Silas Marner: Chapters 11-15

I was going to apologize for YET ANOTHER LATE POST but instead, I’ve decided that we should agree to pretend that I have been fighting crime at night, and/or taking care of a small child, and/or racing horses for charity. Then you’ll say, “Wow, all that AND she is only a week late on #Ravelong??? What a gal!”

I’m glad we agree on this.

It’s not even that I’m behind on reading or that I’m not enjoying it – I read this week’s chapters in two sittings and they were my favorites so far! It was just, like I said, my other careers as vigilante child-care provider horse-racer, distracting me.

One forgotten note from Chapter 10: if you, like me, were confused about the “I.H.S.” on the Bible that Dolly and Silas discuss, I looked it up for you. I’m incredibly ignorant sometimes so I can hardly laugh at Silas and Dolly for being clueless also. Plus, Greek. Latin. No one has time for that.


Onward to chapter 11! I encourage you to go back and read the first long paragraph of this chapter – it is too delightful and precious to read only once! Nancy is a fine addition to this neighborhood of nonigans, and I love her sister Priscilla even more! Overall, this is one of my favorite chapters so far, between all of the new characters (especially ladies), the really awkward dinner (awkward meals are one of my favorite fictional tropes), and the bit where Godfrey steps on her dress and Nancy sends up a flare to her sister so that they can take care of the sartorial crisis.

Priscilla wins best quote for this chapter:

“I’ve no opinion o’ the men, Miss Gunn– I don’t know what you have. And as for fretting and stewing about what they’ll think of you from morning till night, and making your life uneasy about what they’re doing when they’re out o’ your sight–as I tell Nancy, it’s a folly no woman need be guilty of, if she’s got a good father and a good home: let her leave it to them as have got no fortin, and can’t help themselves. As I say, Mr. Have-your-own-way is the best husband, and the only one I’d ever promise to obey.”

Somehow she managed to pack a bunch of wisdom into it while also coming from a very privileged standpoint, so while I love it, I am also side-eying it.

Anyway, Nancy and Priscilla are both great and Nancy deserves WAY BETTER than Godfrey Cass.


On to chapter 12!

Ok so I know that Godfrey’s wife is a drug addict, and when dealing with addicts you have to draw boundaries for yourself somewhere, but I feel REALLY bad for this lady.  We don’t see Godfrey make an effort to do anything for her, he doesn’t acknowledge her, he doesn’t visit his kid very much, and, I don’t know, I am just REALLY UPSET that she dies in the snow. Maybe she really is a malicious vindictive terrible person (we see some hints of this in her desire to “out” Godfrey to everyone, but seriously, who WOULDN’T want to force their husband to acknowledge their secret wife?!), but we don’t really see that on the page, whereas we DO constantly see Godfrey being a dithering, dishonest coward, so I just feel a lot of sadness for her.

“When Godfrey Cass was taking draughts of forgetfulness from the sweet presence of NAncy, willingly losing all sense of that hidden bond which at other moments galled and fretted him so as to mingle irritation with the very sunshine, Godfrey’s wife was walking with slow uncertain steps through the snow-covered Raveloe lanes, carrying her child in her arms.”

And then she dies alone in the snow because everything is terrible. How do you all feel about Molly the secret wife? Am I oversensitive? Where does Godfrey rate on the Bad Person scale? DISCUSS.

Fortunately, the kid wanders into Silas’ house, because Silas, against all odds, STILL hasn’t learned to lock his own door! I love the whole moment when the girl falls asleep by the fire, and then Silas suddenly sees her, and is like omg what:

“Gold! -his own gold – brought back to him as mysteriously as it had been taken away!”

And then he realizes it’s a child (A SIGNIFICANT CHILD) and thinks its his sister at first, which, wow, feels! I like the way Silas’ obsession with his gold is replaced with the love of a child, but at the same time the way it is replaced in the exact same way that the gold disappeared was almost too heavy-handed for me. What do you all think? DISCUSS.

Meanwhile, back at the Red House in chapter 13, everyone is engaging in well-mannered frivolity. I don’t know what Eliot is trying to imply by calling the Cass’ house “Red,” but the Cass males sure seem to leave a lot of ruined lives in their wakes!

This should be Nancy any time a Cass boy talks to her.

