Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe, by George Eliot, was first published in 1861.
“George Eliot” was the pen name of Mary Anne Evans.
The first sentence is: “In the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses – and even the great ladies, clothed in silk and thread-lace, had their toy spinning-wheels of polished oak – there might be seen, in districts far away among the lanes, or deep in the bosom of the hills, certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race.”
Silas Marner is a linen-weaver who lives and works in a stone cottage in the village of Raveloe. He keeps to himself. As the story opens, Silas Marner has been in Raveloe for fifteen years, and many rumors have circulated about this man who rarely speaks to anyone.
Before he came to Raveloe, Silas Marner led a different life. He was well respected among his many friends. He led an exemplary life within his church in Lantern Yard.
Silas Marner formed a close friendship with William Dane, a fellow church member. He became engaged to a woman named Sarah. Life was good to Silas Marner in Lantern Yard.
Then Silas Marner stood before the church congregation, accused of stealing the church’s funds. The evidence was strong against him. Silas Marner pleaded innocent, but was found guilty by the drawing of lots. Although he could not prove it, he knew it was his friend, William Dane, who stole the funds.
A month later, Sarah married William Dane. Silas Marner lost his faith in both Man and God, and he left Lantern Yard.
That was Chapter I. There are still twenty chapters, and many changes to Silas Marner’s life, to go.
Silas Marner lives a miser’s life. He makes good money from his weaving, but he allows himself few indulgences. The rest of his fortune is kept hidden under the floor of his cottage. Then, one night, while he is out tending his yard, his bags of guineas are stolen by the son of Squire Cass, the richest man in Raveloe.
Silas Marner doesn’t know who stole his money, of course, and accuses the wrong man. When his accusation is proven false, Silas Marner apologizes for his error, and gains considerable respect among the villagers. The citizens of Raveloe join in to help find Silas Marner’s stolen money.
As much as the people of Raveloe admire Squire Cass for his accumulation of wealth, they now admire Silas Marner even more for his loss of wealth. People begin visiting Silas Marner, and he begins opening up to the community.
Silas Marner’s life changes yet again when he decides to raise an orphaned girl who suddenly appears in his cottage. The child’s mother is found dead, and her father is unknown to all but one person. Silas Marner considers this child a heavenly gift in exchange for the money he lost.
With the help of his neighbor, Molly Winthrop, Silas Marner learns how to raise a child. Because the girl needs to be christened, Silas Marner returns to church – a different kind of church from the one he knew in Lantern Yard.
Silas Marner gives the girl the biblical name Hephizibah. When Molly Winthrop advises Silas Marner that people will have trouble pronouncing that name, he nicknames his adopted daughter Eppie. Molly Winthrop becomes Eppie’s godmother.
That was Part I.
Part II picks up sixteen years later, with Eppie having grown into a lovely young woman who is catching the eye of Aaron Winthrop (Molly Winthrop’s son). Silas Marner and Eppie are seen at church every Sunday.
This lengthy synopsis I’ve written could have been a lot longer. Silas Marner is an intricate novel, full of rich details of the lives of both the rich and poor citizens of Raveloe. There are many plots and sub-plots. I’ve covered about a quarter of the story here.
Despite the antiquated language and massive sentences, I found Silas Marner an easy read.
As I read Silas Marner, I had no idea where the story was heading. For that reason, I found it an exciting book to read.
This is a wonderful, enjoyable book. I loved it.
Why I chose this book:
When I saw this category, I immediately thought of George Eliot. I’d never read anything by George Eliot before now, and the 2018 Reading Challenge was my nudge to finally get out of my comfort zone and read an Eliot work. Silas Marner seemed like an interesting character, and the novel seemed more intimate than other works involving a community of characters, such as Middlemarch. (I was judging by the descriptions I’d found on Wikipedia.) Of course, I eventually discovered that Silas Marner was also a story involving a community of characters.