role. He's not just "Silas": he's a weaver (he has a function in the village) and he belongs to a specific group of people. As you read from left to right, you almost get the whole story of Silas Marner: Silas starts out as an individual "Silas Marner"; he then defines himself through his work ("the Weaver"); and then he finally assumes a role in his community ("of Raveloe").

    Very clever, Ms. Eliot.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    Silas Marner ends with a wedding, a curiously optimistic send-off for a novel that has led its protagonist Silas (and its secondary protagonist Godfrey) through one misfortune after another. The pat ending—Eppie sighing delightedly that "nobody could be happier than we are"—should satisfy even the pickiest romantic.

    But—just before the wedding, Eppie and Silas head off to the big city to discover what's become of Silas's old community and to try to ferret out the truth of what went on when Silas was accused of theft. But Lantern-Yard is gone, and in its place is a factory. Nothing remains of Silas's old community, no one has any information, and Silas never does get closure. That dull spot on the otherwise shiny ending is just one clue that Eliot drops for us to follow to a darker conclusion.

    As Godfrey reminds Silas, he's not able to make as much money as he used to, because the same kind of factories that have replaced Lantern-Yard are going to start replacing the Silases of England. Industrialization is coming, and the pastoral idyll that Eliot depicts will become nothing more than a story—one that sounds very similar to the Merry (or "Merrie") England myth that depicts pre-Industrial England as a pastoral utopia that existed before industrialization.

    So, you could just accept the pretty cottage at face value as a happy ending. There's definitely evidence in the text to support that reading. But we can't shake the feeling that Eliot wouldn't end a book that way. Literary critics (and mathematicians) say that something is "overdetermined" when you get the same result from doing something in more than one way. In less precise terms, something is "overdetermined" when it's just a little too obvious. What we're suggesting is that this ending is overdetermined: it's just a little too obvious to be believed.

  • Setting

    Raveloe, A Small Village

    Eliot sets her novel in an idyllic village full of "nutty hedgerows" (1.1.2) that is "nestled in a snug well-wooded hollow" with a "fine old church […] and two or three large brick-and-stone homesteads, with well-walled orchards and ornamental weathercocks" (1.1.2). No one's starving (starving was fairly common in English villages throughout much of history), everyone gets along, and there are even some chubby, rosy-cheeked children, like Dolly Winthrop's "apple-cheeked" boy Aaron (1.10.20).

    This idealized vision of country life is usually called "pastoral." The pastoral has nothing to do with actual villagers, who are usually overworked, muddy, and probably putting their hands into unpleasant parts of animals. The pastoral is a city girl's vision of country life. It's neat little shepherdesses, thatched roofs, and little babbling brooks; it's blooming hollyhocks and pretty country weddings. Nice work if you can get it, but Eliot is really laying it on thick here.

    That's why the historical setting is just as important as the geographical setting. The village of Raveloe is based on a real village, one where some of Eliot's relatives are buried, called Bulkington. Bulkington still exists today, and for most of history the people who lived there were farmers. Toward the end of 18th century (as you may remember if you took U.S. history), a lot of rich people in England started to enclose common land. This land traditionally hadn't belonged to anyone; it was held in common, and people could graze their animals and even farm it. Like privatization these days, "enclosure" took common property and made it private.

    This was bad news for farmers. They had to rent land that they used to be able to just use, and sometimes they weren't even allowed to rent it—it was turned into private parks or game preserves. So farmers turned to trades, and in Bulkington that trade was ribbon-weaving. Weaving—sound familiar? Even the name "Raveloe" hints at Bulkington's fate—not even hint, really, more like "says," because "to ravel" means "to undo" or "unweave."

    So, while Eliot is weaving her tale of a village that's as interconnected as a finely woven piece of linen, Raveloe itself, or the real-world version of it, is become unwoven through weaving.

    Confused? Here's another way of saying it: Silas is a weaver who is woven into the fabric of communal life in Raveloe, a village whose name hints at the unraveling of village life that was taking place at just about the same time that Silas Marner is set.

  • What's Up With the Epigraph?

    A child, more than all other gifts
    That earth can offer to declining man,
    Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts


    William Wordsworth, a major player in the British Romantic movement, which obsessed over the natural delightfulness of children, was famously obsessed with kids. All that business about children being our future? That's straight from the Romantics.

