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.”

 

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One thought on “Silas Marner: Chapters 1-5

  1. I was traumatized by Wildfire’s death, oh man. Also I can’t help but find all the terrifying parallels of secret wife times while courting someone else, given our last readalong. I think what I’m getting from these books is that men are the worst and you should never marry anyone without doing a VERY THOROUGH BACKGROUND CHECK INTO MARRIAGE RECORDS.

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