Silas Marner Plot Summary
Before Silas Marner had settled in the village of Raveloe, he had lived in Lantern Yard. Silas had left Lantern Yard because he had been falsely accused of stealing - and because his friend, William Dane, had betrayed his trust by accusing him and marrying Silas's fiancee, Sarah.
When Silas settles in Raveloe, he is isolated from the village. That he is a weaver and that his cottage is on the edge of town, next to the Stone-pits, make Silas very different from the rest of the village. Also, the townspeople believe that Silas is connected with the devil because they think he can set curses and charms. The townspeople generally stay away from him, except for the curious children who are interested in the unusual sound of the loom and are frightened by Silas's glaring face. Deprived of human companionship and love, Silas only has love for the gold that he hoards. Silas remains alone and cold for fifteen years.
Dunsey Cass, Squire Cass's younger and reckless son, does not pay back the rent money that Godfrey has given him. Dunsey threatens that if Godfrey does not pay the money himself, then he will reveal Godfrey's dark secret that he was married to a drunk named Molly Farren. Godfrey is forced to sell his beloved horse, Wildfire, and against his better judgement, allows Dunsey to take the horse to the hunt and sell it. He would rather pay the money than have Dunsey expose his marriage to their father, for he wants to win Nancy Lammeter's love. News of his marriage would surely jeopardize any chance of marrying Nancy.
Dunsey takes the horse and finds a buyer, but he accidentally kills the horse when he enters the horse hunt and jumps over a stake, stabbing the horse. Dunsey manages to sneak away without anyone seeing him and walks home. As he nears Silas Marner's cottage, he thinks about the money problem and remembers that Silas supposedly has a pile of gold stocked in his home. Without a conscience in his soul, Dunsey sneaks into Silas's home, finds the gold in its hiding place, and runs off into the night.
When Silas returns home, he finds that his gold is stolen. Devastated and horrified, Silas is shocked at the thought that someone had robbed him and runs to town to report the robbery, although he does not wish for anyone to be punished. Silas runs into the Rainbow and tells the townspeople there about the robbery. After Silas accuses Jem Rodney of stealing his gold, the villagers demand that Silas tell them how he found the gold missing. Because Silas is so distraught and serious, the villagers believe his story to be true. The next day, Godfrey goes to the Stone-pits area, as with other villagers, to discuss the robbery. Nearby Silas's cottage, they find a tinderbox, which makes a townsman recall that a peddler who'd come to town recently carried a tinderbox. The townspeople are divided on the subject of Silas's stolen gold. However, Dunsey's name does not come up as a suspect because he is known to disappear for a long period of time. When Godfrey learns that Dunsey has killed the horse, he realizes that he must tell their father about the missing rent money and the horse. Squire Cass is enraged about the money and tells Godfrey that he is as spineless and weak-minded as his mother was.
Dolly Winthrop visits Silas and begs him to join the church festivities on Christmas Day. She tries to make him see the connection between the town church ceremonies and the Christmas holidays, but Silas fails to recognize that the church is associated with Christmas. The Lantern Yard services he learned are not the same as the Raveloe customs. Instead, Silas spends the holidays by himself, as he had every year for the past fifteen years.
The Christmas and New Year's holidays are spent with joyous festivities for the townspeople. Squire Cass throws a lavish New Year's party for Raveloe high society. Nancy Lammeter is chagrined that Godfrey still wants her for his wife, for she has made it clear that she does not want to marry. The villagers remark at how wonderful Godfrey and Nancy look as a couple. Nancy is cold to Godfrey when he asks for her forgiveness.
On her way to the Squire's party, a drunken Molly Farren, Godfrey's wife, walks with their baby girl in her arms. She plans to crash the party and reveal that she is Godfrey's wife so that she can avenge Godfrey's desertion. Before she can make it to the Squire's, Molly falls asleep from the opium and falls onto the snow, the little girl escaping Molly's arms. The child follows the path of a bright light, all the way to Silas Marner's cottage and through the open door. Silas does not see the child enter because he has an unconscious fit. When he regains consciousness, he sees something gold on the floor and thinks that his gold has returned to him. However, he finds that the gold on his floor is not money, but the golden hair of a sleeping child. Silas manages to think beyond the beautiful sight of the little girl to go outside and see the dead body of Molly Farren.