    By opening with an epigraph from Wordsworth—specifically from "Michael: A Pastoral Poem"—Eliot announces that this book is going to be (1) about the country, and (2) about children and parents. The funny thing is, "Michael" is not a cheerful tale. Michael and his son Luke live in a thrifty pastoral utopia, earning the respect of all their village neighbors and basically living out the dream of the English countryside. Until…

    Yeah, it doesn't last. Turns out, Michael has co-signed a loan for his nephew, and his nephew has defaulted. Luke has to go off to the city to make money to pay back the loan, and, of course, he gets into bad company and ends up fleeing England. Michael dies of a broken heart, his wife follows, the cottage is sold, and, with understatement, Wordsworth announces that "great changes have been wrought / In all the neighbourhood" (478-479).

    In other words, "Michael" tells the exact opposite story that Silas Marner does. The child ruins the family rather than saves it; the young man goes to the city and is corrupted rather than leaves the city and is saved. Keep in mind that "Michael" was published in 1800, sixty-one years before Silas Marner. Wordsworth was writing about the changes of urbanization and industrialization as they were happening; Eliot is reflecting on them from decades later. So, is Eliot being ironic? Does she not believe the story she's telling? Did she specifically set out to complicate the story of "Michael," or is this epigraph a clue that Silas Marner is nothing more than an idealistic fairytale?

  • Tough-o-Meter

    (4) Base Camp

    The plot of Silas Marner is simple and the writing some of Eliot's clearest, but the dialect can be tricky. Eliot was careful to represent country language accurately, as in this gobsmacker of a passage:

    For there's my wife, now, can't smell, not if she'd the strongest o' cheese under her nose. I never see'd a ghost myself; but then I says to myself, "Very like I haven't got the smell for 'em." I mean, putting a ghost for a smell, or else contrairiways. And so, I'm for holding with both sides; for, as I say, the truth lies between 'em. And if Dowlas was to go and stand, and say he'd never seen a wink o' Cliff's Holiday all the night through, I'd back him; and if anybody said as Cliff's Holiday was certain sure for all that, I'd back him too. For the smell's what I go by. (1.7.58)

    Here, the landlord of the Rainbow Inn is saying that the fact that he's never seen a ghost doesn't mean that they don't exist, because he simply might not have an eye for ghosts, the way his wife doesn't have a good sense of smell. But we forgive you for not understanding that the first time. We had to read it a couple times ourselves.

    If you can push through the dialect (there's a lot in chapter 6) and some of the heavy philosophical narration (although much less than in Eliot's other books), the rest of the story is pretty smooth sailing.

  • Writing Style


    Describing Silas Marner as slice-of-life realism is not quite fair—it's a lot more than that—but many critics have noticed the "Dutch realism" of her writing here. Dutch realism refers to paintings in the 17th century that focused on images of domestic, often interior life, rather than Biblical or classical scenes. Eliot's use of dialect, like this first instance "Some folks 'ud say that was a fine beast you druv in yesterday, Bob?" (1.6.2), has a lot to do with the book's air of realism. Eliot was trying to represent not stereotypical country people but a specific kind of dialect—like Mark Twain representing Jim and Huckleberry's speaking voices in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

    The realism also comes through in the careful attention Eliot pays to the everyday facts of village life, describing the tools of Silas's trade, the piles of laundry that Mrs. Winthrop washes, the humdrum conversations of men at the pub, and the sneers of city folk laughing at Nancy's dialect. As a writer of realism, Eliot was participating in the 19th century's dominant form of novel writing. The great masters of the mid-1800s—Dickens, Trollope, the Brontës, Thackeray—were all, in various ways, realists: they wanted to represent truth by describing common, everyday life rather than the aristocratic adventures that had been popular before novels became the dominant form of literature.

  • Spiders and Webs

    It seems Raveloe is out of fly swatters, since the village is infested with bugs. In Silas Marner, insects, particularly spiders, appear all the time. Okay, not literal insects, but metaphorical ones.

    Silas, the narrator says, "seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection" (1.2.3); he sits at his loom with "his eyes bent close down on the slow growth of sameness in the brownish web" (1.2.10); Eppie calls him away from "the repetition of his web" (1.14.33). Spiders represent all that is inhuman about work. When work is done without thought or love, it's mechanical, and mechanical work is insect labor.

