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MonkeyNotes-Silas Marner by George Eliot
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Chapter 12

Summary

While Godfrey Cass is busy courting Nancy, his wife is trudging through the snow, carrying their child in her arms. Molly Farren is determined to revenge herself on Godfrey and introduce herself to the Squire as Godfrey's wife. Molly Farren is in a shoddy and miserable state as she walks unsteadily through the snow. After consuming some opium to comfort herself, she becomes drowsy and collapses in the snow. Her two-year-old child crawls towards the bright beams of light coming from Silas' cottage. The child makes its way to Silas' warm hearth and, lulled by the warmth, falls asleep, unnoticed by the weaver.

Since the theft, Silas has left his door open at night in a vague hope that his money would be restored to him just as it had been taken away. His neighbors have told Silas that New Years' Eve brings good luck to people, so he is hoping that his money will be returned on this special night. With anticipation, Silas stands at the door, almost in a state of stupor. When his sensibility returns, he imagines that he sees his gold before the hearth; in reality, he has spied the child's curly hair, a heap of gold to his blurred vision. When he draws closer, he discovers the little girl. The sight of the angelic child brings back the memory of his little sister. While he is lost in his thoughts, the child wakes up crying. Silas feeds her porridge and removes the child's wet boots. He then tracks the child's boot marks in the snow; they lead him to the lifeless form of her mother, Molly Farren.


Notes

In contrast to the New Year's Eve festivities presented in the previous chapter, this chapter describes the pathetic character and death of Molly Farren. Dressed in ragged clothing and carrying her young daughter, she trudges through the snow towards the Red House festivities. She is going to tell Squire Cass the truth about Godfrey, herself, and her child. Addicted to opium, she stops to consume some near the house of Silas Marner. When she passes out, her child crawls towards the light that comes from Silas' open door, symbolic of his readiness for human contact. The little girl enters and falls asleep on the warm hearth. Silas does not notice her, for he is preoccupied with the hope that his gold may be returned on this night, for it is New Year's Eve, a time of new beginnings and good luck. When he does spy the child, he believes her to literally be his returned treasure; although she is not his gold, she becomes his treasure.

George Eliot has masterfully filled this very important chapter full of ironies. First, it is ironic that Molly passes out and dies so close to Silas' house. It is even more ironic that his door is standing wide open during a blizzard so that the child can come inside. Next, it is ironic that the little girl goes to sleep at Silas' hearth, the same place that the gold was hidden. It is ironic that she happens to have golden curls, which fool the almost blind Silas into thinking his money has been returned. It is ironic that he longs for his gold on this evening and is unable to recognize the real treasure that has been delivered to him as an answer to his prayer. It is ironic that Molly dies on New Year's Eve, the end of the year and a time of new beginnings, and that life starts over again for Silas as a result of her death. It is ironic that the robbery at Lantern Yard had snapped Silas' relationship with humanity, while the robbery at Raveloe restores this connection to the world and to love.

It is important to note in this chapter that for the first time in the book, Silas himself recalls his Lantern Yard days. He imagines the little child at his hearth to be his little sister; appropriately, he refers to her as an angel. Eppie will indeed become an angel of salvation, an answered prayer, for the old weaver.

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