George Eliot is a chick whose real name was Mary Ann (a.k.a. Marian) Evans. Like many women in her time, she published her novels under a man’s name so she would be taken seriously. Struck by a childhood memory of a linen-weaver, Eliot became inspired to write this story as a sort of realistic legend. There are many important issues explored: the role of religion and faith in one’s life, the transformation of one’s existence and beliefs, the importance of money versus the importance of love. George/Mary Ann wrote the more famous novels Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss, and Romola.
Silas Marner: A linen weaver and Eppie’s adopted father. He moves to Raveloe after being accused of stealing money in his hometown, Lantern Yard. He zones out and goes into trances. At first, everyone thinks he’s weird; but after he takes in Eppie, people like him. He lives at the Stone-pits.
Hephzibah/Eppie: Silas’ adopted daughter. Her real parents are Godfrey and Molly. She marries Aaron.
Squire Cass: The richest dude in Raveloe. Lives in the Red House with his three sons; his wife is dead. A hothead. He holds grudges.
Godfrey Cass: Squire Cass’ oldest son and, thus, heir. He leads a double life: he is in love with Nancy Lammeter, but is married to and has a child with Molly Farren. He is anxiety-ridden about the truth coming out.
Dunstan Cass: a.k.a. Dunsey. Squire Cass’ second son. An obnoxious and lazy boozehound. Being the only one who knows about Godfrey’s secret life, he has control over his older brother. He steals Silas’ money. He is found dead at the end of the story.
Bob Cass: Squire Cass’ youngest son. He’s a Daddy’s boy.
Miss Nancy Lammeter: She digs Godfrey Cass, but she has issues with his weird behavior towards her. Ends up marrying him. She is not well-educated, but she has good manners. A girlie girl.
Priscilla Lammeter: a.k.a. Priscy. Nancy’s older sister. Awkward. Freely admits she’s ugly. Not girlie. Ends up taking care of her elderly father.
John Snell: He owns the main hangout in Raveloe, the Rainbow. When there are arguments, he always says that no one is right and no one is wrong.
Bob: The butcher. John Snell’s cousin.
Mr. Macey: A tailor. He is also the parish clerk.
Mr. Tookey: The deputy parish clerk. He is the butt of all jokes; he can’t take a joke.
Jem Rodney: A mole-catcher. Raveloe’s resident bad guy. Silas accuses him of stealing his money.
Bryce: He was supposed to buy Wildfire (Godfrey’s horse). He tells Godfrey that Dunsey has a riding incident, and the horse is dead.
Ben Winthrop: The wheelwright. Dolly’s husband; Aaron’s father.
Mrs. Dolly Winthrop: Wife of Ben, mother of Aaron; godmother and, later, mother-in-law to Eppie. She becomes a good friend and confidante to Silas. A really nice lady.
Aaron: Dolly’s son. He grows up to be Godfrey’s gardener and Eppie’s husband.
Dr. Kimble: Godfrey’s uncle.
Mrs. Kimble: Dr. Kimble’s wife; Squire’s sister. She’s a large woman.
Molly Farren: Godfrey’s wife and Eppie’s mother. Might as well face it, she’s addicted to opium; she’s also an alcoholic. She dies on her way to Raveloe, where she was going to reveal Godfrey’s secret life.
Fowler: A tenant on Squire Cass’ land.
Master Kench: The Constable of Raveloe. He’s ill.
The Two Misses Gunns: The wine merchant’s conceited daughters. From Latherly. Guests at Squire’s New Year’s Rockin’-Eve Bash.
Mr. Paston: The minister at Lantern Yard.
Sarah: A servant girl in Lantern Yard. Silas’ main squeeze She breaks up with him after the money-stealing incident and ends up marrying William Dane.
William Dane: Silas’ best friend in Lantern Yard. Thinks he’s all that. He frames Silas and then marries Sarah.
