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Themes, Motifs, Symbols of silas Marner

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default Themes, Motifs, Symbols of silas Marner

مُساهمة من طرف SEMSEM في الخميس يونيو 03, 2010 7:51 pm


are the fundamental and often
universal ideas explored in a literary

The Individual Versus the

is in one
sense the story of the title character, but
it is also very much about the
community of Raveloe in which he
lives. Much of the novel’s dramatic force is
generated by the tension
between Silas and the society of Raveloe. Silas, who
goes from being
a member of a tight-knit community to utterly alone and then
again, is a perfect vehicle for Eliot to explore the relationship
the individual and the surrounding community.

In the
early nineteenth century, a person’s village or
town was all-important,
providing the sole source of material and
emotional support. The notion of
interconnectedness and support
within a village runs through the novel, in such
examples as the
parish’s charitable allowance for the crippled, the donation of
from the Squire’s feasts to the village’s poor, and the villagers who
by Silas’s cottage after he is robbed.

community also provides its members with a
structured sense of identity. We see
this sense of identity play out
in Raveloe’s public gatherings. At both the
Rainbow and the Squire’s
dance, interaction is ritualized through a shared
understanding of
each person’s social class and place in the community. As an
living apart from this social structure, Silas initially lacks any
of this identity. Not able to understand Silas in the context of their
the villagers see him as strange, regarding him with a mixture of
and curiosity. Silas is compared to an apparition both when he shows up
the Rainbow and the Red House. To be outside the community is to
be something
unnatural, even otherworldly.

Though it
takes fifteen years, the influence of the
community of Raveloe does eventually
seep into Silas’s life. It does
so via Godfrey’s problems, which find their way
into Silas’s cottage
first in the form of Dunsey, then again in Eppie. Eliot
suggests that
the interconnectedness of community is not something one
enters into voluntarily, nor something one can even avoid. In terms
social standing, Silas and Godfrey are quite far from each other:
Silas is a distrusted outsider, Godfrey is the village’s
golden boy, the heir
of its most prominent family. By braiding
together the fates of these two
characters and showing how the rest
of the village becomes implicated as well,
Eliot portrays the bonds
of community at their most inescapable and pervasive.

Character as Destiny

of Silas Marner seems mechanistic at times, as Eliot
takes care to give
each character his or her just deserts. Dunsey
dies, the Squire’s lands are
divided Godfrey wins Nancy but ends up
childless, and Silas lives happily ever
after with Eppie as the most
admired man in Raveloe. The tidiness of the
novel’s resolution may or
may not be entirely believable, but it is a central
part of Eliot’s
goal to present the universe as morally ordered. Fate, in the
of a higher power rewarding and punishing each character’s actions, is a
theme of the novel. For Eliot, who we are determines not only what we
but also what is done to us.

character in the novel could serve as an example of this moral
order, but
perhaps the best illustration is Godfrey. Godfrey usually
means well, but is
unwilling to make sacrifices for what he knows to
be right. At one point
Godfrey finds himself actually hoping that
Molly will die, as his constant
hemming and hawing have backed him
into so tight a corner that his thoughts
have become truly horrible
and cruel. However, throughout the novel Eliot
maintains that Godfrey
is not a bad person—he has simply been compromised by
his inaction.
Fittingly, Godfrey ends up with a similarly compromised destiny:
his marriage to
he gets what he wants, only to eventually reach the
conclusion that it is not what he wanted after all. Godfrey ends
in this ironic situation not simply because he is deserving, but because
thoughts and actions cannot, in the moral universe of Eliot’s
have anything but compromised results.

The Interdependence of Faith and Community

In one
sense Silas Marner can be seen simply as
the story of Silas’s loss and
regaining of his faith. But one could
just as easily describe the novel as the
story of Silas’s rejection
and subsequent embrace of his community. In the
novel, these notions
of faith and community are closely linked. They are both
necessities, and they both feed off of each other. The community of
Yard is united by religious faith, and Raveloe is likewise introduced
a place in which people share the same set of superstitious beliefs. In
typical English village, the church functioned as the
predominant social
organization. Thus, when Silas loses his faith, he
is isolated from any sort of
larger community.

connection between faith and community lies in
Eliot’s close association of
faith in a higher authority with faith
in one’s fellow man. Silas’s regained
faith differs from his former
Lantern Yard faith in significant ways. His
former faith was based
first and foremost on the idea of God. When he is
unjustly charged
with murder, he does nothing to defend himself, trusting in a
God to clear his name. The faith Silas regains through Eppie is
in that it is not even explicitly Christian. Silas does not
mention God in the
same way he did in Lantern Yard, but bases his
faith on the strength of his and
Eppie’s commitment to each other. In
his words, “since . . .
I’ve come to love her . . . I’ve had light
enough to trusten by; and now she
says she’ll never leave me, I think
I shall trusten till I die.”

faith is a religion that one might imagine Eliot herself espousing
her own break with formalized Christianity. It is a more
personal faith than
that of Lantern Yard, in which people zealously
and superstitiously ascribe
supernatural causes to events with
straightforward causes, such as Silas’s
fits. In a sense, Silas’s new
belief is the opposite of his earlier, simplistic
world view in that
it preserves the place of mystery and ambiguity. Rather than
merely as a supernatural scapegoat, Silas’s faith comforts him in
face of the things that do not make sense to him. Additionally, as
points out, Silas’s is a faith based on helping others and
trusting others to
do the same. Both Dolly’s and especially Silas’s
faith consists of a belief in
the goodness of other people as much as
an idea of the divine. Such a faith is
thus inextricably linked to
the bonds of community.


