Silas Marner is an old weaver in a rural village called Raveloe. He is a loner; isolated from the world, and eventually became a miser. He never goes to church, and dislike his neighbours, who also see him with suspicion. He loves only his craft, and the accumulated gold he earned by his loom.
Godfrey Cass is the eldest son of the landowner: Squire Cass. He is a good natured man, and lived respectably with his wife: the sweet Nancy Lammeter. The couple is childless, and Godfrey is tormented by guilt of his dark secret, that the couple isn't as happy as it should be.
Why did I open this post with two different stories? It's because Silas Marner - despite of its title - is a story of interwoven pasts of these two characters: Silas Marner and Godfrey Cass. They are both unhappy in the present situation, and both are caused by secret pasts. Let me tell them separately.
Silas was a religious, exemplary young man from Lantern Yard. He was framed by his brethren, and was accused of stealing church money. Nobody believed him, nor even Sarah, the girl he was engaged to marry, who finally married the man who has framed him! So, he left his hometown, bringing his loom, to be a weaver in Raveloe, where nobody knew him, and shut himself up from the world - and apparently from God (who is, so he feels, unfair to him).
Rich and spoiled by his father, Godfrey secretly married a working class opium-addicted girl, Molly, whom he then estranged. Dunfrey "Dunsey" Cass, his scoundrel second brother knew this, and blackmailed him. Using the Squire's money, Godfrey tried to shut his brother's mouth, lest he revealed his secret, and prevented him from marrying the sweet Nancy Lammeter.
One night Dunfrey robbed Silas' gold, taking away Silas' only consolation in life - without love and affection as he was. Then Molly - Godfrey's estranged wife - went to the Casses' with a two year old girl, in order to reveal herself and the child as Godfrey's. However, on that bitter cold winter night, she died on the way, leaving her child wandering through the snow to Silas' house. The aftermath of this incident: Godfrey could married Nancy without remorse, and Silas got a daughter to care for, replacing his beloved gold. Is this the happy ending they deserved? No, not yet. Eventhough life seems to be generous to Silas and Godfrey at this point, each has still an old grudge and dark secret, of which they have not yet make peace with.
George Eliot is one of the authors whom I have hitherto been expelled from my reading list. "What? Why??", I hear you ask. Well, I read The Mill on the Floss years ago, and didn't impressed by her writing, and disliked her characters. Years later, I feel I was being unfair to her. Victorian's has been my favorite reading, so why not try her other novels? And so, I picked Silas Marner - and I'm glad I did. Though Eliot is still not my favorite, I can now appreciate her more. I loved Silas Marner - it's a real comfort reading - though my favorite character is actually Godfrey Cass (I will discuss this more on the next post).
Silas Marner's main theme are about repentance, forgiveness, and making peace with one's past. Maybe you've been wondering why I've been writing Silas and Godfrey in parallel with each other? It's because I see their paths in life (in accordance to above themes) as very similar, albeit the huge difference in their social backgrounds. Let me break it down:
SILAS was wrongly accused
GODFREY had a scandalous marriage
Try to fix problem, but instead, getting deeper
SILAS relinquished God and humanity; worshiping gold --> lonely and meaningless life
GODFREY squandered his father's money to bribe Dunfrey, then having a marriage based on lie --> unhappy, burden.
Molly's death brings solution
SILAS finds early happiness in raising the orphaned Eppie.
GODFREY finds early happiness in marrying Nancy Lammeter.
But still not fully happy
SILAS still has a grudge against his fellow kinsman.
GODFREY still keeps a secret from Nancy
Revelation as turning point
Dunfrey's corpse and Silas' gold were found, and so:
True happiness after making peace with the past
SILAS realized that gold is meaningless; instead, love and forgiveness is more valuable. He returns to Lantern Yard, though found it vanished, and so closes the past, welcomes the happy future with Eppie and her husband.
GODFREY confesses to Nancy about Molly and Eppie, and so there's no more secret. Though perhaps not as happy as Silas, but I think they'll live contentedly after finding pure love for each other, and with their generosity to Silas and Eppie.
In the end, there is no intriguing plot in this book, but it is a sweet and comforting novel with warming allusions of love and repentance. After this, I think I'm excited to read all Eliot's remaining novels. Middlemarch will be my next!