Poor Marner went out with that despair in his soul…
This hasn’t happened to me before, maybe I haven’t taken the time to do this but when I finished this book (a Friday) I wanted to write down some of my favorite quotes. As I reviewed the passages and thought about the characters, I somehow ended up reading the book again! The audiobook published by Naxos narrated by Anna Bentinck was wonderful.
So let’s talk about Silas Marner; before chapter one has ended, we find out about Silas’ past. Silas has been falsely accused of theft by a close friend and the woman he’s engaged to breaks off her engagement and marries his accuser. Silas leaves Lantern Yard and comes to live in Raveloe, a place quite opposite of where he was before. Silas works as a linen weaver and occasionally as a naturopathic of sorts. He exists but does not live.
He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection.
He hated the thought of the past; there was nothing that called out of his love and fellowship toward the strangers he had come amongst; and the future was all dark, for there was no Unseen Love that cared for him.
Silas earns his wages and possibly because of previous betrayal and heartbreak, Silas’ only spark in life is his gold, his money which he hoards in large leather bags and counts each night and hides it in a wall. The gold becomes his only companion, one that doesn’t betray him or run off with his friend. Poor Silas has such an unfulfilling life.
As I read the book again, I thought Eliot depicts materialism in a way I had not given much thought to. Silas becomes a lover of money not to pursue selfish endeavors or elevate himself over others. And Silas doesn’t amass wealth at all cost or at the expense of someone else (except himself). He’s a lonely, brokenhearted man who has found solace in money instead of healthy relationships.
In contrast, Eliot crafts characters in two brothers, Godfrey and Dunstan Cass, sons of a local squire, who are lazy and feel entitled to get whatever they want with little thought to the consequences. Dunstan has no problem with blackmail, manipulation, and eventually theft, to get what he wants. Dunstan blackmails Godfrey due to Godfrey’s “moral cowardice” and the tone of the story changes, especially when Dunstan robs Silas. Godfrey cowers repeatedly in the face of confrontation or owning up to his mistakes and is happy to conveniently forget people and things if they make him uncomfortable.
Without giving away the details of how the lives of the characters overlap, there is a turning point for Silas. One cold night, a young toddler crawls into Silas’ cottage shortly after the robbery and his life is forever changed. Silas comes back to life, his heart seems to melt and beat with intention and purpose as he grows in affection for this child he loves and raises. Silas learns that happiness doesn’t come from gold and if he opens his heart, he can experience love again.
As the child’s mind was growing into knowledge, his mind was growing into memory : as her life unfolded, his soul, long stupefied in a cold narrow prison, was unfolding too, and trembling gradually into full consciousness.
There was love between him and the child that blent them into one…