Monday, 1 June 2009

Silas Marner by George Eliot

Silas Marner by George Eliot
"A child, more than all other giftsThat earth can offer to declining man,Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts."

Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe is a dramatic novel by George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Ann Evans) which was first published in 1861.

Plot summary

Silas Marner is a man slave in Lantern Yard who is accused of a double crime(murder and theft).Two clues are given against him:a pocket-knife and the discovery of the stolen money in his own house.Silas says that he last used the knife to cut some string for his friend who is now blaming him.Silas is proclaimed guilty and the love of his life deserts him.With his life shattered and his heart broken,he leaves Lantern Yard.
Silas Marner then settles near the village of Raveloe, where he lives as a recluse who exists only for work and his precious hoard of money until that money is stolen by Dunstan Cass, a dissolute son of Squire Cass, the town's leading landowner. The loss of his gold drives Silas into a deep gloom, although a number of the villagers endeavour to help him.
Soon, however, an orphaned child comes to Raveloe. She was not known by the people there, but she is really the child of Godfrey Cass, the eldest son of the local squire. Her mother, Molly, is secretly married to Godfrey, but is also of low birth and addicted to opium. On a winter's night, Molly tries to make her way into town with the child to prove that she is Godfrey's wife and ruin him. On the way she takes opium, becomes disoriented and sits down to rest amid the snow, child in arm. Her child wanders from her mother's still body into Silas's house. Upon discovering the child, Silas searches for its mother and finds Molly - a woman unfamiliar to him - dead. Silas decides to keep the child and names her Eppie, after his deceased mother, Hephzibah. Eppie changes his life completely. Symbolically, Silas loses his material gold to theft only to have it replaced by the golden-haired Eppie. Godfrey Cass is now free to marry his new love, Nancy, concealing his first marriage from her. Eppie grows up to be the pride of the town and to have a very strong bond with Silas, who through her has found inclusion in the town. Later in the book, his gold is found and restored. Godfrey confesses to his wife, Nancy, that the dead woman was his first wife and that Eppie is his child. The couple, who are childless, go to Silas and reveal this to him, asking that Silas give Eppie up to their care. However, the decision falls to Eppie, who has no desire to be raised as a gentleman's daughter if it means forsaking Silas. At the end, Eppie marries a local boy, Aaron, son of Dolly Winthrop, and both of them move into Silas' newly enlarged house, courtesy of Godfrey.
Ultimately, Silas Marner is a tale of familial love and loyalty, reward and punishment, and humble friendships.

Characters in Silas Marner

Silas Marner – a weaver, miser protagonist

Godfrey Cass – son of the local squire.

Dunstan Cass – Godfrey's greedy brother with a penchant for alcohol and manipulation.

Molly Farren – Godfrey's first wife who has a child by him. She dies leaving the child.

Eppie – child of Molly and Godfrey who is cared for by Marner.

Nancy Lammeter – Godfrey Cass's second wife.

Aaron Winthrop – son of Dolly who marries Eppie at the end of the novel.

Dolly Winthrop – mother to Aaron; godmother to Eppie. Sympathetic to Silas.

William Dane – William Dane is Silas’s former best friend, who looked after Silas and respected Silas in Lantern Yard. William Dane ultimately betrayed Silas by framing him for theft and married Silas’s fiancée after Silas exiled himself from Lantern Yard. He did this following the death of his mother.

Sarah – fiancée to Silas while in Lantern Yard. Married William Dane.

Major themes

In Silas Marner, Eliot combines humour, jealousy and rich symbolism with a historically precise setting to create an extraordinary tale of love and hope. This novel explores the issues of redemptive love, the notion of community, the role of religion, and the status of the gentry and family. While religion and religious devotion play a strong part in this text, Eliot concerns herself, as always, with matters of ethics, and it is clear that for her, ethics exist apart from religion. On the surface, the book has a strong moral tract; the bad characters like Dunstan Cass get their just desserts, while the good, pitiable characters like Silas Marner are richly rewarded. Although it seems like a simple moral story with a happy ending, George Eliot's text includes several pointed criticisms on organized religion, the role of the gentry, and the impact of industrialization. It was written in the period during Industrial Revolution and may be a reaction to it.

Literary significance & criticism

This book has traditionally been part of the curriculum of secondary schools in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Ireland. Recently, it has been studied in some secondary schools in Costa Rica and West Africa (Ghana). It is also a part of the Cambridge A Levels syllabus in Singaporean junior colleges offering Literature courses. In India, notably in Calcutta, it is offered as part of the Advanced English course.

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

The tale was set in "the South Midlands," and the fictional Raveloe was based on the Warwickshire village of Bulkington. There are also correlations between locations in the book and the village of Inkberrow, Worcestershire. It is not known whether the relation is genuine, a coincidence, or deliberate naming by the locals. To the west of the village is Stone-Pits, and at the east side, a tree-lined drive leads to the entrance of the Red House.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Scene from W. S. Gilbert's 1876 play, Dan'l Druce BlacksmithW. S. Gilbert's Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith (1876) takes its initial situation - the arrival of a child into a miser's life - from Silas Marner (as noted in the libretto), and has a somewhat similar ending, although the middle section is entirely new.[1][2]

Ben Kingsley played Silas Marner in a British-TV adaptation (broadcast in the U.S. by Masterpiece Theatre), with Patsy Kensit as a grown-up Eppie.

The children's literary dog series Wishbone also has an episode with an abridged adaptation for the younger set. The 1994 film Léon aka The Professional was loosely based on Silas Marner. It starred Jean Reno as an Italian hitman in New York City who takes in a 12 year old girl (played by Natalie Portman) whose family is murdered next door. The film also starred Gary Oldman and Danny Aiello.

Steve Martin wrote and starred in a 1994 movie adaptation of the novel, titled A Simple Twist of Fate.

Bits and themes of this novel are borrowed in an episode of The Simpsons, "Moe Baby Blues", in which a lonely, almost-sociopathic man begins to enjoy life after saving the life of his friend's baby daughter.

The novel is mentioned in the movie A Christmas Story as literature the children in Miss Shields' class are studying.

Adrian Hodges has written an upcoming, 90 minute[3] adaptation of Silas Marner for ITV1[4]. The 2007 film Black Snake Moan, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci, is also (loosely) based on Marner.

The critically acclaimed 1954 Indian film Bangaru papa, in Telugu starring character actor S. V. Rangarao and Krishna Kumari, is also based on award-winning short story writer Palagummi Padmaraju's (loose) adaptation of Marner.


1. Illustrated London News. November 18, 1876, page 476^ Stedman, Jane W. (1996). W. S. Gilbert, A Classic Victorian & His Theatre. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816174-3. p.141 2.

3. • coming up

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