Silas manages to break up the party in the same way that he did at the Rainbow: appearing in the doorway like a specter: “It was an apparition from that hidden life which lies, like a dark by-street, behind the goodly ornamented facade that meets the sunlight and the gaze of respectable admirers;” at least, that’s how Godfrey sees it. He is not happy to see his kid there, and confused to see her with Silas, who may or may not be just a crazy old man. I love that Silas is already defensive of the girl, more so even than her “real” father – when the well-intentioned ladies try to take her from him, Silas protests: “No- no- I can’t part with it; I can’t let it go. It’s come to me- I’ve a right to keep it.” I mean, the girl is a person, not a possession, but Silas’ determination to take care of her is a stark contrast to Godfrey, the biological father who is doing his best to not let anyone know that he has the most claim to her. UGH GODFREY.

Godfrey does a great job of talking himself out of all responsibility. I mean, on the one hand I relate to the skillful way he manipulates his own psyche, sense of duty, and responsibility (I have experienced this), BUT UGH he is way too successful! He convinces himself that not only will he be better off, but so will Nancy, who probably loves him, and his kid, who clearly will be better taken care of by others. So really, he is doing everyone a favor! UGH GODFREY.


Speaking of manipulation, Dolly has some very nice moments of that in chapter 14. I really appreciate how Dolly is introduced initially as a kind, but extremely ignorant woman, and in this chapter she shines as the person with the most knowledge on the topic Silas cares most about: childcare! This chapter as a whole was extremely adorable, but I especially loved watching her “handle” Silas so that she can give him good advice and encouragement.

In spite of Dolly’s best efforts, Silas still has no chill. “But she’ll be my little un,” said Marner, rather hastily. “She’ll be nobody else’s.” On the one hand, that’s super cute; on the other, maybe calm down, Silas, she’s a girl not a bag of gold! I’m nervous to see if he develops a healthy love for his daughter or if he gets kinda obsessed and controlling.

But yeah, super cute chapter. I love Eppie’s name – both the shortened and full versions! “Hephzibah” is too cool, and it apparently means “my delight is in her” which is very appropriate.

In chapter 15, Godfrey is still an idiot, to no one’s surprise, but he feels great about it: “He felt a reformed man, delivered from temptation; and the vision of his future life seemed to him as a promised land for which had no cause to fight.”

Yeah, okay. Although I seem to recall that the promised land required years of wandering in the desert and then years of war, but, sure, Godfrey. Sure.

What about you all? Anything I didn’t mention that you loved/hated/had thoughts on in these chapters?

#Ravelong Odds and Ends

I keep finding interesting Silas Marner-related links and articles and then have been unable to fit them into a blog post. So below, enjoy some links!

  • You can read up on Silas’ day-job here in “British Textiles Clothe the World.” There’s lots of relevant contextual information on all of the work that went into making clothes around Silas’ time and the evolution of textile technology onward. IDK I THOUGHT IT WAS INTERESTING.
  • I enjoyed this thoughtful review of the book at The Great Unread (vague spoilers only).
  • Yesterday I posted about Silas Marner covers, and there is more cover fun to be found here at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings where they explores their library of Eliot books.
  • If you like podcasts, here’s an episode of Overdue, a podcast on the books you’ve been meaning to read, focused on Silas Marner. Spoiler warning! The podcasters are entertaining and well-organized (once they get through some chatting at the beginning).



Judge A Book: Silas Marner

I noticed that all of the Silas Marner copies I have come across are ugly, ranging from Slightly Off-putting to Dreadfully Awful. I thought surely there must be some beautiful Silas Marner covers out there, and set out to search for them.

I’m amazed by how many showed Silas as a very old man???? Isn’t he supposed to be 40 or something?

I did find some lovely Silas Marner covers, which I might share in a future post, but I found many more horrifying ones. Below are the Absolute Worst Silas Marner covers I found.

There is so much to unpack here that I am afraid to try.
Points for attempted artsiness, but someone needs to go back to graphic design school.
I would refuse to remain in the same house as that man. 
Something about this makes me think they’re fleeing the French Revolution.
Congratulations, you’ve succeeded in making me want to put this book down and run far away.
Maybe bring the homicidal maniac aesthetic down a few notches.
Silas spends all of his money on LSD and we never sleep again.
In which Silas marries a beautiful alien and becomes one of them.


Silas Marner: Chapters 6-10

How is the reading going? I’m behind on my chapter discussions! To start out, check out this neat infographic on Silas Marner. I feel like I need all the help I can get with this book.

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me, adrift

I keep wondering when the kid shows up. I’m pretty sure there is a kid in this book. At some point. A significant kid. BUT WHAT DO I KNOW?

Chapter 6 was so confusing for me, but when I re-read it for this post I enjoyed it more. It’s all the local yokels I guess, hanging out at their favorite bar, The Rainbow, and trading stories. Apparently they never get any new stories ever because they just retell all the same ones they already know, like about Nancy Lammeter’s grandfather and how he came to Raveloe and bought The Warrens and died and now haunts the stables. I really love “The Warrens” as a house name. I’d like to live in The Warrens, please.  I’d also really like to meet Nancy Lammeter in this book at some point.

