Summary: A linen weaver named Silas Marner only found comfort in his growing hoard of gold after he was forced to leave his home because he was unfairly accused of theft. But then his money disappears. Only when an abandoned child wanders into his home does he begin to find meaning in his life again.
Silas Marner is, plot-wise, an uncomplicated book. There are no unexpected twists, no extraneous characters or tales. When a chapter begins and a “mysterious” figure is introduced, the reader knows immediately who the character is and what his or her function will be. Silas Marner is not about action or being literarily clever (although it is very well-written). In her afterword in the Signet edition, Kathryn Huggins likens the book to a folktale; if one defines a folktale as a straightforward story with a message applicable to all listeners (or readers), I agree.
Silas Marner addresses what is important in life. Two main characters, Silas and Godfrey Cass, play the primary roles in revealing the secret. One is poor, and one is rich. One is older and unmarried; one is young and in love. Together they show that what Eliot is trying to convey is something everyone needs to hear, regardless of his or her personal characters. Godfrey and Silas both find redemption. They both reconcile with what they have done in the past. They both learn that relationships are far more important than money.
The book is not overly simple, however. The characters are not types, and the setting is not “someplace” far away. Silas Marner is movingly realistic, sometimes bleak and sometimes hopeful. It explores humans and their capacity, rather than boxing and attempting to explain far too much. This is definitely a classic worth reading.
First Published: 1861