Silas Marner

by: George Eliot

Part II, Chapters 19–21, Conclusion

Summary Part II, Chapters 19–21, Conclusion

Summary: Conclusion

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.”

Analysis: Chapters 19–21, Conclusion

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 punished.

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.