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Silas Marner

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Depiction of family in ‘Silas Marner’

Silas Marner's occupation is that of a weaver who has decided to move from the town of Lantern Yard to Raveloe. This move is what creates the story for this masterpiece of a novel. Back in Lantern Yard, Silas Marner has been a sincere member of the local church. At times, Marner gets certain queer fits that make him inactive for a period of time and after the fits are over, he is unable to recall the occurrences. Before Marner got framed for a crime which he had not committed, he was considered a man of great nobility. The criminal charge is the main reason behind his moving. This betrayal that Marner from his friend who was actually the one committing the thievery makes socially awkward and a little disconnected from the world. His sole focus remains on the gold earnings he makes. He does not feel the need to be in the company of anyone and dedicates himself completely to his work of weaving. “His life had reduced itself to the functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended. The same sort of process has perhaps been undergone by wiser men, when they have been cut off from faith and love—only, instead of a loom and a heap of guineas; they have had some erudite research, some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory”. The villagers take him as a really queer person because of his habits to isolate himself, his strange fits and his physical appearance which is that of paleness and staying mute.

Strangely Marner’s face and figure shrank and bent themselves into a constant mechanical relation to the objects of his life, so that he produced the same sort of impression as a handle or a crooked tube, which has no meaning standing apart. The prominent eyes that used to look trusting and dreamy, now looked as if they had been made to see only one kind of thing that was very small, like tiny grain, for which they hunted everywhere; and he was so withered and yellow, that, though he was not yet forty, the children always called him “Old Master Marner.”

Silas's rigid way of life and his love for money turns him into a slight grotesque copy of what Marx gave as "labor com modification". By this time, Silas has become a harbinger of industrialization for lazy Raveloe. According to Marx's perspective, industrialization further results in dehumanization inevitably. The workers hold no other valuable thing other than the wages they earn. The social status of workers and their association to certain places finished so that they can make a massive labor force. Silas has been described similarly in this passage as he is disconnected with places and has no value more than a machine or a robot. Silas gets his eyesight damaged due to his work burden. His lack of ability to see things that are at a distance is him being handicapped which further takes on metaphorical overtones as we read ahead. He only as the ability, according to the novel, to see "one kind of thing that was very small, for which [his eyes] hunted everywhere”. This represents his narrow minded money obsession. Silas only sees gold in every matter that he is in link with and all his activities. Money is the only thing he has in his life that means something to him. Basically, this too signifies Silas's physical destruction as well as spiritual one. Silas on being brught back to the community by Eppie "seem to have gathered a longer vision.”

One night, a young girl appears on his door called Eppie and brings a great change to his life. From a miserable man, Marner transforms into a loving and devoted father as he adopts her. “…the little child had come to link him [Silas Marner] once more with the whole world.” Through this love for Eppie, he develops friendships with Dolly Winthrop and her son, Aaron. This is when his interest for life is regained.

Eppie is actually the daughter of Molly Farren and Godfrey Cass who ends up at the cottage of Silas Marner one night because a snowstorm had taken place which kills her mother. She is a beautiful child with hair like gold which is linked to the recently stolen gold from Silas Marner. Eppie is definitely not an innocent child but that of a michievous young girl but that is mainly because Silar Marner is not in favor of disciplining her at all. She grows up to become a rather good natured and light tempered young lady whose immense devotion to her father is marvellous. Their sincere love is able to rebuild the interest of Marner in Raveloe, regain his faith and reestablish linkages with the community. “Since the time the child was sent to me and I've come to love her as myself, I've had light enough to trusten by; and now she says she'll never leave me, I think I shall trusten till I die.” When Eppie finds out that Marner is not her father but Godfrey is, she is not impressed and does not want anything to do with him. “Thank you, ma'am—thank you, sir. But I can't leave my father, nor own anybody nearer than him. And I don't want to be a lady—thank you all the same” (here Eppie dropped another curtsy). “I couldn't give up the folks I've been used to.” She refuses to be taken away by him and leave the father she has always known. She takes a stand against him and denies his offer. “O father,” said Eppie, “what a pretty home ours is! I think nobody could be happier than we are.”

Godfrey, Eppie's natural father, receives a severe lashing of the tongue from his own father, Squire Cass in chapter nine. This is as a result of Godfrey's confession that he had lent money to Dunsey for rent from one of the tenants of his father's. According to the Squire, he feels he has been a wrong father by being 'too good' and that has resulted into his sons being spoiled. This scenario presents an excellent comparison with the kind of love and affection Silas Marner and Eppie share. “Godfrey was silent. He was not likely to be very penetrating in his judgments, but he had always had a sense that his father’s indulgence had not been kindness, and had had a vague longing for some discipline that would have checked his own errant weakness and helped his better will.”

Although both Eppie and Godfrey have grown without the love of a mother, their financial circumstances have been greatly different. Godfrey's father had plenty of money but their family did not share love and respect for each other. Eppie's father, Silas Marner, is not financially strong but they share the sincerest kind of love and respect for one another. It is not that both fathers do not indulge their children, they do so but one out of love, that is Silas Marner, and the other out of negligence, that is the Squire. Eppie has no doubt about the love of Silas whereas Godfrey has severe doubts. The author has implied here that this critical difference is the reason behind Godfrey growing up to become a coward and a person of weak will whereas Eppie is a woman of strong will and greater sense of values.

This strangely novel situation of opening his trouble to his Raveloe neighbours, of sitting in the warmth of a hearth not his own, and feeling the presence of faces and voices which were his nearest promise of help, had doubtless its influence on Marner, in spite of his passionate preoccupation with his loss. Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us: there have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud.

In Chapter 7 is given the first moment ever since Silas got banished from Lantern Yard and isn't in any sort of way part of the society. He has gone to seek help at the Rainbow after he got robbed. The tavern-goers ask Silas to be seated near the hearth and narrate his story from the beginning. Silas narrates the story and at that very point starts to go through his first stirrings of a sense of solidarity with his neighbors. All that he experiences is in a strange way a story like for Silas: he has never in his life been to a Rainbow and it has been a long while before he had been to someone else’s house. Most importantly, for the past one and a half decade, he hasn't had the experience of being around others and reassured of their presence. As these initiations of change are described, Eliot, like she usually does relies on a metaphor taken from the natural world. Over here Silas has been compared with a plant that is budding in the end of winter. This is when the sapling has begun to circulate but before that there is no such sign of life on the outward. This picture of rebirth gives the idea that the society is something organic and completely natural, as against the idea of unnatural, un-structuring solitude from which Silas is beginning to bud.

 

Reference:

Eliot, George, Silas Marner, NuVision Publications, LLC, 35-150. 2007.  

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