Motifs are recurring structures,
contrasts, or literary
devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s
major themes.

The Natural World

novel, Eliot draws on the natural world for many images and metaphors.
in particular is often compared to plants or animals, and these images
used to trace his progression from isolated loner to well-loved father
As he sits alone weaving near the start of the novel, Silas is likened
a spider, solitary and slightly ominous. Just after he is robbed, Silas
compared to an ant that finds its usual path blocked—an image of
limitation and
confusion, but also of searching for a solution.
Later, as Silas begins to
reach out to the rest of the village, his
soul is likened to a plant, not yet
budding but with its sap
beginning to circulate. Finally, as he raises Eppie,
Silas is
described as “unfolding” and “trembling into full consciousness,”
evoking both the metamorphosis of an insect and the blooming of a
This nature imagery also emphasizes the preindustrial setting of the
reminding us of a time in
England when the natural world was a bigger
part of daily life
than it was after the Industrial Revolution.


For the
part, the events of Silas Marner take place in two homes,
cottage and the Cass household. The novel’s two key events
are intrusions into
Silas’s domestic space, first by Dunsey and then
by Eppie. Eliot uses the home
as a marker of the state of its owner.
When Silas is isolated and without
faith, his cottage is bleak and
closed off from the outside world. As Silas
opens himself up to the
community, we see that his door is more frequently open
and he has a
steady stream of visitors. Finally, as Silas and Eppie become a
the cottage is brightened and filled with new life, both figuratively
in the form of literal improvements and refurbishments to the house and
Likewise, the Cass household moves from slovenly and “wifeless” under
Squire to clean and inviting under


like most of nineteenth-century English
society, is organized along strict
lines of social class. This social
hierarchy is encoded in many ways: the forms
characters use to
address one another, their habits, even where they sit at
events. While the Casses are not nobility, as landowners they sit atop
social pecking order, while Silas, an outsider, is at its base.
Silas proves himself to be the better man than his social
Similarly, in Eppie’s view, the simple life of the working class is
to that of the landed class. Eliot is skilled in showing how class
the thinking of her characters, from Dunsey’s idea of Silas as
a source of easy money to Godfrey and Nancy’s idea that, as
landowners, their claim to Eppie is stronger than


Symbols are objects, characters,
figures, or colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Silas’s Loom

embodies many of the novel’s major themes. On a literal level, the loom
Silas’s livelihood and source of income. The extent to which
Silas’s obsession
with money deforms his character is physically
embodied by the bent frame and
limited eyesight he develops due to so
many hours at the loom. The loom also
foreshadows the coming of
industrialization—the loom is a machine in a time and
place when most
labor was nonmechanical, related to farming and animal
Additionally, the loom, constantly in motion but never going
embodies the unceasing but unchanging nature of Silas’s work and
Finally, the process of weaving functions as a metaphor for the
of a community, with its many interwoven threads, and
presages the way in which
Silas will bring together the village of

Lantern Yard

The place
where Silas was raised in a tight-knit
religious sect, Lantern Yard is a
community of faith, held together
by a narrow religious belief that Eliot
suggests is based more on
superstition than any sort of rational thought.
Lantern Yard is the
only community Silas knows, and after he is excommunicated,
he is
unable to find any similar community in Raveloe. Throughout the novel
Yard functions as a symbol of Silas’s past, and his gradual coming to
with what happened there signals his spiritual thaw. When Silas finally
back to visit Lantern Yard, he finds that the entire neighborhood has
and no one remembers anything of it. A large factory stands in the
where the chapel once stood. This disappearance demonstrates the
power of industrialization, which destroys tradition and erases
Likewise, this break with the past signals that Silas has finally been
to move beyond his own embittering history, and that his earlier loss
faith has been replaced with newfound purpose.

The Hearth

represents the physical center of the household and symbolizes
all of the
comforts of home and family. When Godfrey dreams of a
life with Nancy, he sees
himself “with all his happiness centred on
his own hearth, while Nancy would
smile on him as he played with the
children.” Even in a public place such as
the Rainbow, one’s
importance is measured by how close one sits to the fire.
Silas shares his hearth with no one, at least not intentionally.
the two intruders who forever change Silas’s life, first Dunsey and
Eppie, are drawn out of inclement weather by the inviting light of
fire. Silas’s cottage can never be entirely separate from the
outside world,
and the light of Silas’s fire attracts both
misfortune and redemption. In the
end, it is Silas’s hearth that
feels the warmth of family, while Godfrey’s is

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