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Silas Marner

George Eliot
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe

author  George Eliot

type of work  Novel

genre  Victorian novel, novel of manners, pastoral fiction

language  English

time and place written  1860–61, London

date of first publication  1861

publisher  William Blackwood and Sons

narrator  An anonymous omniscient speaker with no part in the plot

point of view  The narrator speaks in the omniscient third person, describing what the characters are seeing, feeling, and thinking and what they are failing to see, feel, and think. The narrator uses the first person singular “I,” but at no point enters the story as a character. Near the beginning, a personal story unrelated to the action of the novel is relayed to provide corroborating evidence for a generalization, hinting that the narrator is a real person.

tone  Morally uncompromising, slightly condescending, but nevertheless deeply sympathetic to characters’ failings

tense  Past

setting (time)  The “early years” of the nineteenth century

setting (place)  Raveloe, a fictional village in the English countryside

protagonist  Silas Marner

major conflict  Silas Marner lives for a long time without any connection to other human beings or his youthful faith in God. Though he does not struggle to find purpose and connection in his life, the novel is about his recovery of purpose, faith, and community through his finding Eppie.

rising action  Silas spends fifteen years in relative isolation, amassing a hoard of gold coins that is then stolen by Dunstan Cass.

climax  Eppie appears in Silas’s cottage, and he decides to adopt her.

falling action  When Godfrey fails to claim Eppie as his daughter and marries Nancy, Silas raises Eppie. Silas’s love and care for Eppie make him a revered member of the Raveloe community, ending his isolation. Sixteen years later, Godfrey admits that he is Eppie’s father and tries to adopt her, but she elects to stay with Silas.

themes  The individual versus the community; character as destiny; the interdependence of faith and community

motifs  The natural world; domesticity; class

symbols  Silas’s loom; Lantern Yard; the hearth

foreshadowing  Silas opening his door to look outside as Eppie toddles toward his cottage; Mr. Macey telling Silas his money will be returned to him; Dunsey claiming that he always lands on his feet.