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Written by George Eliot, ‘Silas Marner’ is a captivating tale published in 1861 and set in the beginning of the 19th century. It depicts Eliot’s attitude towards religion.
Employing the elements of literature, Eliot uses characters like Silas Marner, a miser and a weaver, Godfrey Cass, Squire’s son, Eppie, Silas adopted girl, William Dane, Silas’ friend, among others. Silas is a foreigner, rich in skills, in Raveloe village, a case that, coupled with his catalepsy sickness, makes his neighbours suspect him in everything that happens.
He suffers false accusations of theft and isolation by his religious friends, a situation that forces him to abandon not only his Godly faith but also his people and leaves for Raveloe, a village worse than his former. He gets a lot of money as an herbalist but people mistake him for witch doctor. He also owns a good amount of gold, which is stolen later together with the money by Dunsey, and the case ignored.
He remains poor and isolated but fortunately, he symbolically adopts a golden-haired baby girl who is later married, and ends up staying in his home, a case that overturns his situation. He is no longer isolated and unhappy but accompanied and joyous.
The Role of Money
Money stands out as something valuable and needed by everyone in this novel. For instance, when Silas moves from his former yard after his conflicts with the church, he settles as a foreigner in Raveloe where he accumulates large sums of money from his herbal business, which he in turn uses to purchase gold. Owing to its value, it is stolen by Dunsey.
The play also depicts money as a source of conflicts. In his former lantern yard that had equipped him with faith, he is out of terms with the congregation that is falsely condemning him of stealing its finances.
They use the available false clues, as evidences of his stealing. This includes a knife that portrays him as a violent robber as well as a bag, found in his home that contained the money, a case that makes him leave the yard to stay isolated elsewhere.
In addition, money is a means of maintaining secrets. Godfrey and Dunsey are brothers and sons of the richest man of the village, Squire. These two have opposing personalities. Godfrey is secretive while Dunsey is insatiable, cheeky and open. Since Godfrey is furtively in, marriage that is unknown to his parents, Dunsey threatens to reveal this and as a way of settling down issues, he offers him 100 pounds to maintain the secret.
Money once more is way of settling down debts. When Dunsey receives a loan that he is later unable to repay, he uses his brother’s marriage as a way through this quagmire. He again threatens to reveal the secret where his brother offers him a horse in return to sell in order to get the money to settle this debt down.
Two Sets of Sibling Relationship
Eliot has employed sets of siblings’ relationships. For instance, Godfrey is a brother to Dunsey while Priscilla is a sister to Nancy. These sets of people have been employed to develop the fine vs. dire or truth vs. false dichotomy. He employs their varying characteristics. For instance, Godfrey is the eldest brother in his family. He stands out as good hearted and secretive.
Normally the belief is that the eldest son deserves respect from the rest of the family members. Eliot depicts the younger son as having gone past the norm to torment his elder brother. Godfrey marries an opium-addicted wife and seems to hide the story to his father. As a brother, Dunsey ought to assist him maintain the secret but he is going further to reveal it instead.
Through the good-natured character of Godfrey, Eliot brings in another character, drug addict, and matches her with Godfrey in the name of a wife. In addition, he develops two opposing personalities of the brothers. When one is a professional thief, the other is down to earth person. When one is secretive, the other is open. Eliot uses these characters to develop the dichotomy of good vs. bad beyond what is expected.
Priscilla stands out as a girl who is just but homely while her counterpart is cute. Priscilla is direct spoken unlike her sister, who is somehow secretive. Priscilla’s plain speaking character portrays how honest she is while the reverse is the case for Nancy. Though beautiful, she remains childless. From what happens between the two siblings, it stands out that what we do is the determinant of our results.
Church and a Chapel
The issue of a church and a chapel stands out clear in the novel. Before Silas abandoned his faith, he was a member of a large congregation whose ideas focuses on God. This is the one termed as the church. The village from where he comes stands out as sharing some sort of faith where the people meet in a chapel. These two differ significantly in that the church denotes Silas’ faith before, while the chapel signifies his life after.
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In fact, when Silas is isolated from the church, he has nowhere to go. Eliot portrays the chapel as different from the church. This is so because when Silas renews his faith, the faith appears different from the previous one. When Silas is accused of stealing, he follows the rules of the church not rely on God only and not people as he later does when he adopts Eppie depicting the nature of the chapel as less of Christian.
The chapel rarely mentions about faith in God like the church. Instead, its faith majors on the people. Silas believes in Eppie’s strength and his, rather than God’s as before when he suffered accusation of murder having nobody around him, but God. The chapel focuses on the bonds of the community while the church relies on God’s power. The chapel’s faith is more of personal than that of the church.
The chapel is characterised by its worldly view of things seen after Silas connects to it through Eppie, the daughter of chapel members. The church on the other hand is marked by heavenly view of everything that happens as seen from Nancy who persuades Silas to join it.
Eppie’s Gifts to Silas
Before Silas encounters the false accusations of stealing, he has everything he requires to be satisfied but when the case arises, he is deprived of virtually everything including his fundamental faith in God as well as company and fame. On migrating to Raveloe village, he is further deprived of his Gold. He experiences more sufferings than joy.
The child Eppioe who accidentally wanders until his house is some how God-sent because of her impact on Silas life. For instance, Silas have been living a solitary life but now he is enjoying the company of the child. This child, owing to her origin, connects her to the community bringing more and more people close to him unlike before when they repelled him.
The child’s name also brings him the memories of his late parents and with her, he now feels as if he is with them rather than alone. People like Dunsey who steals from him have treated him as an enemy but now with Eppie, people like Dolly Winthrop resolve to join him in raising the child. Godfrey and Nancy also enter to help him bring up their daughter but from Silas’ home.
The child is restoring what he thinks is lost to him. He is now experiencing peoples’ love rather than the previous hatred that started from his church members. Following the gold that was stolen from him by Dunsey, Eppie’s golden-looking hair symbolises its replacement.
With Eppie, Silas has regained a new faith though different from the previous. This is symbolised by what he finds as he returns to yard. He finds everything different to show how he has changed through Eppie.
The Value of Respectability
The novel attaches a value to respect based on a variety of parameters. For instance, the lantern yard bestows respect to people who do according to the rules, laid by the church otherwise one suffer disrespect. Before Silas’ accusations of stealing, he has a lot of respect from people, not only of his church but also from outside. This case appears different when he faces the accusations.
All ranging from the old to children view him as odd and unworthy of any respect. This is why even those claimed to be his friends now betray him. Respect in this novel also majors on the amount wealth one owns. This stands out in the scenario of Squire Cass, depicted as the wealthiest man.
When his son steals from Silas, there is none to question this owing to the respect he has gained from people because his wealth. Another parameter that measures ones respect is the size of his/her company. The more people one has, the more the respect. Before Silas is isolated from the church, he is respected because he has it as his company. Following the accusations, he is alone and disrespected.
Moreover, when he adopts the child, respect begins to grow gradually as he gains more and more of them. This includes Dolly Winthrop, Godfrey, and his wife. The number of children that a family has is a measure of its respect in this novel. Almost all the parents pictured have children but Godfrey and his wife Nancy.
When this family approaches Silas in demand of Eppie, their request is just useless, since they have no child. Respect is also based on the quality of care given to children. Since Godfrey did not take care of Eppie, she cannot respect him even if he is her biological father. He would rather stay with Silas who has taken care of her since her childhood.