George Eliot wrote that her story of Silas Marner “sets in a strong light the remedial influences of pure, natural human relations”. Show how Silas’ character changes and develops in the course of the book.
Silas Marner was a weaver who through certain events during his life, became alienated and dehumanised from the rest of the world, turning him into an antisocial miser. This essay will show how Silas’ character develops and changes through the course of the book.
In Lantern Yard, where Silas grew up he was part of a strong, religious, evangelical sect to which he devoted most of his life and money.
Silas lost his faith in the church, God and man for three reasons. His cataleptic fits, which the parish saw as a gift, gave him a high amount of respect amongst the parish, but Silas’ state was taken advantage of when one night, while he was watching over one of the dying leaders of his church, Silas went into one of these fits, and was framed for stealing the leaders money by William Dane, who was thought to be Silas’ best friend. Silas knew that he wasn’t guilty, but when the stolen money, was found in his cottage, he realised what William Dane had done and he thought that God would clear him in the drawing of lots.
“But God will clear me”
The lots declared that Silas was guilty. This is when Silas lost his faith in God and people. His faith in God was lost, because God allowed him to have the fits, which were used to frame him, and because there was no divine intervention from God in the drawing of the lots to clear him. Silas lost faith in people because he was used and betrayed by his best friend William Dane who benefited from Silas’ alienation from Lantern Yard as he then married the one person Silas loved, Sarah. Silas shows his loss of faith when he says to William Dane,
“You stole the money, and you have woven a plot to lay sin at my door. But you may prosper for all that. There is no just God that governs the earth righteously, but a God of lies, that bears witness against the innocent.”
Silas, demoralised by his complete loss in faith took comfort from his loom.
“The second day he took refuge from benumbing unbelief by getting into his loom and working away as usual…”
Here, notice Silas gets “into” his loom. He becomes part of the machine and starts becoming dehumanised.
Silas soon left Lantern Yard and moved to Raveloe. Raveloe is described as a complete contrast to Lantern Yard, Silas’ religion was alien here there was nothing here to make Silas remember his old religion and regret his loss of faith.
“There were no lips in Raveloe from which a word could fall that would stir Silas Marner’s benumbed faith”
Silas believed that he had left God behind in a foreign region, Lantern Yard. Eliot connects the religious beliefs of Raveloe with the lifestyle and how it was different in Lantern Yard,
“It seemed to him that the Power he had vainly trusted in among the streets and at the prayer-meetings was very far away from this land in which he had taken refuge, where men lived in careless abundance, knowing and needing nothing of that trust which for him had been turned to bitterness.”
Such a different style of life meant that Silas became alienated from the people in Raveloe. Eliot describes Silas’ withdrawal from society and how he forgets his past.
“…the past becomes dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the present too is dreamy because it is linked with no memories.”
Silas’ dehumanisation continued as he worked ‘into’ his loom. His,
“Face and figure shrank and bent themselves into a constant mechanical relation to the objects of his life, so that he produced the same sort of impression as a handle or a crooked tube, which has no meaning standing apart.”
It became difficult to say what Silas was away from his loom.
“He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection”…his work became “and end in itself” and so came “to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life”. His “insect-like existence”. His work reduced “his life to the unquestioning activity of a spinning insect”.
Silas’ alienation, dehumanisation and loss of faith in God and man meant that his only love soon became his gold. His trust that he had previously had in his faith, had now been turned to bitterness, they were no longer important to him, gold now became his the object of his work and nothing else but weaving his loom day and night in order to get more of this gold mattered.
“But now, when all purpose was gone, that habit of looking towards the money and grasping it with a sense of fulfilled effort made a loam that was deep enough for the seeds of desire…”
The money was his only goal and he became a miser and completed his alienation, dehumanisation and loss in faith of men and God!
“He handled them, he counted them, till their form and colour were like the satisfaction of a thirst to him;”
“…he loved them all…as if they had been unborn children.”
“His life had reduced itself to the mere functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended.”
When Silas’ gold was stolen, it was a blessing in disguise but at first Silas was once again devastated, just as at Lantern Yard thinking that the “cruel power” of God has made him “a second time desolate”. His reaction at first was the same as at Lantern Yard, he loses faith completely.
