Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 10, 2023
December 3, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
See discount terms and conditions.
Nancy Lammeter and her father arrive at the Red House
for the Squire’s New Year’s dance. The trip over slushy roads has
not been an easy one, and Nancy is annoyed that she has to let Godfrey
help her out of her carriage. Nancy thinks she has made it clear
that she does not wish to marry Godfrey. His unwelcome attention
bothers her, though the way he often ignores her bothers her just
as much. Nancy makes her way upstairs to a dressing room that she
must share with six other women, including the Gunn sisters, who
come from a larger town and regard Raveloe society with disdain.
Mrs. Osgood, an aunt of whom Nancy is fond, is also among the women. As
she puts on her dress for the dance, Nancy impresses the Gunn sisters
as a “rustic beauty”—lovely and immaculate but, with her rough hands
and slang, clearly ignorant of the higher social graces.
Nancy’s sister Priscilla arrives and complains about
how Nancy always insists they wear matching gowns. Priscilla freely
admits she is ugly and, in doing so, manages to imply that the Gunns
are ugly as well. However, Priscilla insists that she has no desire
to marry anyway. When Nancy says that she doesn’t want to marry
either, Priscilla pooh-poohs her. When they go down to the parlor,
Nancy accepts a seat between Godfrey and the rector, Mr. Crackenthorp. She
cannot help but feel exhilarated by the prospect that she could be
the mistress of the Red House herself. Nancy reminds herself, however,
that she does not care for Godfrey’s money or status because she
finds him of unsound character. She blushes at these thoughts. The
rector notices and points out her blush to Godfrey. Though Godfrey
determinedly avoids looking at Nancy, the half-drunk Squire tries
to help things along by complimenting Nancy’s beauty. After a little
more banter, the Squire pointedly asks Godfrey if he has asked Nancy
for the first dance of the evening. Godfrey replies that he has
not, but nonetheless embarrassedly asks Nancy, and she accepts.
The fiddler comes in, and, after playing a few preludes,
he leads the guests into the White Parlour, where the dancing begins.
Mr. Macey and a few other townspeople sit off to one side, commenting on
the dancers. They notice Godfrey escorting Nancy off to the adjoining
smaller parlor, and assume that the two are going “sweethearting.”
In reality, Nancy has torn her dress and has asked to sit down to
wait for her sister to help mend it. Nancy tells Godfrey that she
doesn’t want to go into the smaller room with him and will just wait
on her own. He insists that she will be more comfortable there and
offers to leave. To her own exasperation, Nancy is as annoyed as
she is relieved by Godfrey’s offer. He tells Nancy that dancing with
her means very much to him and asks if she would ever forgive him
if he changed his ways. She replies that it would be better if no change
were necessary. Godfrey, aware that Nancy still cares for him, tells
Nancy she is hard-hearted, hoping to provoke a quarrel. Just then,
however, Priscilla arrives to fix the hem of Nancy’s dress. Godfrey,
exhilarated by the opportunity to be near Nancy, decides to stay
with them rather than go back to the dance.
While Godfrey is at the dance, his wife Molly is approaching
Raveloe on foot with their baby daughter in her arms. Godfrey has
told Molly that he would rather die than acknowledge her as his
wife. She knows there is a dance being held at the Red House and
plans to crash the party in order to get revenge against Godfrey.
Molly is addicted to opium and knows that this, not Godfrey, is
the primary reason for her troubles, but she also resents Godfrey’s
wealth and comfort and believes that he should support her.
Molly has been walking since morning, and, as evening
falls, she begins to tire in the snow and cold. To comfort herself,
she takes a draft of opium. The drug makes her drowsy, and after
a while she passes out by the side of the road, still holding the
child. As Molly’s arms relax, the little girl wakes up and sees
a light moving. Thinking it is a living thing, she tries to catch
the light but fails. She follows it to its source, which is the
fire in Silas Marner’s nearby cottage. The child toddles through
the open door, sits down on the hearth, and soon falls asleep, content
in the warmth of the fire.
In the weeks since the theft, Silas has developed a habit
of opening his door and looking out distractedly, as if he might
somehow see his gold return, or at least get some news of it. On
New Year’s Eve he is particularly agitated and opens the door repeatedly.
