by Joan | 2/1/2014
" Set in England in the mid 19th-century, the story is about a linen-weaver, named Silas Marner, who experiences several terrible wrongs. As a young man, while living and working in a poor neighbourhood called Lantern Yard, his best friend, William Dane may have framed Silas concerning the theft of money from their church, an evangelical Protestant congregation. The community, including Silas' fiancee, Sarah, rejects Silas, so that he is forced to leave the city and travel to another town to re-start his life. He settles on the edge of a village called Raveloe and, while not friendly with the villagers, is able to make a good living. He spends very little and enjoys counting his gold. Again, trouble strikes and Silas' gold is stolen. The people of Raveloe feel sorry for Silas and one woman in particular, Mrs. Winthrop, the wheelwright's wife, encourages Silas to join the community, at least for church. Silas does not, but one evening, while much of the community is enjoying the New Year's party at the home of the local squire, a very little girl toddles away from her mother who has collapsed in the snow on her way to the squire's home into Silas' home. This is Baby Eppie. She is unclaimed by anyone as her mother is unknown in Raveloe and her father, the squire's son, does not acknowledge either of them because the marriage and child are secret and could wipe away his potential bride who is the daughter of a prosperous farmer. Eppie proves to be Silas' link to the community and his joy as he raises her and she brings out the best qualities of humanity, care for another, selflessness and loyalty, in him.
The book was first published in 1861. As a staple on high school and college reading lists, many people have written about what Eliot meant to say in the novel. I found her thoughts about the upper class (didn't like them as well as the lower class), organized religion and women particularly interesting.
Eliot seemed critical of the upper class. Squire Cass, who was a widower, was a poor father to his 4 boys - in contrast to Silas' thoughtful and caring attention to Eppie. Squire Cass' older son, Godfrey, only later in life assumed responsibility for his youthful mistakes. Dunston Cass was poorly behaved to animals, his family and society in general. The rich eat and drink too much and suffer from gout and other afflictions, while the poor savor what they have, and are generally healthier. Ultimately, when given a choice of which class to join, Eppie chooses to remain with her father rather than enjoy a softer life with the Cass'.
Eliot seemed to have little use for organized religion. Despite the importance of church to Lantern Yard, no one gave Silas the benefit of the doubt when circumstantial evidence suggested that he was a thief. Spirituality and the golden rule are important as Mrs. Winthrop urges Silas not to weave on Sunday and puts holy letters on her baking, even though she can't read herself.
I wasn't sure what Eliot thought about women, but I'm thinking she was sympathetic to the fact that their role in society didn't always take advantage of their strengths. When Squire Cass is criticizing his oldest son, he comments ' You're a shilly-shally fellow: you take after your poor mther. She never had a will of her own; a woman has no coall for one if she' got a proper man for her husband. But your wife had need have one,...' Miss Nancy who eventually weds Godfrey Cass is not well educated, going no further than the rudiments of reading and writing. Basic mathematics is hard as 'in order to balance an account, she was obliged to effect her subtraction by removing visible metallic shillings and sixpences from a visible metallic totals. and most servant-maids were better informed.: Nancy also seems to have limited insight into alternative decisions that could be made than what she perceives to be the rules. She insists that she and her sister wear the same dresses, simply because they are sisters. She believed that even a distant kinship with crime was a dishonor.
The vocabulary is wonderful and includes some great words that I rarely/never come across. What is the Anthansian Creed? or Lytherly society? How does one hold ones head like a sodger?
I'm glad to have a chance to enjoy this 'classic'. "