Silas Marner was living in Lantern Yard and dating Sarah. He is accused of stealing money from the Deacon; he denies it. After they find the money in his house, his fellow church members vote and decide he is guilty. Silas accuses his best friend, William, of framing him. But it’s no use. Sarah breaks up with Silas; she marries William. Silas leaves town and moves to Raveloe.
In Raveloe, Silas devotes his life to his craft -- linen-weaving – and the money he earns. Everyone in town thinks he’s a little weird. He doesn’t really care.
Fifteen years pass. Godfrey Cass had collected Fowler’s rent and given it to Dunsey so that Dunsey would keep his mouth shut about Godfrey’s secret life (that is, his marriage to the drug addict alcoholic, Molly Farren). Godfrey told his dad that Fowler didn’t pay. Now, Squire Cass is going to evict Fowler. Godfrey tells Dunsey to pay back the money. Dunsey says it’s Godfrey’s problem. Dunsey offers to go to Batherley to sell Godfrey’s horse; that way, Godfrey will have the money to give to daddy.
Bryce agrees to pay for the horse when Dunsey delivers it to the stable. However, while riding in the woods, the horse trips and dies. Dunsey leaves the horse and walks back to Raveloe. He passes Silas’ cottage and decides to ask him to lend Godfrey money. No one answers the door, so Dunsey goes in. He snoops around and finds Silas’ stash o’ cash (actually, gold pieces).
Silas comes home to play with his money, as he does every night. He discovers that he has been robbed. He searches around his house; but the money is really gone. The usual crowd is holding court at the Rainbow. Silas tells them that someone has stolen his money. He accuses Jem Rodney; but Jem denies it.
Dunsey is still not back. Everyone in town is talking about Silas’ money being stolen. At first, people think Silas made it up; but then they don’t. During the investigation, a tinderbox is found. The suspect becomes a peddler whom people remember had a tinderbox like that one. Thinking that Dunsey sold the horse and stole the money, Godfrey takes off for Batherley to look for him. On his way, he runs in to Bryce, from whom he learns that Wildfire is in horsey heaven.
Godfrey goes home and confesses to his father about giving Fowler’s rent money to Dunsey. Squire Cass gets all pissy and suspicious. He wishes that Godfrey would propose to Nancy; he is sick of Dunsey and doesn’t want him to come home.
On the night of Squire Cass’ famous New Year’s Eve Great Dance, Godfrey tries to get Nancy to like him. Meanwhile, Molly and child are on their way to Raveloe; she is on a mission to let the cat out of the bag about Godfrey’s other life. Near Silas’ cottage, she ends up taking some opium. She passes out and dies. Silas is standing in the open doorway to his cottage, hoping his stolen money will reappear. While he is zoned out in one of his trances, the child slips in to his cottage and falls asleep in front of the fireplace. He snaps out of it and sees a glimmer of gold on the floor. At first, he thinks it’s his gold; when he realizes it’s a child, he thinks it is his sister who died as an infant. He realizes that the child came from outside. He follows the footprints and finds Molly’s dead body.
Silas takes the child and goes to the Red House. When Godfrey sees his kid in Silas’ arms, he freaks out. They go to deal with the dead body; Godfrey goes to make sure that it’s Molly and that she’s really dead. Indeed, she is. Godfrey is psyched: now, he can go full-force in getting Nancy to be with him; only Dunsey knows his secret – but Godfrey believes that Dunsey’s silence can be bought. Godfrey vows to support the child, as he is, after all, the real father.
Silas refuses to give the child up. Everyone is now friendly to Silas, giving him advice on raising the child in the right and moral way. He agrees to baptize the child as Hephzibah – Eppie for short. Thanks to Eppie, Silas comes to trust people and enjoy everything that life has to offer.
Fast forward 16 years. Godfrey and Nancy are married. Squire Cass is dead. Dunsey has yet to return from Raveloe. Eppie and Aaron Winthrop have a thing for each other. They talk about marriage; Silas will live with them when they do get hitched.