The last time he does so, he stands and looks out for a long time,
but does not see what is actually coming toward him at that instant:
Molly’s child. As he turns to shut the door again, Silas has one
of his cataleptic fits, and stands unaware and unmoving with his
hand on the open door. When he comes out of the fit—as always, unaware
that it has even occurred—he shuts the door.
As Silas walks back inside, his eyes nearsighted and
weak from his years of close work at the loom, he sees what he thinks
is his gold on the floor. He leans forward to touch the gold, but
finds that the object under his fingers is soft—the blonde hair
of the sleeping child. Silas kneels down to examine the child, thinking
for a moment that his little sister, who died in childhood, has
been brought back to him. This memory of his sister triggers a flood
of other memories of Lantern Yard, the first he has had in many
years. These memories occupy Silas until the child wakes up, calling
for her mother. Silas reheats some of his porridge, sweetening it
with the brown sugar he has always denied himself, and feeds it
to the child, which quiets her. Finally, seeing the child’s wet
boots, it occurs to Silas to wonder where she came from, and he
follows her tracks along the road until he finds her mother’s body
lying in the snow.
The appearance of the little girl on Silas’s hearth is
the second of the three intersections between the parallel narratives
of Silas and the Cass family. Like the first intersection, the theft
of Silas’s gold, it is one of the novel’s two major turning points.
Her appearance will at once fill Silas’s sense of loss and resume
his process of reentering the community. The fact that Silas first
mistakes the little girl for his gold—previously the central driving
force of his life—foreshadows the strength of the bond that Silas
will soon forge with the girl.
Several details of the girl’s arrival link the event to
the two earlier turning points in Silas’s life—his expulsion from
his religious sect and the theft of his gold. Like Dunsey, the little
girl passes by Silas’s cottage in inclement weather, feels drawn
to the cottage by the light of the fire, and enters without Silas’s
knowledge. In addition, just as Silas’s fit rendered him unaware
that William Dane had framed him for theft in Lantern Yard, another
fit renders him unaware of the little girl’s arrival. Significantly,
in all three of these key events, Silas is passive, not active—he
is framed, he is robbed, he is standing with the door open when
a child toddles in from a snowstorm.
A key symbolic difference between Dunsey’s visit and
the little girl’s, however, is that Silas opens the door himself
this time. Even though he opens the door only to peer out into the
darkness after his lost gold, and though he is unaware that the
girl actually enters, Silas’s act of standing at his open door contrasts
markedly with his previous habits. Silas was once a man obsessed
with isolation—closing his shutters, locking his doors, and viewing
his customers as nothing more than a means to acquire more money.
In opening his door, Silas symbolically opens himself up to the
outside world from which he has lived apart for so long. As Silas
realizes, if only vaguely, in Chapter 10,
“if any help came to him it must come from without.”
It is not until this point, halfway through the novel,
that we meet the last two of the major characters: Nancy Lammeter
and the little girl who will become known as Eppie. Eppie does not
develop as a true character until she grows up a bit. However, we
learn much about Nancy’s character in the first scene in which she
appears, the Squire’s New Year’s dance. We have already heard much
about Nancy, especially her beauty. Thus, not surprisingly, Nancy’s
introduction focuses on her appearance, specifically on how her
beauty is still evident despite her muddy raincoat and the frightened
expression on her face. This opening image is fitting for Nancy,
who is called a “rustic beauty.” Though blessed with natural grace
and poise, Nancy is unpolished—her speech is somewhat vulgar, her hands
are calloused, and she has had little formal schooling. Thus, though
Nancy is separated from Silas and his neighbors by degrees of wealth
and privilege, she is no less a product of Raveloe’s sleepy isolation.
Like the poorer townspeople, she has created her own code of conduct
and beliefs from a mix of religion and superstition. However, like
her upstanding, almost priggish father, Nancy displays a Calvinist
severity in her judgments, frowning on Godfrey’s weakness of character
and attempting to curb her feelings for him. Nancy stubbornly holds
to these beliefs, with one exception—we see her conspicuously waver
in her attitude toward Godfrey.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Silas Marner!