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Eppie and Silas sit in their cottage later that evening.
Silas has sent Dolly and Aaron Winthrop away, desiring solitude
with his daughter after the excitement of the afternoon’s discovery.
Silas muses about the return of his money and reconsiders the events
that have passed since he lost it. He tells Eppie how he initially
hoped she might somehow turn back into the gold, but later grew
fearful of that that prospect because he loved her more than the
money. Silas tells Eppie how much he loves her, and says the money
has simply been “kept till it was wanted for you.” She responds
that if not for Silas, she would have been sent to the workhouse.
Someone knocks at the door, and Eppie opens it to find
Godfrey and Nancy Cass. Godfrey tells Silas that he wants to make
up to Silas not only for what Dunsey did, but also for another debt
he owes to the weaver. Godfrey tells Silas that the money is not
enough for him to live on without continuing to work. Silas, however, argues
that though it might seem like a very small sum to a gentleman,
it is more money than many other working people have. Godfrey says
that Eppie does not look like she was born for a working life and
that she would do better living in a place like his home. Silas becomes
Godfrey explains that since they have no children, they
would like Eppie to come live with them as their daughter. He assumes
that Silas would like to see Eppie in such an advantageous position,
and promises that Silas will be provided for himself. Eppie sees
that Silas is distressed, though Silas tells her to do as she chooses.
Eppie tells Godfrey and Nancy that she does not want to leave her
father, nor does she want to become a lady.
Godfrey insists that he has a claim on Eppie and confesses
that he is her father. Silas angrily retorts that, if this is the
case, Godfrey should have claimed Eppie when she was a baby instead
of waiting until Silas and Eppie had grown to love each other. Not
expecting this resistance, Godfrey tells Silas that he is standing
in the way of Eppie’s welfare. Silas says that he will not argue
anymore and leaves the decision up to Eppie. As she listens, Nancy
cannot help but sympathize with Silas and Eppie, but feels that
it is only right that Eppie claim her birthright. Nancy feels that
Eppie’s new life would be an unquestionably better one. Eppie, however,
says that she would rather stay with Silas. Nancy tells her that
it is her duty to go to her real father’s house, but Eppie responds
that Silas is her real father. Godfrey, greatly discouraged, turns
to leave, and Nancy says they will return another day.
Godfrey and Nancy return home and realize that Eppie’s
decision is final. Godfrey concedes that what Silas has said is
right, and he resigns himself simply to helping Eppie from afar.
Godfrey and Nancy surmise that Eppie will marry Aaron, and Godfrey
wistfully comments on how pretty and nice Eppie seemed. He says
he noticed that Eppie took a dislike to him when he confessed that
he was her father, and he decides that it must be his punishment
in life to be disliked by his daughter. Godfrey tells Nancy that
he is grateful, despite everything, to have been able to marry her,
and vows to be satisfied with their marriage.
The next morning Silas tells Eppie that he wants to make
a trip to his old home, Lantern Yard, to clear up his lingering
questions about the theft and the drawing of the lots. After a few
days’ journey, they find the old manufacturing town much changed
and walk through it looking for the old chapel. The town is frightening
and alien to them, with high buildings and narrow, dirty alleys.
They finally reach the spot where the chapel used to be, and it
is gone, having been replaced by a large factory. No one in the
area knows what happened to the former residents of Lantern Yard.
Silas realizes that Raveloe is his only home now, and upon his return
tells Dolly that he will never know the answers to his questions.
Dolly responds that it does not matter if his questions remain unanswered
because that does not change the fact that he was in the right all
along. Silas agrees, saying that he does not mind because he has
Eppie now, and that gives him faith.
Eppie and Aaron are married on a beautiful summer day.
Priscilla Lammeter and her father are among those who watch the
procession through the village. They have come to keep Nancy company, as
Godfrey has gone away for the day “for special reasons.” Priscilla tells
her father that she wishes Nancy had found a child like Eppie to raise
for her own. The procession stops at Mr. Macey’s porch, as he is
too old and frail to attend the wedding feast and has prepared some
kind words for Silas. At the Rainbow, the assembling guests talk
about Silas’s strange story, and everyone, even the farrier, agrees that
he deserves his good fortune. The wedding procession of Silas, Eppie,
Aaron, and Dolly approaches the cottage. Eppie and Aaron have decided
they would rather stay in Silas’s cottage than go to any new home,
so the cottage has been altered to accommodate Aaron. Among other
improvements, a large and impressive garden has been built at Godfrey’s
expense. Returning home with the wedding party, Eppie tells Silas
that she thinks “nobody could be happier than we are.”
The final intersection of the two narrative lines resolves
the novel’s remaining tensions. The confrontation between Silas
and the Casses over their claims to Eppie is partly a conflict of
class. Despite their good intentions for Eppie’s welfare, Godfrey
and Nancy do not understand the depth of Silas’s feelings for his
daughter. Godfrey simply assumes that “deep affections can hardly
go along with callous palms and scant means.” Though Nancy is more
sympathetic to Silas’s bond with Eppie, she still regards the prospect
of Eppie’s belatedly restored birthright as an “unquestionable good.”
Also, Nancy’s “code” gives precedence to the claim of the blood
father over the adoptive father. Against these claims, however,
Silas and Eppie’s simple assertion of family easily wins out. The
Casses’ assumptions of upper-class superiority and the importance
of blood relations are no match for Silas’s simple emotion and moral
certitude. Eliot here shows that Silas’s “rude mind,” which she
describes with some condescension earlier in the novel, in fact
possesses a great deal of natural nobility.
While Godfrey’s attempt to make up for his past inaction
is an important event, to some extent it has been predetermined
by what has come before. As Silas says, after so many years, it
is impossible for Godfrey to make up for his previous refusal to
claim Eppie. Godfrey comes to understand that his wish to “pass
for childless” when courting Nancy now means that he must continue
to be childless, even though his wish has changed. Godfrey has no
more managed to escape the consequences of his actions than Dunsey
has. The sense of predetermination that haunts Godfrey is integral
to the highly moral nature of Eliot’s narrative universe. Good deeds
are ultimately rewarded, and evil deeds—or cowardly inaction—are
When Silas and Eppie visit Lantern Yard, they find that
it is the opposite of Raveloe in more than one sense. Silas finds
it a frightening and unrecognizable place. The chapel and graveyard
have completely disappeared, and no one in the town remembers anything about
the way things once were. Unlike Raveloe, where nothing ever goes
away, in the larger town we see that people and places can disappear
without a trace. The same thirty years that have utterly effaced
Lantern Yard have brought virtually no comparable change to the
landscape of Raveloe. The transitory nature of the larger town is
partly a function of its size, but is also tied to industrialization.
A factory, after all, replaces Lantern Yard’s chapel. The tall buildings
that Silas and Eppie pass on their way through the town, with their
“gloomy” doorways filled with “sallow, begrimed” faces, contrast
with the rural, outdoorsy life of Raveloe. The industrial landscape
of the larger town—frightening, destructive, and dehumanizing—has
wiped out memory and history.
Silas Marner closes with a final public
event, bringing together all of its characters in the same way the
Rainbow and the Squire’s dance do. However, whereas Silas is an
intruder at the public gatherings earlier in the novel, this time
he is at the center. Moreover, Godfrey, who was the beau of the
New Year’s dance, chooses not to attend the wedding, making himself
the outsider. Importantly, both Mr. Macey’s statement and the wedding
guests’ conversations concern not the newlyweds but Silas himself.
This provides yet another sign that Silas has completed his progression
from the margins of the community to the center.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Silas Marner!