    Spiders also let Eliot take a jab at industrialization. By the 1860s, when Eliot wrote Silas Marner, almost all weaving and spinning was done by machine. The kind of work that people do at machines is what Karl Marx in 1844 called "alienated" or "estranged" labor—work that makes people unable to control their own destinies.

    Farmers, for example, work for themselves (mostly). Their labor directly produces the food that sustains them. Artisans produce things. They make chairs, clothes, candles, wheels, one-of-a-kind products that they make from start to finish. But someone working at a machine only makes part of something, or makes a product in which he or she has no investment. To Eliot, that kind of work is insect-labor. It's dehumanizing.

  • The Loom

    Silas is an artisan. Rather than a farmer like the villagers or a hunched-over factory worker, he works with his own loom in his own house. He's what English historian E.P. Thompson calls a "customer-weaver." By the end of the 18th century, customer-weavers were practically irrelevant, being replaced first by weavers working all together in a type of factory, as Silas used to; and then, just a few decades later, by real factories full of power-looms.

    So the loom partly signals how precise Eliot was being in setting her novel at the beginning of the 19th century. Sure, the sound of the loom might have been strange to Raveloe—but it's a sound that almost no one in 1861 would have recognized, either.

    The loom also represents the difference between monotony and rhythm. Eliot spends a lot of time talking about the rhythmic nature of Raveloe life, focusing in particular on the ritual of Christmas and New Year's. The yearly ball at the Red House, for example, "renew[s] the charter of Raveloe" through the ritual of allowing the villagers to sit in the doorway and watch the parishioners dance (1.11.61). These are ceremonies that happen every year. They follow, at least to some degree, the rhythm of the agricultural seasons. Eliot refers to this rhythm as the natural cheerful trotting of the winnowing machine, or the simpler rhythm of the flail" (1.1.2) and contrasts it to the "mysterious action of the loom" (1.1.2).

    What's so mysterious about Silas's loom? It's not cyclical; it's just repetitive. He works at it "unremittingly" (1.2.3); "his ear filled with its monotony" (1.2.10); "he wrought in it without ceasing" (1.5.3). The ceaseless noise that you can hear at the beginning of this BBC version represents the unchanging rhythm of his life. Back and forth, back and forth in the same path over and over: like Silas's circuit from loom to gold to bed, the sound of the loom is inhuman and frightening because it never changes.

  • Bread

    Lardy-cake—okay, so it's not technically bread—is a traditional (and delicious-sounding) concoction of animal fat, flour, sugar, and spices. So basically it's like a donut.

    Dolly Winthrop brings Silas some as a sympathy gift after his money is stolen, and there's something special about this cake: it's covered in mysterious letters. As Dolly says, "there's nobody, not Mr Macey himself, rightly knows what they mean; but they've a good meaning for they're the same as is on the pulpit-cloth at church." (1.10.25). Silas clears things up: the letters are "I.H.S.," although he doesn't know that they stand for the first three letters of Jesus' name in Greek (Ἰησοῦς).

    The inscription of Jesus' name on the bread elevates the humble lardy-cake from delicious snack into something like Communion. In the Christian ritual of Communion, a congregation—or even just a few people—shares bread and wine as a memorial of the Last Supper, the meal that Jesus and his disciples shared just before the Crucifixion. In some traditions, the bread and wine are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ; in others, they serve as a memorial of the Crucifixion and a symbol of the shared community of Christians.

    In any case, Dolly offers the lardy-cake in a kind of Communion, attempting to bring Silas into the communal life of the village. Only Silas doesn't eat the bread. He does something that might even be better: he breaks off a piece and offers it to Aaron. This simple act transforms the lardy-cake into a symbol of religion more powerful, maybe, than the actual ritual of Christmas, which Eliot only describes as being held among "abundant dark-green boughs" and including the long Athanasian Creed. The villagers like the ceremony, but it hardly touches them. They leave unchanged, heading back "to eat, drink, and be merry" (1.10.56).

  • Gold

    Silas runs to The Rainbow after he discovers that his pot of gold has been stolen.

    Yes, Eliot goes there.

    To give her some credit, it's a little more complicated than that. For Silas, gold at first symbolizes the achievement of earthly goals. It literally is a symbol to him rather than an end in itself: "money had stood to him as the symbol of earthly good" (1.2.5). This is kind of an interesting comment on symbols, in fact, since Eliot seems to be exploring what it means when we treat things as symbols rather than as, well, things.

