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MonkeyNotes-Silas Marner by George Eliot
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Chapter 2

Summary

In Raveloe, Silas immerses himself in a life of ceaseless work, which becomes an end in itself. His weaving fills the emptiness of his life and becomes a refuge for him from bitter memories. In time, Silas establishes himself as a weaver of fair repute and is paid handsomely by his clients. The gold coins, which his hard- earned labor earned him, kindle in Silas a unique fascination. Silas likes the feel of the bright, shining gold coins; he touches them, admires, them, and begins hoarding them. His miserliness is an expression of his affection, for he saves gold not for the power it gives him, but because he needs something to love. Each night he adoringly lays out his ever-increasing stock of gold and counts it.

The experience at Lantern Yard has made Silas shrink into his shell, but it has not embittered him entirely. This can be seen from two instances. His first impulse on seeing Sally Oates in pain is to cure her, but the absurd superstitions and demands of the villagers drive him back into self-centeredness. Secondly, when he breaks his old pot he saves its broken pieces as a memorial.


Notes

It is the strategy of George Eliot and a standard technique of Victorian writing to begin by presenting the germ of an idea and then developing it by showing its application to the protagonists. Thus, Eliot launches into an authorial address about the "Lethean [amnesiac] influence of exile" on minds "unhinged from their old faith and love"; she then shows how this idea exercises itself upon Silas. Severed from his community, Silas has fled from his past and his God, and taken refuge in Raveloe, where there are no symbols of his past life. Instead, he has buried his past and dreams of his future.

The author contrasts the religious life of Lantern Yard and of Raveloe throughout the novel. The people of Raveloe are more casual in their attitude towards religion. There is a church that is not well attended; the people tend to admire it from a distance with the men of the village "lounging at their own doors in service time." In addition, the minister is not dynamic; "there are no enlightening sermons which can stir Silas Marner's benumbed faith to a sense of pain."

George Eliot delves into the mind of her characters and offers brilliant insights. Undeserved disgrace has not made Silas bitter. His first impulse when he meets a sick person is to cure them, and only the absurd superstitions and demands of the villagers drive him to isolation. He then turns to hoarding gold. His life becomes mechanical, "reduced to the mere function of weaving and hoarding." It must be noted that Silas' miserliness is an outcome of his need to love. He hoards gold not for the power it yields him, but because it fills the loveless chasm of his drab life.

Nature images dominate the chapter. The trees shield Silas from the heavens above; Silas weaves like a spider from pure impulse; the plenteous orchards reflect the happy, neglectful life of the villagers; the traces of humanity present in Silas are stated in terms of "sap of affection"; and in a long-drawn simile Eliot compares Silas' introverted life to a rivulet "that has shrunk far down from the grassy fringes of its old breadth into a little shivering thread, that cuts a grove for itself in the barren sand." Eliot ends the chapter with a premonition of things to come for Silas Marner; the tapering rivulet will turn into a river by showers of affection and ultimately merge into the full stream of humanity.

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