Dunsey’s remains and Silas’ stolen money are found in the drained Stone-pit. Godfrey confesses about Molly and Eppie. He and Nancy decide to go to Silas and apologize for Dunsey’s actions; they will also ask that he give Eppie to them so that the girl may be raised in a "better" house. Godfrey admits to being Eppie’s real father. He and Nancy give their sales pitch about giving Eppie a better life. Silas is insulted, but leaves the decision up to Eppie; Eppie says no way. Godfrey continues to give them money and help maintain their house.
Silas and Eppie take a trip to Lantern Yard. Silas wants to find out if his name has been cleared. However, when they arrive, the place is totally different. Since none of the old people is to be found, Silas will have to live without knowing whether he was ever declared innocent. Eppie and Aaron get married. And they and Silas start a new life together as the happiest people on earth.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
- The story takes place in Raveloe in the early 1800s.
- People in Raveloe are suspicious of foreigners, like linen-weavers from the city. Silas Marner is a linen-weaver, and is thus seen as suspicious.
- He is a loner who came from Lantern Yard to Raveloe 15 years ago when he was a young man.
- Silas goes in to trances, so people think he is possessed. They are nice to him because they are afraid he will cast an evil spell on them.
- Silas used the knowledge his mom gave him about herbs and charms to cure Sally Oates.
- There is a rumor that Silas has a lot of cash.
- Silas is a sane and honest man.
- William Dane and Silas are best friends. They are very religious and talk a lot about the Assurance of Salvation.
- Silas is engaged to Sarah.
- Silas goes into trances ("cataleptic fits"). That makes William think Silas is possessed by Satan; Sarah is kind of spooked by it, too.
- While Silas is watching over the dying Senior Deacon, the Deacon dies.
- Silas’ fellow church members accuse him of stealing the bag filled with the church’s money from the Deacon’s nightstand, because they found his knife in the drawer where the money was kept. He denies it; maybe he went in to a trance and someone came in and stole the money.
- Silas tells them to search his house. William finds the empty bag behind Silas’ dresser and tells Silas to confess. Because he won’t confess to something he didn’t do, the church members end up voting to decide if Silas did it. He is found guilty, kicked out of the church, and told to return the money.
- Silas accuses William of stealing the money and setting him up. William denies it.
- Silas loses his faith in God and man.
- Two days later, Sarah breaks up with him. A month later, she marries William.
- Silas leaves Lantern Yard.
- Raveloe is more laid back about religion than Lantern Yard.
- In Raveloe, Silas has only himself to rely on.
- Silas’ life is all about weaving and hoarding the money he makes because he no longer has religion or love in his life. His body conforms to these actions.
- Silas cures Sally Oates by using herbs and charms. People think he has special powers and ask him to cure their ills. He refuses to treat them because he has no powers. Then people think he cursed them. Silas becomes more of a loner and outcast.
- Money is Silas’ only friend. He finds comfort in taking it out of its hiding place under the floor and playing with it.
- The kids call him "Old Master Marner," even though Silas is not even 40 years old.
- Fast-forward 12 years: On his way home from the well, he trips and his clay pot shatters. The pot was like a friend, so Silas is sad.
- It is 15 years since Silas moved to Raveloe.
- The rich people partied; the poor got the leftovers.
- Squire Cass’ sons are bums; they don’t work.
- Godfrey Cass is a nice guy who is starting to act like his wise-ass brother, Dunsey.
- Nancy Lammeter has a crush on Godfrey.
- Godfrey is married to Molly Farren, an alcoholic drug addict who lives in a different town. Only Dunsey knows about it; he uses this knowledge to get what he wants out of Godfrey. Otherwise, he’ll tell Daddy.
- Godfrey collected Fowler’s rent and gave it to Dunsey so that Dunsey would keep his mouth shut about Godfrey’s secret life.
- Godfrey told his dad that Fowler didn’t pay. Squire is going to evict Fowler. Godfrey tells Dunsey to pay back the money. Dunsey says it’s Godfrey’s problem.