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As the barflies are telling their old, worn-out stories, they finish up with the ghost story about Mr. Lammeter, and just then Silas appears at the door like a ghost. I like how Silas appears both as a ghost and as a person bearing a new story – or an old story that the Raveloe inhabitants (Raveloans?) have never paid attention to or heard before. I mean, Silas has been living there a while and they’ve never heard about where he comes from or what has happened to him. Now that Silas is the victim of a mysterious robbery, he is VERY interesting and worthy of keeping around, for his story value.

Maybe that’s a little unfair – the Raveloeans seem to feel sincerely bad for him, but they’re all fascinated by and invested in his misfortune, too.

I love the moment at the beginning of chapter 7 when the guys in The Rainbow notice Silas: “The long pipes gave a simultaneous movement, like the antennae of startled insects”. It’s a perfect visual image of surprise as the room reacts to Silas’ presence.

I was feeling pretty ambivalent toward poor Silas at this point in the book, but the part where he realizes that he is very wrong to accuse Jem with no evidence went a long way toward making me like him. I like a guy that can immediately and humbly admit he was wrong. And he’s so upset and distressed! He needs a beer and a hug.

The Raveloans immediately set to work figuring out who stole Silas’ gold, and how. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to discuss it and talk it to shreds, and the best place for doing that is at the Rainbow:

“In fact, there was a general feeling in the village, that for the clearing up of this robbery there must be a great deal done at the Rainbow, and that no man need offer his wife an excuse for going there while it was the scene of severe public duties.”

Chapter 8 is full of the incredible ways that gossip and speculation work and grow and mutate into the publicly-accepted truth of What Must Have Happened. Part of me keeps laughing at these excellent and foolish townspeople and part of me is feeling reeeeeeal bad for Silas.

Meanwhile, Godfrey is still a mess. This guy really needs to work on his spine. He has plenty to criticize about Dunstan to others:

“He couldn’t have been hurt, for he must have walked off.”

“Hurt?” said Godfrey, bitterly. “He’ll never be hurt- he’s made for hurting other people.”

But Godfrey isn’t very interested in criticizing himself. I do relate to Godfrey’s struggle to come clean to his father, though. I like the implicit parallel between Godfrey, who keeps tying himself up in knots of deceitfulness in order to make himself appear in the best light to people like Nancy and his dad; and Silas, who is intrinsically honest, if a little pathetic. Godfrey is constantly cycling through fear, guilt, anxiety, and relief, especially when he has a talk with his dad in chapter 9 and almost, but doesn’t quite, confess.

“Godfrey left the room, hardly knowing whether he were more relieved by the sense that the interview was ended without having made any change in his position, or more uneasy that he had entangled himself still further in prevarication and deceit.”


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I have very little hope for Godfrey, but Silas is doing okay in spite of being robbed of his entire hard-earned fortune. The community thinks much better of him now that he is shown to be a normal human who can suffer loss:

“Instead of of a man who had more cunning than honest folks could come by, and, what was worse, had not the inclination to use that cunning in a neighborly way, it was now apparent that Silas had not cunning enough to keep his own.”

The Raveloans, instead of letting Silas retreat to his solitude like before, force themselves on his company, to his consternation. Their motives are partly self-righteous, partly curious, and partly kind. Mr. Macey and Mrs. Winthrop are the main do-gooders in chapter 10, and seem to enjoy lecturing Silas. But despite all of this terrifying extrovert activity directed at introvert Silas, it is probably good for him and he already seems to be opening up – he offers cake to Mrs. Winthrop kid Aaron, for example. A kid! A kid in chapter 10! I don’t think he is the significant kid, though.

Anyway, as devastated as Silas is, it sseems to be a blessing in disguise that his gold was stolen – it opens up the community to him, and shows there may be hope for him yet, now that he isn’t so focused on his gold and his work. He HAS to focus on things and people outside of himself now, right?


Join the conversation on Twitter or elsewhere!

Silas Marner: Chapters 1-5

How is the reading going? I’m a little behind, not because I’m not enjoying it, but because every page/paragraph/sentence/phrase is so dense that it takes me a while to read and comprehend it all! I really like George Eliot’s ability to world-build and to pack so much in, but it can be a lot of work.

