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MonkeyNotes-Silas Marner by George Eliot
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Chapter 4

Summary

The next morning Dunstan Cass sets off for a hunt, and on the way passes by Silas' cottage near the Stone-Pit. As he passes, he recalls that Silas is known to have a hidden fortune. Dunstan thinks of suggesting to Godfrey that he should frighten old Silas into lending him money. Dunstan is confident that Godfrey will agree to this scheme, because it is likely to leave him a surplus cash beyond his needs and enable him "to accommodate his faithful brother" with another loan. However, Dunstan does not want to spare his brother the pain of parting with his Wildfire. As a result, Dunstan quickly goes to the racecourse and makes a deal with Bryce to sell Wildfire for one hundred and twenty pounds. Before turning the horse over to Bryce, Dunstan decides to take Wildfire on his hunt. After having a swig of brandy, he mounts the horse and unwisely races him too hard; during the hunt, Dunstan kills Wildfire on a stake. Dunstan is merely vexed at the loss, and leaves the scene. He sets out for home, trying to avoid people because his drunkenness shows in his walk. As he goes, he keeps rapping Godfrey's whip, which gives him a sense of reality and power.

Dunstan arrives near the opening at the Stone-Pits, sees the gleams of light escaping from Silas' cottage, and decides to have a word with the old man. Dunstan finds the door open and, to his surprise, there is no sign of the weaver. The idea of seeking Silas' hidden treasure takes possession of Dunstan, and he frantically begins looking for the money. He unearths the money from beneath the brick hearth and hurriedly leaves the cottage with Silas' treasure in hand; he is hidden under the cover of heavy rain and darkness.


Notes

This chapter is vital in terms of story development, for it is from the episode of theft that the plot thickens. Without his gold, Silas will now have nothing left to love, which leaves him particularly vulnerable to Eppie's arrival. There are also glaring examples of fate (coincidence) in the chapter. Dunsey (as Dunstan is called) arrives at Silas' cottage when Silas is absent, although the old gentleman seldom leaves home. Silas' home is filled with light (symbolic of his pure nature), and it is the light which attracts Dunstan, a dark and evil character. When Dunstan leaves Silas' home with the gold, the weather is bleak; it is pitch black and raining heavily, which helps hide the thief from discovery and (as later learned) contributes to Dunstan's untimely death.

Godfrey's golden whip is an image that serves multiple functions. Dunstan carries Godfrey's whip because it is more impressive than his own. This indicates that Dunstan goes by appearances, and gold (the color of money) is important to him. It is Godfrey's whip, which will help to identify Dunsey's skeleton sixteen years later, when the Stone-Pits turn dry. Godfrey's whip has been considered by some critics to be a whip of value, implying that Godfrey does possess a set of values; but Dunstan has nothing of his own; he is out and out a hollow person. Finally, it is the discovery of the "whip of value" which will lash Godfrey into confession.

The theme of appearance vs. reality was developed with the golden whip; but this theme will be seen throughout the novel. It is again found in this chapter in the theft incident. Since the old man who rarely goes out is not home, Dunstan convinces himself that Silas appears to be dead and conveniently plunders his wealth. It appears to the villagers that the thief was a passerby, and they never suspect the reality of Dunstan's guilt. In a similar manner, the villagers never suspect the reality that Molly Farren is Godfrey's wife and that Eppie is his daughter; instead, it appears to them that Eppie was fathered by some passerby, as well. It would also appear that Silas loves his gold; in truth, he just wants someone (not something) to love and to love him back.

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