- Dunsey offers to sell Godfrey’s horse, Wildfire, to get the money.
- To Godfrey, his marriage to Molly is a nightmare; he wishes she would die.
- Godfrey is in love with Nancy Lammeter; he knows she would make his life happy.
- Dunsey brings Wildfire to be sold in Batherley.
- On the way, Dunsey passes Silas’ cottage and thinks of turning around to suggest to Godfrey to ask Silas to lend him money. But Dunsey doesn’t want to make his brother’s life easier, so he rides on.
- Bryce agrees to buy Wildfire and will pay when the horse is delivered to his stable.
- Dunsey decides to jump fences with Wildfire. They trip and fall; the horse dies.
- Dunsey leaves the horse there and walks back to Raveloe.
- Dunsey decides to ask Silas for the money. Silas is not home. Dunsey searches for the hidden money, finds it, and steals it.
- Silas returns to find his money stolen. He searches his home, but it’s nowhere to be found.
- Silas believes that Jem Rodney stole it.
- Silas goes to the Rainbow, knowing that he can get help from all the important people will be there.
- At the Rainbow, Bob and Mr. Dowlas argue about where the cow that Bob bought came from.
- The men joke about how bad Mr. Tookey’s voice is. They offer to pay him so he will leave the choir. He takes it seriously.
- Mr. Macey tells the story of Mr. Lammeter and Miss Osgood, and how the Warrens’ property became Charity Land. There is a ghost called Cliff’s Holiday there. Mr. Dowlas doesn’t believe there is a ghost; the other men dare him to wait for the ghost.
- Silas walks in to the Rainbow. The men think he is a ghost because he goes in to trances.
- Silas tells them that he was robbed. He asks them to help him get justice.
- Silas blames Jem, who is sitting there at the bar. Silas just wants his money back; he will even give Jem some money if Jem gives the money back. Jem denies stealing the money.
- The men ask Silas to tell them the story.
- The men argue about who will be the deputy constable and head the investigation, since the chief constable, Master Kench, is sick.
- Mr. Dowlas and Mr. Macey go with Silas to Master Kench’s house.
- Godfrey comes home from Mrs. Osgood’s birthday dance and finds, not surprisingly, that Dunsey is not home.
- The next morning, everyone is talking about Silas’ money being stolen. At first, people think he made it up, but then, no.
- During the investigation, a tinderbox is found near Silas’. The suspect becomes a peddler whom people remember had a tinderbox like that one.
- Godfrey starts to think that Dunsey took the money from the sale of Wildfire. He goes to Batherley to look for Dunsey.
- On the way there, Godfrey runs in to Bryce; Bryce tells him that Wildfire is dead.
- Godfrey is afraid that Molly will carry through on her threat to make their marriage known to people in Raveloe. He tries to decide if he should confess the truth to his father.
- Godfrey goes to his father and confesses about taking Fowler’s rent money and giving it to Dunsey.
- Squire believes there’s more to the story. He doesn’t understand why Dunsey needed the money.
- Squire tells Godfrey to propose to Nancy.
- Squire tells Godfrey to tell Dunsey not to bother coming home.
- Godfrey leaves his future up to Chance.
- Weeks pass. The peddler has not been found; Dunsey is not back yet.
- Silas is still mourning the loss of his money.
- Now people really think he’s weird because he totally isolates himself. Still, they are nice to him.
- Mr. Macey comes to Silas’ to cheer him up and suggest that he come to church.
- Dolly Winthrop brings lard cakes to cheer up Silas. She tells him to go to church and put his faith in God. Silas is not into it at all.
- Silas spends Christmas alone, still bumming about his stolen money.
- Godfrey is so stressed about his secret coming out that he actually has a conversation in his head with Anxiety.
- Dunsey is still not home.
- Squire Cass throws his famous New Year’s Eve Great Dance.
- Nancy is confused about Godfrey’s behavior. She doesn’t want to marry him because she thinks he has a bad character.
