Silas Marner Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 26 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Silas Marner.
This section contains 816 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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Silas Marner Summary & Study Guide Description

Silas Marner Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Reading on Silas Marner by George Eliot.

Part 1

Silas Marner begins in the early years of the nineteenth century, near the English village of Raveloe, where Silas Marner practices his trade as a weaver. He is a solitary man who is regarded as strange by the other villagers because he does not socialize with them. Marner first arrived in the village fifteen years earlier, from a large town in northern England. In his hometown he had lived a pious life and was a member of a Dissenting chapel (that is, a Protestant sect not affiliated to the Church of England) that met at Lantern Yard. But when Marner was falsely accused of theft by another member of the church, his friend William Dane, he was forced to leave the town and make his life elsewhere. With his religious faith shattered, Marner turned inward and made himself hard. Now, fifteen years later, the only thing he loves is his money, which he hoards.

The chief family in Raveloe is that of Squire Cass. Cass has three sons, two of whom are important for the story. Dunsey, the youngest son is a dishonest ne'er-do-well, while Godfrey, the eldest, is good-natured but weak. Godfrey made the mistake of marrying secretly to Molly, a girl from a lower class. She became an opium addict and now threatens to betray his secret to his father. She also has a young child by Godfrey. Godfrey is terrified that his father will discover his secret and cut him off from his inheritance. He is also frustrated because he wants to marry Nancy Lammeter, a pretty girl from the village, but cannot do so as long as he is married to Molly. Dunsey knows his secret and blackmails him. Godfrey agrees to let Dunsey sell Godfrey's horse, Wildfire, to raise money, but Dunsey rides the horse foolishly, and it is killed in an accident. Dunsey walks home, and finding himself near Marner's cottage, he robs Marner, who has slipped out of his house on an errand, of all his gold. When Marner discovers the theft, he is distraught. Dunsey disappears, but no one connects his disappearance to the robbery. In the meantime, Marner's misfortune makes the villagers think more kindly of him.

On New Year's Eve, a dance is held at Red House, the home of Squire Cass. Molly decides to walk there to reveal the truth about Godfrey, but drugged on opium, she collapses near Marner's cottage. Her two-year-old daughter wanders into the cottage, where Marner discovers her asleep. Then Marner finds Molly and rushes to Red House for assistance, taking the child with him. When Molly is later declared dead, Marner insists on keeping the child, while Godfrey is relieved that the death of Molly leaves him free to marry Nancy Lammeter. He also goes out of his way to show kindness to Marner and the child, who is his daughter.

Marner christens the child Eppie and raises her as his own. The presence of the child revives his spirits, and he becomes once more open to life. The villagers lose their suspicions of him and welcome him whenever he comes into the village. His long years of isolation are over.

Part 2

Sixteen years have passed since Marner first took in Eppie. Godfrey has married Nancy, and they are childless. They lost a child in infancy, and Nancy has resisted her husband's desire to adopt Eppie. Dunsey has never returned. Eppie has grown into a pretty young woman who is very fond of Marner, whom she regards as her father, even though he has explained to her the circumstances in which she arrived at his house. Eppie has a young male admirer named Aaron, and they are contemplating marriage. Marner, now a respected member of village society, says he will do nothing to prevent her marrying.

One day, the stone-pit near Marner's cottage goes dry, and the remains of Dunsey are found. Godfrey informs Nancy that it was Dunsey who robbed Marner, since the money was found in the pit. Godfrey also confesses that the woman Marner found dead in the snow was his wife and that Eppie is his child. He and Nancy agree that they will try to adopt her. But when they inform Marner and Eppie of their intentions, Eppie says she would prefer to stay with Marner. Even Godfrey's announcement that he is Eppie's real father does not change Eppie's mind, even though Marner says she is free to go if she wishes.

After his money is returned, Marner takes Eppie north to visit the town were he grew up. He wants to find out if he has ever been cleared of the crime he was falsely accused of, thirty years ago. But the chapel has been pulled down and a factory built in its place.

The novel ends happily with Eppie's marriage to Aaron. The young couple plans to live with Marner.

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This section contains 816 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Silas Marner Study Guide
Silas Marner from Gale. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.