SILAS MARNER by George Eliot tells the tale of a weaver in nineteenth-century England named Silas Marner, who finds himself fallen among hard times when he is falsely accused of a crime, and the woman he expects to marry suddenly marries someone else. Silas moves to another town after being effectively banished from his native Lantern Yard. Silas, through no fault of his own, must live as best he can in his new town of Raveloe. Through the story of Silas, the novel punctuates how cruel and then how fortuitous fate is in life.
Upon moving to Raveloe, Silas’ loneliness is compounded by a robbery. When he moves into a little house, Silas still has one aspect of his life that remains constant, his work. He continues to weave, and the demand for his work is steady. As a result, his income increases, and he falls into the habit of counting his gold coins each day. He doesn’t attend church services and becomes a recluse in the town. Dunstan Cass, who is of the higher class of Raveloe society but of low moral character, creeps into Silas’ house one night while Silas is away and steals his gold coins. Silas is devastated. He runs into the local tavern immediately and demands the return of his money to everyone in the tavern. Fate has no pity for Silas.
The introduction of Eppie into Silas’ life gives the weaver good fortune at last. Godfrey Cass, the brother of Dunstan, marries a poor young woman and has a daughter by her. But the young marriage doesn’t last; Godfrey separates from his wife and child. The young woman becomes destitute. One night she collapses out in a snowstorm with the toddler in her arms. The toddler makes her way to Silas house, which is nearby and unlocked. Silas finds the toddler at his hearth and immediately takes care of her, eventually calling her Eppie. The adopted daughter brings great joy to the man, who before had only his money to make him content with life.
Eliot’s masterpiece shows both how cruel and how kind fate can be to an individual’s life. Silas has nothing going for him, especially after he is robbed in Raveloe. The town’s population show no pity for an outsider who doesn’t attend church. With the adoption of Eppie, Silas’ image begins to change. He confides in a woman of the town about how to raise the child and begins going to church. His heart grows very fond of the girl, which the rest of the town notices.
Although there are complicated words and the use of the hard-to-follow vernacular, or slang, of the nineteenth-century England, this straightforward novel ranks as a classic in literary fiction. Bravo to George Eliot.