    Because eventually gold stops being a symbol for Silas, when it magically transmutes into a real, living girl. As Silas reaches forward to take what he thinks is his lost gold, "instead of the hard coin with the familiar resisting outline, his fingers encountered soft warm curls" (1.12.8). That's when gold taken on more of a symbolic meaning in the novel, as Eppie comes to symbolize Silas's gradual absorption into common life.

    This is a little confusing, but, if we're right, it's pretty cool: When gold is a symbol to Silas, it doesn't symbolize much of anything for the novel. But when it stops being a symbol for Silas by becoming Eppie, it starts to be a symbol for the novel, and Eppie (although supposedly a real live human) is more of a symbol than the actual gold. Weird, right? Eliot seems to be working through something about the very nature of literary symbolism and how characters in novels are both symbols and people.

  • The Hearth

    When little Eppie toddles up to Silas's hearth, you know that something important is about to happen. The hearth (the area in front of a fireplace) is central to Eliot's vision of idyllic country life. Eliot explains how Raveloe is different from Lantern-Yard by describing it as a place "where men supped heavily and slept in the light of the evening hearth" (1.2.1). The hearth represents security, comfort, warmth, and abundance—and not just of food. Hearths ought to be full of children (no wonder deaths by fire were so common before the 20th century), and so when Eppie settles down uninvited on Silas's, good things are about to start happening.

    In contrast, Godfrey's hearth—like his sense of responsibility—is cold and empty. He imagines himself "with all his happiness centred on his own hearth, while Nancy would smile on him as he played with the children" (1.15.3), but by letting Eppie be raised on someone else's hearth, he pretty much ensures that he'll never have children of his own.

    Only it doesn't seem to be entirely his fault. He's brought up "where the hearth had no smiles" (1.3.38), because his mother is dead and his dad is a jerk. Without that smiling hearth at the center of his childhood, it's a miracle that Godfrey doesn't end up dead at the side of the road, or, as in Dunstan's case, at the bottom of a quarry. Only marrying Nancy—who brings order and peace to his hearth—saves him.

    The hearth also seems to be connected to Raveloe's weirdly pagan version of Christianity. Silas is so attached to his hearth that, like a survivalist preparing for the end of the world, he insists on continuing to cook on it even after Godfrey offers to buy him a modern oven and grate. "The gods of the hearth exist for us still" (2.16.30), the narrator says. In Raveloe, the humble villagers might as well be Romans worshiping household gods rather than modern, free-thinking Christians (like Eliot herself, who actually lost her faith after spending time studying the life of Jesus). Home, Eliot suggests, is where the hearth is—but maybe that hearth is something that only exists in the idyllic world of the past. That's kind of a depressing way to think about home.

  • Allegory

    Silas's rebirth doesn't take place on Christmas.

    See, that's actually important. The main story of Silas's redemption—betrayal, the arrival of a child, and then the reintegration into the community—is pretty much exactly the story of Christian fall and salvation. The soul is cast out of God's company because of sin and then is brought back through Jesus, who is born as a human on Christmas. In that sense, Silas's story is a clear allegory of salvation.

    But it doesn't take place on Christmas. It takes place just after Christmas, or, as the narrator says, "about the Christmas of that fifteenth year" after Silas comes to Raveloe (1.2.11). That's a clue telling us to be careful about dismissing Silas Marner as pure allegory. Allegory is only part of the story. Godfrey and Nancy inhabit a completely different type of novel—one where symbols can't be broken down so neatly, and one where the right moral decision isn't so easy to make.

    In fact, you might say that Eliot is thinking about the very nature of allegory. How satisfying are allegorical stories? Is it possible to write a complex, sophisticated novel based on an allegorical story? What happens when you try to make an allegory story seem real? (Hint: you get something a lot like Godfrey's narrative arc.)

