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Themes in Silas Marner
Silas Marner, written by George Eliot in 1861, attempts to prove that love of others is ultimately more fulfilling than love of money. This theme shows throughout the book, though the manner in which it is revealed leaves a bit to be desired. Often Silas Marner is criticized for being such a simple, unrealistic story. It does seem odd that after fifteen years of almost solitary confinement, Silas can trade his love of gold for his love of a daughter overnight. Despite Eliot’s attempt to portray Silas’s reawakening to society as a slow transition, the reader interprets his change of heart as a direct and immediate result of Eppie’s arrival. Despite these flaws in the story, the overall theme that man cannot live in a vacuum is portrayed by Eliot very well. Though Silas finds some satisfaction in his tenacious weaving and hoarding of gold, he only discovers true happiness after he dedicates himself to inter-personal relationships. Though his exile from Lantern Yard proves devastating to his self confidence and trust in others and God, fifteen years later Silas makes a full recovery, adopting Eppie to replace his love of money with love of a daughter. The fact that Lantern Yard has disappeared years later when Silas and Eppie go to visit it suggests that this town is no longer dear to Silas. In fact the removal of the town serves as a metaphor for Silas’s ability to find happiness outside his past.
Also, near the conclusion of the story, the "fits" of Silas seem to have subsided. This makes sense because since the bachelor weaver has recovered and Eppie has opened his eyes to the reality of the world again, his soul is no longer separate from his body. While before, his soul was exiled and held in a purgatory of sorts before he found Eppie, now his spirit is alive and well, living in the present. Yet he still has relapses, suggesting that the fifteen years of self-torture have left permanent scars on his troubled soul.
One lesser theme of the book is in regards to the Cass family. Eliot, through her portrayal of Godfrey and Dunstan as wealthy, selfish scoundrels who try to use one another and others to their personal advantage, asserts that the upper class has damaged society. While the Cass family, thinking that their wealth gives them undue privilege and rights to property (Godfrey’s attempt to seize Eppie from Silas), seems incredibly egocentric, Silas, representing the lower class, is seen as a humble victim of class bias.
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Even religion is indicted in the novel, showed to be unjust and hypocritical during the casting of lots which finds Silas guilty. Yet the face of faith is recovered towards the end, following Silas’s return to church and baptism of Eppie. No matter what the circumstances, Silas learns that his faith can always be a pillar of strength.