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Silas Marner Essay, Research Paper

Jean Song

English 001-601

First Paper


George Eliot’s Silas Marner tells the story of an unjustly exiled weaver who is restored to life by means of a little orphan girl named Eppie. Silas’ character throughout the book is extremely unique in that extraordinary events take place in his life yet he does nothing to spur these happenings. Silas Marner is extremely passive throughout most of the book, until the end, when a great event occurs in his life.

From the beginning of the book, Silas is crookedly accused of stealing money. Due to his passivity, he is forced into the life of a loner. When he is interrogated about the stolen money, he remarks: “‘God will clear me: I know nothing about the knife being there, or the money being gone. Search me and my dwelling: you will find nothing but three pound five of my own savings, which William Dane knows I have had these six months’” (p. 10). It seems that Silas relies too much on God to prove his own innocence. He comes off as na ve due to his trusting nature. It is ironic that at the precise moment in which the money was stolen, he has a cataleptic seizure allowing for William Dane to escape with the money, unseen by anyone. Silas realizes that he has been wronged by his dear friend William yet does not speak up. He announces that he remembers that the knife was not in his pocket: “The other persons present, however, began to inquire where Silas meant to say that the knife was, but he would give no further explanation: he only said, ‘I am sore stricken; I can say nothing. God will clear me’” (p.9). Again, Silas Marner, an unfortunate victim, could have cleared his name if he had explained the situation. Still, he remains quiet and lets the blame fall on himself when the lots are drawn. His acquiescence to the verdict reveals his passive character. None of his actions brought about this incident. In fact, it was Silas’ inaction that resulted in his exile.

Silas is portrayed as a man whose life is easily absorbed by one pursuit: his love of religion is quickly replaced by a love of money once humanity has shown itself to be unkind towards him. When he arrives in Raveloe, he falls into a melancholy state, struck by the strangeness of his new surroundings. The villagers come to think that he has special powers, as he is so different from the rest of them. He does nothing to create this belief, and likewise does nothing to do away with it. After helping one woman with one of his old remedies, Silas attracts many people:

“Silas now found himself and his cottage

suddenly beset by mothers who wanted him

to charm away the whooping-cough or bring back the milk, and by men who wanted stuff

against the rheumatics and, to secure themselves

against a refusal, the applicants brought silver in their palms. Silas might have driven a profitable

trade in charms as well as in his small list of drugs;

but money on this condition was no temptation to

him: he had never known an impulse towards

falsity, and he drove one after another away.”


Silas shuns human interaction and grows to be even more of a hermit after this incident. He isolates himself from society and continues to weave, hoard money, and be just as passive. His monotony and pushing away of people create a background for some great change to happen in the future.

Later on in the story, when Silas’ gold is stolen, it leads him to seek out his neighbors’ help. This brings him out of his isolated lifestyle, and the villagers begin to treat him as more of a human. The loss of his money upsets his reclusive lifestyle which he had created for himself. His money was his sense of security, and when it is taken, it causes Silas to actively search out the guilty party. As time passes, and the gold is not returned, Silas becomes obsessed with the possibility that his money will be found. After looking for his gold, another cataleptic seizure hits him:

“[Silas] went in again, and put his right hand

on the latch of the door to close it-but he did

not close it: he was arrested, as he had been already

since his loss, by the invisible wand of catalepsy,

and stood like a gravern image, with wide but sightless

eyes, holding open his door, powerless to resist the

good or evil that might enter there.”

(p. 111)

Silas’ unawareness again brings a great change in his life. His near-sightedness allows for his mistaking Eppie’s blond hair for his gold. After the arrival of this little girl, Silas finds a new purpose in life and decides that Eppie is a far greater blessing than his gold. The little girl seems to have brought him to life, lifting his character from miserliness to human compassion.

It is almost mesmerizing how all these events occur in Silas Marner’s life even though he is portrayed as such a passive character. Throughout a good portion of the book, he is absent from the plot. Yet the book seems to revolve around him without any of his actions contributing. At the end of the story, Silas himself has become well-liked and speaks more in the finals chapters than he has throughout the whole novel. Silas Marner’s character evolves, from the beginning of the story to the end, without any outwardly efforts on his part.


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