  • Narrator Point of View

    Third Person (Omniscient)

    Oh boy, is this narrator omniscient. She occasionally pulls back to make some sort of grand philosophical statement, like the almost impenetrable "Minds that have been unhinged from their old faith and love, have perhaps sought this Lethean influence of exile, in which the past becomes dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the present too is dreamy because it is linked with no memories" (1.2.1), but more often she's dashing in and out of people's minds, speaking not with her own voice but the with voice of the villagers:

    Silas Marner must be a person of the same sort, for how did he know what would bring back Sally Oates's breath, if he didn't know a fine sight more than that? The Wise Woman had words that she muttered to herself, so that you couldn't hear what they were, and if she tied a bit of red thread round the child's toe the while, it would keep off the water in the head. (1.2.5)

    This style of writing is called free indirect discourse, and it's a hallmark of a lot of really good psychological writing. As opposed to tagged direct discourse (He said, "I think I'll go out tonight") or tagged indirect discourse (He said that he thought he'd go out that night), free indirect discourse does away with tags like "he said" and goes right for the character's thoughts (He thought he'd go out that night).

    With free indirect discourse, you get the illusion of direct access into the character's mind. The narrator almost inhabits the character rather than directly narrating what the character is saying or doing. Free indirect discourse was super popular in the 19th century—Jane Austen is often credited with introducing, or at least perfecting, its use in English. (The French were pretty good at it, too.)

    In Silas Marner, the narrator uses so much free indirect discourse that it's surprising when she takes a step back to make her grand philosophical statements. We're left to wonder how close the narrator is to the world that she's describing. Is she one of the villagers, wandering around among them, sympathizing with them, living with them? Or is she standing back at a narrative distance, passing judgment on them?

  • Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

    Falling Stage

    Silas is exiled from Lantern-Yard. Godfrey marries Molly.

    When the novel opens, Silas is in a bad state: his friend and fiancée have betrayed him, and he's been kicked out of the only home he's ever known. Godfrey is a kind of shadow protagonist; Eliot doesn't spend as much time on him, but he does have a similar plot arc. His falling stage, which takes place off-stage, begins when Dunstan somehow convinces him to marry the unsuitable Molly.

    Recession Stage

    Silas withdraws into himself. Godfrey behaves like a fool.

    All we hear about Godfrey is that the villagers have noticed he's been running a little wild, but Eliot treats us to page after page of Silas's distress. It is so intense that he loses his faith in God, and we almost lose our patience with the narrator.

    Imprisonment Stage

    Silas is trapped in his routine of work and hording. Godfrey is trapped by Dustan's blackmail.

    Again, we hear lots and lots about Silas's imprisonment in his endless round of weaving and hoarding. Eliot actually describes his soul has having been "long stupefied in a cold narrow prison" (1.14.35). Godfrey, meanwhile, is trapped by Dunstan's blackmail: he can't confess his marriage to his father because he's afraid he'll be disinherited, and so he has to follow Dunstan's orders.

    Nightmare Stage

    Silas's money is stolen. Molly starts making her way to the New Year's party to reveal everything.

    Just when it can't get any worse, Silas's money is stolen. He gets glimmers of a feeling that maybe this would be a good time to start participating in village life, but he just can't bring himself to do it. He hits rock-bottom at Christmas, sitting alone in his cottage. Godfrey, meanwhile, pursues Nancy recklessly, and his nightmare is occurring without his even being aware of it: Molly is making her way, with their child, to force him to acknowledge them.

    Rebirth Stage

    Eppie redeems Silas. But Godfrey…

    But Molly never makes it, and Silas adopts Eppie. A little child saves him (don't they all?). She connects him to his community, gives him purpose, and basically brings him back to life. Godfrey? Not so much. By finally acknowledging his daughter, Godfrey manages to salvage what's left of his character. He finally accepts responsibility and grows up. But he doesn't get Silas's happy ending.

  • Plot Analysis

    Initial Situation

    Betrayed, Disgraced, Erased

    It's easy to miss, but Silas Marner is actually a multi-plot novel. Multi-plot novels are something of a George Eliot-special, most famously Daniel Deronda, in which the protagonists from the novel's two plots hardly meet at all. Raveloe's tight-knit community means that Godfrey's and Silas's plots are a little closer together, but they're still separate. When the novel opens, Silas and Godfrey, in separate chapters, are each confronting a sticky situation: Silas has been kicked out of his community and relocated to Raveloe; and Godfrey's degenerate brother Dunstan has somehow tricked him into marrying the town druggie.


    All By Myself

    Silas is a lonely dude. He grew up with a supportive, loving community of like-minded believers, and he's now in a situation so foreign that he doesn't even recognize the villager's religion as Christian. He copes by working like a maniac and hoarding his money with the single-mindedness of a zombie horde pursuing the human race's lone survivor. Only problem is that he is—like that zombie horde—starting to lose his humanity.

