Silas Marner

by: George Eliot

Part I, Chapters 13–15

Summary Part I, Chapters 13–15

By the time Eppie is three, she shows signs of mischievousness, and Dolly insists that Silas not spoil her: he should punish her either by spanking her or by putting her in the coal-hole to frighten her. Shortly after this conversation, Eppie escapes from the cottage and goes missing for a while, though she is soon found. Despite his relief at finding her, Silas decides that he must be stern with Eppie. His use of the coal-hole is ineffective, however, as Eppie takes a liking to the place.

Thus, Eppie is reared without punishment. Silas is even reluctant to leave her with anyone else and so takes her with him on his rounds to gather yarn. Eppie becomes an object of fascination and affection, and, as a result, so does Silas. Instead of looking at him with repulsion, the townspeople now offer advice and encouragement. Even children who had formerly found Silas frightening take a liking to him. Silas, in turn, takes an active interest in the town, wanting to give Eppie all that is good in the village. Moreover, Silas no longer hoards his money. Since his gold was stolen, he has lost the sense of pleasure he once felt at counting and touching his savings. Now, with Eppie, he realizes he has found something greater.

Summary: Chapter 15

Godfrey keeps a distant eye on Eppie. He gives her the occasional present but is careful not to betray too strong an interest. He does not feel particularly guilty about failing to claim her because he is confident that she is being taken care of well. Dunsey still has not returned, and Godfrey, released from his marriage and doubtful that he will ever hear from his brother again, can devote himself to freely wooing Nancy. He begins to spend more time at Nancy’s home, and people say that he has changed for the better. Godfrey promises himself that his daughter will always be well cared for, even though she is in the hands of the poor weaver.

Analysis: Part I, Chapters 13–15

The parallels between the novel’s two pivotal events are further developed in this section. Like the theft, Eppie’s arrival again drives Silas to interrupt a public gathering in a dramatic fashion, this time at the Red House rather than the Rainbow. Both appearances cause quite a commotion, and both times Silas arrives with an otherworldly aura. At the Rainbow, the assembled men all take Silas for a ghost. Similarly, when Silas appears with Eppie at the dance, Godfrey is as shocked as if he is seeing an “apparition from the dead.” Both scenes emphasize Silas’s outsider status. Both the tavern and the Squire’s dance are governed by rules of hierarchy and habit in which everyone relies on “safe, well-tested personalities.” In these comfortable, ritualized spaces, Silas’s entrances are as disruptive and disorienting as visits from a ghost.

Silas, too, is understandably disoriented by the appearance of Eppie. He continues to associate her with his gold and believes, in a vague way, that his gold has somehow turned into her. In a way, of course, Silas’s connection is correct, as both the gold’s disappearance and Eppie’s appearance can be indirectly traced to Godfrey and his secret marriage. More important, the fact that Silas equates Eppie with the gold indicates that she has effectively replaced his gold as the object of his affections.

However, whereas the gold isolated Silas, Eppie becomes a bridge between him and the rest of the world. Not only does she return his affection in a way that his guineas never could, but her desire and curiosity about the world ignite similar feelings in Silas. Eliot uses the weather as a signal of this change. Whereas Dunsey stole the gold on a rainy night and Eppie appeared in a blizzard, the afternoons that Silas and Eppie spend together at play are sunny and warm. Also, Eliot once again uses a metaphor from the natural world to describe Silas’s growth. As he begins to come out of his -isolation and self-denial, Silas’s soul is likened to a metamorphosing butterfly or budding flower, unfolding and “trembling gradually into full consciousness.”