So chapter one! Here we are introduced to our guy, Silas Marner, and the village he currently lives in, Raveloe.  Silas is a linen-weaver, which isn’t the most respectable job, I guess because….well I’m not completely sure why. Because they don’t have shops or establishments of their own? They wander around and get jobs as they can and then deliver the finished product, and the wandering around seems to be frowned upon. Additionally, Silas is mistrusted because he knows how to use herbs, and people suspect him of being a witch. Raveloe is an old-fashioned place:  “And Raveloe was a village where many of the old echoes lingered, undrowned by new voices” (chapter one). There’s lots of superstition and references to “the Evil One” and “the devil” influencing people. I presume the “ravel” in the village’s name is a reference to Silas’ occupation, and possibly foreshadowing the plot – because this is that kind of novel that is obsessed with meaningful names.

We also get Silas’ backstory, how he fled the “narrow religious sect” he belonged to because he was falsely accused of stealing money. Again, picking up some foreshadowing here, especially based on what happens in later chapters. But I do feel for the guy – betrayal from a friend is always horrible.

In chapter two, Silas has to find a new purpose for his life now that he has lost all faith in his religion and his fellow humans: “Thought was arrested by utter bewilderment, now its old narrow pathway was closed, and affection seemed to have died under the bruise that had fallen on its keenest nerves” (chapter two). He moves to Raveloe and works at weaving, and reminds me of Arachne in his single-mindedness: “He seemed to weave, like the spider, without reflection” (chapter two).

Silas also falls in love with money. I’m guessing that’s going to turn out really well. He REALLY likes his money, thinks it’s beautiful, takes good care of it, counts it, makes sure it is as safe as possible.

He needs a friend, basically.

I like the bit where Silas helps someone with his knowledge of herbs – almost unthinkingly, as if it’s so basic to his nature, or to his knowledge maybe, that he just has to. But then he has huge regrets because everyone decides he is a witch and wants magic cures for everything.

Chapter three was a wild ride from start to finish, and we meet a handful of characters who may or may not turn out to be important. Squire Cass is the local rich guy, and his sons seem to be major losers so far. Godfrey is secretly married to a lower-class, drunken lady (named Molly because this book has zero naming chill), or so we are told. I’m thinking that if I married a guy and had to keep it secret, I’d drink too.

Dunstan (or Dunsey, and good grief why would you use that nickname????) is blackmailing his brother because he knows about the secret wife. Godfrey would like to be able to marry a nice local girl, Nancy Lammeter, who probably deserves better. I like the description of Godfrey as a physically strong man but mentally weak: “That big muscular frame of his held plenty of animal courage, but helped him to no decision when the dangers to be braved were such as could neither be knocked down or throttled.”

THIS FAMILY IS A MESS. So basically a lot of blackmail in this chapter. I’d like to “meet” Molly and Nancy officially.

PS Snuff the brown spaniel deserves better.

THIS JUST IN FROM CHAPTER FOUR: WILDFIRE THE HORSE DESERVED BETTER, RIP WILDFIRE. Geez! I hope Dunstan trips on something sharp and chokes slowly to death all alone.

This chapter is a bad time – Dunstan in the worst- he accidentally kills the horse – he steals all of Silas’ money….BUT I really appreciate how this chapter slowly develops the idea of Silas’ money in Dunstan’s mind. Like, he’s out for a ride, spots Silas’ house, and is like, “that dude hoards all his money and no one knows where it is,” and then as he rides around, goes on the hunt, loses the horse, etc he develops the idea of getting Godfrey to borrow Silas’ money, and fixates on it until it’s a sure thing in his mind that his brother will somehow get all of Silas’s money, AND THEN when he’s suddenly wandering on foot in the rain, all of this fixation germinates and blooms into the determination to just….STEAL the money. And he does. I don’t know, there was just so much psychological plot in this one chapter, and it was cool!

Chapter five has a couple of bits that I particularly liked, but the only “plot” in it really is that Silas returns home, realizes his money is gone, and runs off to report it. The first thing I love is his panic when he first looks in the hiding place and the money isn’t there – “The sight of the empty hole made his heart leap violently, but the belief that his gold was gone could not come at once — only terror, and the eager effort to put an end to the terror.” THIS IS SO REAL. When you lose something important, at first it’s just like pure disbelief – wait,surely I didn’t lose that, let me check everything and make sure, stay calm, stay calm AHHHHH. etc etc.

I also love the implicit contrast between Marner and Dunstan in this chapter: they both love money obsessively, but Dunstan is full to the brim with malicious intent, whereas Marner has none.