    Godfrey, meanwhile, continues to be a spineless weakling.


    They Stole Me Lucky Charms

    Silas is snapped out of his rut when Dunstan steals his money; except the theft only gets him in an even deeper funk. Godfrey is doubly upset about his marriage because he wants to marry Nancy, who is just the kind of girl you want to bring home to mom—or in this case, your cranky, alcoholic dad.


    Little Orphan Eppie

    Eppie brings Silas together with his community, and she also brings the novel together by uniting Godfrey's story with Silas's story. Only, when she comes into Silas's house, the two stories seem to diverge completely. Godfrey sees her and refuses to admit that she's his; Silas takes her in, planting the first seeds of his redemption by integrating into the community.

    Cue the inspiring montage.



    After a brief rundown of Eppie's early years and some of Silas's comical attempts at childrearing—for example, tying Eppie to his loom and then leaving scissors around—the narrative skips sixteen years. When Part 2 opens, toddler Eppie is all grown up and Silas is a beloved fixture of the community.


    Eppie, I am Your Father

    Oh, hey, Godfrey, were you looking for your brother at any point during those sixteen years? He's been lying dead at the bottom of the quarry just a few yards from Silas's door. And he stole Silas's money. And now it looks like all the secrets are coming out. Godfrey confesses to Nancy and they try to do their duty to Eppie by taking her away from the only home she's ever known. Shockingly, she refuses, and Godfrey doesn't get his happy ending.


    Happily Ever After

    Luckily, everyone else does. Silas Marner ends on a bright note: "What a pretty home our is!," Eppie says. "I think nobody could be happier than we are" (2.21.17). It's a nice thought, and Silas's plot ends happily. If that ending leaves you with a sugar high, remember this: Eliot has been hinting all along that this happy home and pretty cottage are doomed by the force of history, the industrialization signaled by the booming manufacturing city that Silas and Eppie visit right before the end.

  • Three-Act Plot Analysis

    Act I

    In Act I, Silas is evicted from Lantern-Yard, settles down in Raveloe, and begins to hoard his money. Act I kicks off the story with a gruesome death and a dastardly theft, both of which seem like they'll introduce a much more action-packed book than they actually do.

    Act II

    In Act II, both of our so-called heroes rather pathetically sit around waiting for something to happen, if only they knew what they wanted. Silas can't even respond to his friendly neighbors, and Godfrey just fantasizes about a hearth full of Nancy's children. Only the little toddler Eppie is capable of any kind of action: she toddles into Silas's house and, predictably, warms the old miser's heart.

    Act III

    Silas Marner's Part 2 begins Act III. Sixteen years later, Eppie is all grown up, Silas is part of the community, and Nancy and Godfrey are married but childless. The major event of Act III is the discovery of Dunstan's body, which catalyzes the revelation of everyone's secrets—except the secret of what really happened at Lantern-Yard. Dun dun dun.

  • Allusions

    Literary and Philosophical References

    • Lethe (1.2.1), a river of the underworld in Greek mythology, associated with sleep
    • Mant's Bible (2.17.22), an annotated and illustrated version of the Bible published in 1817
    • "beauty born of murmuring sound" (2.19.1), William Wordsworth from the poem "Three Years She Grew…," stanza 5 

    Biblical References

    • David and Jonathan (1.1.7), Biblical best friends
    • "Calling and election sure" (1.1.7), 2 Peter 1:10
    • "Not in the body, but out of the body" (1.1.9), 2 Corinthians 12:2-3
    • "Like demons who had found in him a ready-garnished home" (1.3.39), Luke 11:24-25
    • The psalm (1.6.19), Psalm 106:3
    • "watch for the morning" (1.7.31), Psalm 130:6
    • The Athanasian Creed (1.10.56), a long statement of Anglican belief
    • Hephzibah (1.14.27), Isaiah 62:4
    • The city of destruction (1.14.50), Sodom
    • "mine own fami'ar friend" (2.16.35), Psalm 41:9

    Historical References

    • King George III (1.3.3, 1.11.31)

    Pop Culture References

    • "the flaxen-headed ploughboy" (1.11.52, 54), a song written by John O'Keefe for William Shield's ballad opera The Farmer
    • Shield's ballad opera The Farmer
    • "Sir Roger de Coverley" (1.11.58) a popular country dance