Silas Marner: Novel - Summary & Analysis

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      The novel, Silas Marner was published in March, 1861. George Eliot wrote to Blackwood, the publishers, “that it was a story or old fashioned village life, which has unfolded itself from the merest millet-seed of thought”. This was the sudden memory of having once seen, in early childhood, a linen weaver with a bag on his back. She first conceived the story as a narrative poem, for it contained, as we shall see, a quality of pure fable; but then she saw that this would banish the contrasting play of humor and she grew inclined to a more realistic treatment The book was finished on the 10th of March, 1861, and 3,300 copies were immediately subscribed. Silas Marner is not the most important, but it is perhaps the most perfect of George Eliot’s novels. It is flawed by no failure of characterization and no excess of moralism. Where Adam Bede had in parts the still beauty of an eclogue and where Maggie Tulliver expressed with great tenderness and truth the unsatisfied longings of her creator, Silas Marner represents a significant advance in objectivity. Even the familiar landscape is viewed with greater realism.


      Silas Marner, is the story of a good, honest weaver of Reveloe who is falsely accused of theft, is heartbroken as, a consequence, and migrates to another town at some distance. There he abjures human company, turns a sinner, and his sole pleasure is looking at and counting his hoard of money. But he is redeemed and restored to human society by his love and affection for a child, Effie, whom he finds, and whom he brings up as his own daughter. Thus ‘moral recovery’ of a frustrated soul is the theme, of the novel.


      The main charm of this small novel arises from certain seines in The Rainbow, the inn, where the rustics assemble to comment on characters and the life around them. Says Leslie Stephen, “A modern realist would, I suppose, complain that she has omitted, or touched too slightly for his taste, a great many repulsive and brutal elements in the rustic world. The portraits, indeed, are so vivid as to convince us of their fidelity; but she has selected the less ugly, and taken the point of view from which we see mainly what was wholesome and kindly in the little village community Silas Marner is a masterpiece in that way, and scarcely equaled in. English literature, unless by Mr. Hardy’s rustics in Far from the Madding Crowd and other early works”. A.C. Ward’s comment is both interesting and illuminating, ‘Silas Mamer extends to no great length, and, in construction and treatment, shows a perfect sense of proportion on the part of the writer. Indeed, competent judges have pronounced it, in form, George Eliot’s roost finished work, While none of her larger novels surpasses it in delicacy of pathos’ Nothing could be more powerfully drawn than the blank despondency of the unhappy weaver, and nothing more beautifully imagined than the change wrought by the golden-haired child who takes the place of the gold by his hearth and in his heart. The lender-ness of fancy which pervades this simple tale, and brightness of humor which relieves the constrained simplicity of its course, certainly assure to Silas Marner a place of its own among George Eliot’s works.”

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