Silas brings the child with him to Squire Cass's house to fetch the doctor. Godfrey recognizes the child in Silas's arms as his own. He fears that Molly is alive, but when he and the doctor rush to Silas's cottage and finds Molly's body, he sees that the woman Silas had found is indeed his wife, and that she is dead.
The villagers are surprised by Silas's statement that he wants to keep the child, but they feel warmer toward him. Dolly Winthrop gives Silas old clothes of her youngest son Aaron and advises him on how to care for the little girl. Vowing that he will make sure that she is taken care of, Godfrey is happy to see that his child is content with Silas, and gives Silas money for the girl.
Silas names the girl Hephzibah, after his mother and sister, and calls her Eppie for short. Raising Eppie brings Silas more joy and happiness than he could ever imagine. For the first time, Silas feels a reciprocated love, a love that is deeper and more affectionate than his love for gold. She teaches him that there is goodness in this world, and Silas couldn't be more happy than he is now. Silas is kind to the villagers, who are kind and warm in return.
Sixteen years have passed since Eppie entered Silas's life. Eppie is now a beautiful, sweet girl, who loves nature and animals. She and Silas have a very happy life together in Raveloe; Eppie has loved Silas as her father and cannot bear the thought of being separated from him. Eppie tells her father that she would like to marry Aaron Winthrop, who has proposed to her, but only if Silas lives with them as well. Also watching Eppie's welfare is Godfrey Cass, who is now married to Nancy Lammeter. He and Nancy are childless; their one child died in infancy. Godfrey is especially giving and considerate to Eppie and Silas. Godfrey had suggesting adopting Eppie before, but Nancy had refused, on her belief that adopting would be against Providence.
When the Stone-pits are drained, Dunsey's skeleton is found with the gold he had stolen from Silas Marner. Godfrey finally confesses to Nancy that he had been married and that Eppie is his child. When he learns that Dunsey's body has been found, he knows the truth will always reveal itself eventually. A disappointed Nancy, fearful that she has been a horrid wife, tells him that he should have told her earlier, so that they might have had a child to raise. They agree to ask Eppie if she would like to live with them as their daughter.
Godfrey and Nancy visit Silas's cottage, where they ask Eppie if she wants to become their daughter, learn how to be a lady, and live with them at the Red House. Godfrey intends to save Eppie from the hard life as a working-class girl, but Eppie replies that she does not want to be rich and that she would rather remain in the countryside. When Godfrey angrily tells Eppie and Silas that Eppie is his daughter, both Eppie and Silas declare to Godfrey that Eppie's true paternity does not change the fact that Godfrey did not acknowledge her as his daughter sixteen years ago. Repeating firmly that she wants to marry a workingman and that she will not part from Silas, Eppie refuses the Casses' proposal to Godfrey, who, when thinking about Eppie's refusal, decides sadly that it is punishment for deserting her. He decides to do all that he can for Eppie.
Silas decides to return to Lantern Yard, to see the minister and try to clear his accused name. With Eppie accompanying him, Silas finds a horrid, grim-looking town in place of the Lantern Yard he knew. To his horror, in place of the chapel is a factory, and no one knows what happened to the chapel or the minister. Silas talks to Dolly about the disappointment of not finding the chapel and the minister and fears that his dark past might never be cleared. However, Silas agrees with Dolly in that there is goodness and right in this world, as long as he trusts.
Eppie and Aaron are married on a beautiful day with their family present. Nancy's sister and father accompany her to the wedding, for Godfrey is suddenly out of town. The villagers agree that Silas has brought a blessing to himself by taking in a lone, abandoned child. Eppie and Aaron live with Silas on his property, which has been enlarged by Godfrey.