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MonkeyNotes-Silas Marner by George Eliot
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Chapter 5

Summary

Silas, not more than a hundred yards away from his cottage, plods along in oblivion to the theft and with little apprehension of the possibility of one; his monotonous life has bred in him a false sense of security. When Silas reaches his cottage, his myopic eyes detect no change in the place. While he waits for his supper to cook, he decides to feast his eyes on the brilliant spectacle of his luminous gold and draws unsuspectingly towards the hearth. The sight of the vacant hole makes his heart leap violently He searches his cottage to no avail and when he realizes his gold is truly gone, he lets out a blood-curdling scream. The idea of a theft begins to present itself, and he gains little strength from the thought that the money could be restored once the thief is caught. Silas suspects Jem Rodney, a known poacher, to have done the evil deed. Silas hurries towards the village to procure help and arrives at the Rainbow Inn.


Notes

In this chapter, George Eliot once again begins with a general discourse and then turns to the particular. The author presents the proposition that the sense of security springs more from "habit than from conviction." Silas' monotonous and solitary life causes him no anxiety about any outside incident. As a result, he has left his door open, for "why should a thief come on this particular night, when he had never come through all the fifteen years before?" The irony of the question is clear to the reader.

The loom and the gold, the twin axis around which Silas' world rotates, have two effects on him. His ceaseless weaving over the loom has rendered him mechanical; his gold has severed his ties with humanity, for it has "gathered his power of loving together into a hard isolation like his own." In Lantern Yard the gold he had earned had been a "symbol of earthly good," a means to an end. The hoarding of the gold has now become an end in itself, a "symbol of earthly evil." Gold has made Silas averse to human contact. In fact, Silas is irritated when Jem Rodney lingers by his hearth instead of going about his business.

There is brilliant use of imagery and foreshadowing in describing Silas and the discovery of the theft. George Eliot states that "A man falling into dark waters seeks a momentary footing even on sliding stones." This description seems to have a double meaning. It foreshadows the future death of Dunstan and also describes Silas' state of mind. The old weaver seeks "momentary footing" by believing that the thief will be caught and his money returned. He soon realizes, however, that the return of his gold is a remote possibility, and it seems to him "a cruel power that no hands could reach, which had delighted in making him a second time desolate." Silas reacts to the robbery in the same way that he had reacted to the first catastrophe in his life; he returns to his loom "seeking the strongest assurance of reality."

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