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MonkeyNotes-Silas Marner by George Eliot
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Chapter 14

Summary

Molly Farren is laid to rest unclaimed and unlamented. With her, Godfrey's dark secret is buried forever. Silas' decision to adopt "the tramp's child" evokes surprise and leads to further softening of feeling towards him. Dolly Winthrop is a constant and indispensable help to Silas in the daunting task of rearing the child. She generously donates Aaron's old petticoats to the little girl and teaches Silas to bathe and dress her. Silas gladly accepts Dolly's services but does not wish to be dependent on her. Moreover, he has become quite possessive about the child. Dolly recommends that the baby be christened at church. Silas doesn't understand what she means by this, but agrees to christen the child in her best interests. The child is named Hepzibah in the memory of his mother and little sister. Since Hepzibah is a difficult name, the child is to be called Eppie.

Eppie starts bridging the chasm that has separated Marner from the world. Through her affection and mischievous eyes, Silas begins rediscovering life. Eppie is a naughty child, and Silas doesn't know how to control her. Since he can't bear spanking Eppie, Dolly advises him to try shutting her in the coal hole. When Eppie runs away into a neighboring field, Silas follows Dolly's advice to punish her; but Eppie, instead of being scared, enjoys the coal hole. Silas takes Eppie with him to various farmhouses. His neighbors are very amused to see this sight. The children who were scared of Silas earlier now approach him eagerly, for he seems softened with a child in his arms. The gold that Silas earns ceases to be important to him. Now he has Eppie to love; she has given purpose to his meaningless life.


Notes

Silas' determination to adopt the child surprises people, and the softening of feeling towards him, which dated from his misfortune, now becomes more pronounced. Silas also begins opening up to the world, for "the child created fresh links between his life and the lives from which he had shrunk." Eppie also replaces Silas' concern for gold. "The gold had kept his thoughts in an ever- repeated circle, leading to nothing beyond itself (but Eppie) was an object of compacted changes and hopes that forced his thoughts onwards. Eppie re-awakened the senses which the gold had dulled, she took him back to the hedge-banks and to the search of familiar herbs, thus releasing him from the cold, narrow prison of his path." It is noteworthy that Eppie not only modifies his present but also heals the hurts of his past and re-awakens the memories of his "far- off place." Indeed, Silas names the child after his mother and little sister. "Hepzibah" literally means "my delight is in her." Silas' relationship with Dolly Winthrop prepares him for the community life of Raveloe and its customs. Dolly tackles Silas boldly about raising Eppie; she advises him about church going on Sundays, having the baby christened, and getting her inoculations. Dolly's aid is most acceptable to Silas because she is helpful without being domineering. Dolly is not very intelligent, but her compassion makes her understand Silas' sufferings. Dolly has no understanding of Christian fundamentals, but there is an elementary truth in her homespun philosophy: "We may strive and scrat and fend, but it's little we can do arter all. The big things come and go wi' no striving O' our'n. They do, that they do."

Eppie's love changes the way Silas looks at the world and the way the world looks at him. Children, who were earlier scared of his gaze, now don't feel fearful to approach him when seeing a child in his arms. People who would earlier make their dealings with Silas as brief as possible would now smile and chat with him.

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