Study Guide

Silas Marner Change

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Since Silas Marner is about rebirth and redemption, change is an important theme. But it's not always welcome. Silas can't bear the change from his childhood home to the strange new place where he finds himself, and even when he's happy with Eppie, he resists change. Eppie herself refuses to exchange her place with Silas for a comfortable life with Godfrey. But Silas and Godfrey are both changed despite themselves. Like any good Christian story of salvation, change seems never to come from inside. You can only be changed through an act of God, whether that's an orphan showing up at your door or a body coming to light at the bottom of a quarry.

Questions About Change

  1. Which characters change over the course of the novel? Which don't? What does that tell you about the story Eliot is trying to tell?
  2. Besides character change and growth, what other changes occur in the novel? What historical movements does Eliot gesture at?
  3. Change can be good and bad. What negative changes happen in the novel? How do characters react to change in negative ways?
  4. What's the difference between maturation (as with Eppie, and possible Godfrey) and true change as an adult?

Chew on This

In Silas Marner, personal change happens against a background of historical change. Personal and historical change are subtly linked.

Eliot suggests that resistance to change is a key characteristic of rural country life. Silas's arrival in Raveloe heralds the eventual dissolution of that way of life.

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