- All the women go upstairs to get dressed for the party.
- Priscilla and Nancy are wearing the same outfit, because Nancy wanted it that way.
- Squire tries to get Godfrey to make a move on Nancy. Godfrey is forced to ask her to dance; Nancy is forced to accept.
- Some villagers are allowed in to watch the Dance.
- Mr. Macey and Ben people watch from the sidelines. They gossip, especially about Godfrey and Nancy.
- On the dance floor, Squire Cass steps on Nancy. She and Godfrey leave the floor so Nancy can wait for Priscilla to help her. Nancy doesn’t want to be alone with Godfrey.
- Godfrey wants another chance. He tells Nancy that he will change. They bicker. Nancy doesn’t want anything to do with him. She and Priscilla take off.
- With her two-year-old child in her arms, Molly Farren walks to Raveloe where she plans to tell everyone about Godfrey’s secret life.
- Silas is standing in the doorway of his cottage, hoping his money will appear. While holding the door open, he zones out into one of his trances.
- Meanwhile, Molly takes some opium and passes out right near Silas’ cottage. The child toddles in past the zoned-out Silas and falls asleep in front of the fire.
- Silas returns to the fireplace and sees something gold. He thinks it’s his money, but then sees that it is hair.
- Silas thinks that the child is his sister who dies as an infant. He thinks this is a sign from a higher power.
- When the child wakes up, Silas comforts and feeds her.
- Noticing her snow-covered boots, Silas figures out that the child must have come from outside. He goes outside, follows the footprints, and finds Molly’s dead body.
- Godfrey is checking out Nancy from across the room. Suddenly, he sees Silas walk in; Godfrey is stunned to see his child in Silas’ arms.
- Silas asks for the doctor because there is a dead body outside his house. Godfrey knows that the body is Molly; he is afraid that she isn’t dead. He starts to believe that now, he is going to have to confess.
- Mrs. Kimble tells Silas to give the child to one of the women to take care of. He won’t give up the child.
- Dr. Kimble and Silas go back to the body.
- Godfrey goes to get Dolly; they both go to Silas’.
- Godfrey sees the dead body for himself. It is Molly.
- Silas is going to keep the child. Godfrey gives him money for clothes.
- While walking back to the party with Dr. Kimble, Godfrey realizes that he can now go after Nancy. He also thinks about his child’s future with Silas.
- The only problem left for Godfrey is that Dunsey still knows the truth. But he believes that he can buy off Dunsey’s silence.
- Molly is buried.
- Everyone is nice to Silas, giving him advice on how to raise the child.
- Dolly comes over and helps Silas with the child.
- Silas wants to raise the child properly. Dolly tells him that he should get the child baptized. He agrees.
- Silas names the child Hephzibah (Eppie, for short) after his mother and his sister who died as an infant.
- Silas’ comes to enjoy life and the world again, thanks to Eppie. Eppie replaces money as the most important thing in his life.
- When she turns three, Eppie becomes mischievous. Silas tries to punish her, but it doesn’t work.
- No one is concerned about the fact that Dunsey has been gone so long.
- Godfrey feels more optimistic about the future with Nancy.
- Godfrey vows to support Eppie; as her real father, it is his duty to do so.
- Fast forward 16 years.
- Godfrey and Nancy are married.
- Squire Cass is dead; his inheritance has been split up.
- Silas is 55 years old – but looks older.
- Eppie is 18. She doesn’t like her curly hair.
- While walking out of church with Silas, Eppie sense that she is being checked out by Aaron (now, Godfrey’s gardener). She mentions her desire to have a garden loud enough for Aaron to hear. He comes over and offers to make one for her. She flirts with him.
- Godfrey has built an addition on to Silas’ cottage and given them furniture to make the place more cozy.
- Mr. Macey believes that Silas’ kindness in raising Eppie will be rewarded by his money being found or the robber being brought to justice.
- Silas has been smoking a pipe for the past two years to help stop his trances. He doesn’t like smoking it.