“Again he put his trembling hands to his head, and gave a wild ringing scream, the cry of desolation…He turned and tottered towards his loom, and got into the seat where he worked, instinctively seeking this as the strongest assurance of reality”.
Silas was forced to seek help and goes to the Rainbow Inn, forcing him to communicate with others in order to get his gold returned and to socially rehabilitate.
“This strangely novel situation of opening his trouble to his Raveloe neighbours, of sitting n the warmth of a hearth not his own, and feeling the presence of faces and voices which were his nearest promise of help, had doubtless its influence on Marner, in spite of his passionate preoccupation with his loss.”
At first, Silas accuses Jem Rodney yet is so desperate to have his gold back that he offers Jem a reward for him to give him his gold back,
“If it was you stole my money, give it me back – and I won’t meddle with you. I won’t set the constable on you. Give it me back, and I’ll let you – I’ll let you have a guinea.”
Mr. Macey then persuades Silas to withdraw his accusation; this causes Silas to remember his own false accusation and not allow the same to happen to anyone again. This shows that Silas is gaining back some compassion.
“Memory was not so utterly torpid in Silas that it could not be wakened by these words”
This is the beginning of Silas gaining his faith in men back. Sympathy from the villagers means that he is forced to socialise more, but he is still demoralised from the theft of his gold. Eliot describes Silas as a man “more confused and desolate than ever”. Like his gold was a limb that had been amputated he would groan,
“He filled up his blank with grief. As he sat weaving he every now and then moaned low, like one in pain”
Dolly Winthrop and her son Aaron comfort Silas and he begins to trust her even though he doesn’t heed her suggestions to go to church. He is able to respond slightly to her kindness
“Formerly his heart had been as a locked casket with its treasure inside; but now the casket was empty and the lock was broken…there was a slight stirring of expectation at the sight of his fellow-men, a faint consciousness of dependence on there good will.”
Silas was gaining back his faith in men. Dolly also brings to Silas her religion, which also helps him marginally start to regain his faith in God.
When Eppie comes to Silas, at first he thinks that his gold has returned to him,
“Gold! – his own gold – brought back to him as mysteriously as it had been taken away!” He leans out for it, “but instead of the hard coin with the familiar resisting outline, his fingers encountered soft warm curls”
Silas is reminded of his “little sister” and his past. His religious feelings are re-awakened. He immediately cares for the child, caring for it as though it was his gold.
Eppie allows Silas to regain his faith in people as he loves her and is loved back. Dolly Winthrop becomes Silas’ child raising helper as the sick obsession Silas formerly had with his gold has now been replaced with the healthy obsession for his new daughter. Eppie was “warming him to joy because she had joy.”
Dolly eventually persuaded Silas to take Eppie to church and have her christened as Silas wanted Eppie to have the best life possible,
“But I want to do everything as can be done for the child; and whatever’s right for it”
Silas going to church meant that he regained his faith in God. He was also coming to terms with his past when he named Eppie after his little sister. Eliot shows that Silas is almost back to his similar state at lantern Yard,
“Silas began to look for the once familiar herbs again”
“As the child’s mind was growing into knowledge, his mind was growing into memory: as her life unfolded, his soul, long stupefied in a cold narrow prison, was unfolding too, and the trembling gradually into full consciousness.”
Silas becomes willing to come to terms with his past and shares it with Dolly. Eliot narrates,
“…with reawakening sensibilities, memory also reawakened, he had begun to ponder over the elements of his old faith, and blend them with his new impressions, till he recovered a consciousness of unity between his past and present. The sense of presiding goodness and the human trust which had been some error, some mistake, which had thrown the dark shadow over the days of his best years.”
Silas’ faith in God had been restored and he believed that what had happened was all part of God’s plan.
Finally, when Silas finds out that Godfrey is Eppie’s father and that he intends on adopting her, Silas’ faith is tested, both in man and God. He responds and shows that he now has faith in god,
“God gave her to me”
He gives Eppie the choice and believes she will make the right choice. She chooses Silas and says,
“I can’t feel as I’ve got any father but one”
Silas’ faith has been completely restored in both God and men.