Like her earlier comparison of Silas to a budding plant, Eliot’s imagery in this chapter gives us hope for Silas’s recovery. The progression of imagery Eliot uses is largely drawn from nature. Silas initially clings to his money as to the roots of a plant, and now is confused like “a plodding ant when the earth has broken away on its homeward path.” Finally, Eliot foreshadows a metaphor she uses later: Silas is “still the shrunken rivulet, with only this difference, that its little groove of sand was blocked up, and it wandered confusedly against dark obstruction.” The three phenomena to which Silas is compared in these metaphors share a common aspect of recovery and self-righting. The roots of the plant will regrow in new soil, the ant will find its way, and the dammed stream will rise with water until it flows over its obstruction.
Dolly Winthrop provides a simple, compelling portrait of religious faith. Like the philosophical fumblings of the Rainbow’s denizens, the “simple Raveloe theology” that Dolly professes to Silas is something at which a seminarian might scoff. Dolly is illiterate and thus does not even understand the words of some of the Christmas carols she so loves. Nonetheless, Dolly’s description of her faith is eloquent in its own way. By placing her faith in “Them as are above us” while at the same time demanding that “we’n done our part,” Dolly holds to a distinctly community-oriented faith. For Dolly, faith in God provides not only an incentive to do good works herself, but also a trust that others in the community will do their part.
Dolly’s beliefs contrast markedly with the “Favourable Chance” relied upon by Godfrey and other men “who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in.” In Dolly’s Christianity, the requirement of action goes a long way toward fulfilling the expectations of faith. Godfrey’s faith, while perhaps more sophisticated than Dolly’s, seems far more futile.