- When Eppie was still little, Silas confided in Dolly about his past.
- Thanks to Eppie, Silas has come to have faith in people again.
- Silas told Eppie about his past and where she came from.
- Silas spent a lot of time alone with Eppie. As a result, she is very mature.
- Silas give Eppie a box with Molly’s wedding ring in it.
- Eppie doesn’t think about her real father, because to her, Silas is her real father. However, she does think about her mother.
- Eppie and Dolly are close friends.
- Eppie wants to take the bush where Molly died in to the garden.
- Eppie, Aaron, and Silas build the garden.
- Aaron and Eppie talk about marriage. Silas will live with them.
- Godfrey and Nancy have been married for 15 years.
- Priscilla takes care of Mr. Lammeter and the family’s farm.
- Priscilla goes off on how annoying men are. She doesn’t like Godfrey.
- Nancy evaluates her life with Godfrey. She feels that Godfrey is bummed that they don’t have any kids. They did have a child, but it died as an infant.
- Nancy refuses to adopt any kids, because she believes that she and Godfrey were not meant to be parents.
- When Eppie was 12, Godfrey wanted to adopt her. He thought she would be better off living in wealth than in modesty with Silas.
- Godfrey comes home with the news that Dunsey’s remains were found in the drained stone-pit along with Silas’ stolen money.
- Godfrey finally confesses about Molly and Eppie. Nancy is not pissed, just sad. She wishes that Godfrey had told her earlier so they could have raised Eppie as their own. Godfrey didn’t tell her earlier because he was afraid Nancy wouldn’t have married her.
- They decide that they will go to Silas and ask that he give Eppie to them.
- Silas and Eppie are chilling at home, thinking about his found money. The money doesn’t have the same effect on him as it did in the past (before Eppie).
- At first, Silas wished that Eppie’s hair would turn in to his money, but not for long.
- Godfrey and Nancy arrive at Silas’. They apologize for Dunsey having stolen the money.
- They tell Silas that they want Eppie to come home with them to be their daughter. Silas is appalled; yet, he says that it’s Eppie’s decision to make. Eppie is, like, no way.
- Godfrey gets all righteous and confesses that since he is Eppie’s real father, she should be with him. Nancy agrees. Silas says that Godfrey should have said this 16 years ago.
- Eppie is "repulsed" by Godfrey and Nancy and their offer. "No way."
- Back at the Red House, Godfrey accepts the fact that he waited too long to confess. He still vows to provide for her.
- Godfrey and Nancy talk about the mistakes he has made. They both come to the conclusion that he deserves what he is now feeling.
- Silas wants to take Eppie to Lantern Yard. He wants to talk to Mr. Paston about the trial. Has any new evidence come up to prove Silas’ innocence.
- When they arrive at Lantern Yard, they find that everything has changed. The chapel is now a factory. None of the old people is around; so, Silas will never know if his name has been cleared.
- Thanks to Eppie, Silas learned to have faith and trust.
- Eppie and Aaron get married.
- On the way to the reception at the Rainbow, the families stop to talk to Mr. Macey. He wishes the newlyweds well.
- At the Rainbow, people are talking about Silas and how he deserves his present happiness since he took in the orphan, Eppie.
- They go back to the cottage. Everything there is so beautiful. Eppie says that they are the happiest people in the world.
THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART
- Love, not money, is the basis for all happiness in life. Without love, nothing else in life has meaning.
- Unexpected events can be powerful in transforming a person’s entire life – from one’s behavior to one’s view of life and the world.
- By adhering to a system of morality, one will feel an inner calm and, thus, have the strength to carry on in the face of adversity.
- A clear conscience can alleviate all anxieties. Be honest with yourself and others.
- Having faith in the goodness of humanity is integral to keeping the goodness of humanity alive. But most important: we must show that belief through our daily actions.
- Consider the idea of Silas Marner as a myth. Are we to view the story in realistic terms or "legendary" terms? Or both?