“Yet few men could be more really harmless than poor Marner. In his truthful and simple soul not even the growing greed and worship of gold could beget any vice directly injurious to others. The light of his faith quite put out, and his affections made desolate, he clung with all the force of his nature to his work and his money; and like all objects to which a man devotes himself, they had fashioned him into correspondence with themselves. His loom, as he wrought in it without ceasing, had its turn wrought on him, and confirmed more and more the monotonous craving for its monotonous response. His gold, as he hung over it and saw it grow, gathered his power of loving together into a hard isolation of its own.”


Join the conversation on Twitter: #Ravelong

#Ravelong: George Eliot

Welcome to the Silas Marner readalong on Bahnreads!


Before I started this readalong I hadn’t read Silas Marner but I am a huge fan of the author, George Eliot. I’ve read her book Middle-March, which is maybe her most famous and one of the best English novels of all time, or so I’m told. I enjoyed it, anyway. I’ve also read her novella The Lifted Veil which is a pretty strange time but you all might find it interesting.

George Eliot isn’t the author’s real name. Mary Ann Evans chose to write under a pseudonym, like Charlotte Bronte,  because she wasn’t sure her work would be received fairly by readers and critics if they knew she was a woman.

You can read a very brief overview of her life here at the BBC, or here at the Victorian Web. She’s a bit notorious for having a lot of affairs, often with married men, such as Henry Lewes, whom she lived with for 25 years. She had a lot of cool literary friends and contemporaries, including my literary boyfriend Henry James; there’s a good list here at the Victorian Web.

George Eliot also wrote a few books, including Middle-March, The Mill on the Floss, Daniel Deronda, and Silas Marner.

Rebecca Mead, who has written a couple of books on George Eliot and on Middle-March, has a good article here on not treating George Eliot like an easy read, titled “George Eliot: What did she ever do for us?”


#dwjmarch: you can quote me on that

I reread Howl’s Moving Castle for #dwjmarch, or #marchmagics or whatever the kids are calling it these days. It’s one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors and reading it is always a joyful and rewarding experience. I have many favorite scenes and quotes, many of which are very useful in real-life situations. I have listed some of my favorites below, with suggestions on their use.



“But I discovered that people like me- they do, you know, if you like them– and then it was all right.”

Use as good advice for pretty much any social situation.

“I’ve heard of you, Miss Hatter, and I don’t care for your competition or your attitude.”

Use as a good throw-down statement any time you come across one of your many nemeses.

“But I’m surely due to have a third encounter, magical or not. In fact,  I insist on one. I wonder what it will be.”

Use when you know what you want and that you’re gonna get it and if you’re open-minded about the details.

“What a stupid way to treat a building!”

Use when faced with atrocities of architecture, either in aesthetics or utility.

“I refuse to be exploited.”

Use when needed.

“I hope your bacon burns.”

Use as an all-purpose curse, but be aware it is particularly vicious.

“I am a total stranger,” Sophie lied firmly.

Use when you come across someone you have met that you would rather not speak to, e.g. , oh no it’s that lady I met at a party once and I don’t remember her name but she was awful OH NO SHE IS SPEAKING TO ME.

“I’ve reached that stage in my career when I need to impress everyone with my power and wickedness.”

Use when you’re feeling supremely self-confident and ready to take on the world.

“Keep that broom still while I cross my own room, please.”

Use when someone is in your space, messing up your vibes, and you want to show your disapproval.

“I know I’m slapdash, but there’s no need for you to copy me.”

Use when you’re showing someone how to do something and they’re foolishly trying to do it as fast as you do.

“Michael was a nice boy, Sophie thought, but a bit helpless in a crisis.”

Use when describing that one friend we all have that we wouldn’t want to trust our life to in a tense situation.

“Why have you made a jigsaw puzzle of my best suit? Just a friendly inquiry, you know.”

See “Keep that broom still” up above.

“Is that all you can do in the face of tragedy? Make toast!”

Use when someone isn’t taking your personal crisis as seriously as you think they should be.

“Don’t you think I did any of me myself, then? Put in just a few touches of my own?”

Use when others are claiming responsibility for anything good or important you’ve ever done.

“I feel ill,” he announced. “I’m going to bed, where I may die.”

Use when you’re sick enough to feel miserable but not sick enough to go to the doctor.

“I can tell Sophie is in top form at the moment, and I want this room the usual size when I come back to it.”

Use when babysitting or supervising humans of any age whom you don’t trust.

“I have caught an everlasting cold, but luckily I am terribly dishonest. I cling to that.”

Use when you need something to cling to.

“I assure you, my friends, I am cone sold stober.”

Use when those around you don’t trust your frame of mind or decision-making skills.

“You’ve no right to make jigsaws of people!”

Use to show your disapproval of someone’s completely immoral choices.

“All my flanks were weak!”

Use to admit when you were wrong and you have regrets.