Welcome to the last #Ravelong post on Silas Marner! WE DONE DID IT! Give yourself a pat on the back! Start a new book to celebrate!
Quick reminder: our next Readalong will be in June, when we will read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Stay tuned for details – the schedule should be up later this week.
On to Silas!
There was a lot going on in these last chapters. There were two things that struck me the hardest, but I’m not sure if I should call them “themes” or “messages” or “problems.”
The first was the basic message against ambition and in favor of humility and a quiet life. This is suggested by the way Silas finds happiness: even though he lost his “career” at Lantern Yard early on and then gave up on making anything of himself professionally, he is ultimately happy because of his daughter and his little house. This message is highlighted by Eppie’s choice to stay with her low-class father, instead of taking Godfrey’s offer of a nice house, an education, and an inheritance. Eppie is happy where she is, with her poor neighbors, her aging father, and her working-man fiance: “I couldn’t give up the folks I’ve been used to,” as she states so plainly; “I like the working-folks, and their victuals, and their ways.” I was very fascinated by this because it’s not often that a book so starkly lays out happiness as produced by a simple life – often plots revolve around the hero or heroine going from a simple life to a successful one (in whatever way success is measured). Eppie doesn’t make what some would call the “brave” choice – to leave her home and everything she knows in order to make her place in the world. Instead, she stays in where she feels she belongs, and where she feels loved and loves others. What did the rest of you think about this?
The second thing that struck me was the emphasis on hidden things coming to light, and yet the first mystery that the book presents us with is never resolved in any way. Dunstan’s theft and death is eventually revealed; Godfrey reveals his past bad choices to Nancy; but Silas doesn’t get any similar enlightenment or resolution to what happened to him as a young man. I really, really loved that not everything was tied up in a neat little bow, and I was surprised that the book was brave enough to do that! Dolly and Silas’ conversations about trusting in God/Providence/Fate were really interesting – even if an event or catastrophe appears very unjust, there’s a lot going on in life that we can’t see or understand, or as Dolly says: “if anything looks hard to me, it’s because there’s things I don’t know on; and for the matter o’ that, there maybe plenty o’ things I don’t know on, for it’s little as I know-that it is” and concludes “For if us as knows so little can see a bit o’ good and rights, we may be sure as there’s a good and a rights bigger nor what we can know-I feel it i’ my own insides as it must be so.” Sometimes we just have to let things go.
P.S. I love Dolly.
In chapter 16, we get an important update on Silas’ distinctive eyes: “His large brown eyes seem to have gathered a longer vision, as is the way with eyes that have been short-sighted in early life, and they have a less vague, a more answering gaze.” IT’S LIKE A METAPHOR FOR ALL THE WISDOM HE HAS GAINED IN THE PAST SIXTEEN YEARS! I get it.
Eppie is charming and a little terrifying, the way that she has Silas and her friend Aaron wrapped around her finger. But I adore her confidence in the conversation with Silas about getting married:
“And who is it as he’s wanting to marry?” said Silas, with rather a sad smile.
“Why, me, to be sure, daddy,” said Eppie, with dimpling laughter, kissing her father’s cheek, “as if he’d want to marry anybody else!”
We already talked about the excellent conversation between Dolly and Silas in this chapter.
In chapter 17, we get more of Nancy’s point of view. I still feel like she could have done better than Godfrey, but I respect their mutual caring for each other. We get a reallyyyyy interesting glimpse into Nancy’s interior life in this chapter- I’m sure other people smarter than me have written essays and books on it! The bit that stuck out to me was explaining Nancy’s tendency to analyze all of her behavior, because her life is so limited that there’s not much else to analyze: “I can do so little – have I done it all well?” is the perpetually recurring thought; and there are no voices calling her away from that soliloquy, no peremptory demands to divert energy from vain regret or superfluous scruple.” I don’t know if this is autobiographical or not on George Eliot’s part, but I’m certain she knew women exactly like Nancy.
Chapter 18 blew my mind, because I never expected Godfrey to make The Ultimate Choice to tell Nancy without us “seeing” his train of thought leading to it. We don’t “see” him find out about Dunstan’s death or see the body; we don’t have to go through his circuitous thought process again to come back to the choice he should have made all along, which was to tell Nancy the truth. Instead we stay in Nancy’s perspective, where she is anxiously waiting for Godfrey to come back, and BOOM he is there and BOOM he is telling her everything. I thought this was very effective!
The scene also led into one of the best quotes in the book, and probably my personal favorite, by Nancy: “I wasn’t worth doing wrong for – nothing is in this world.” On the one hand, it’s a very black-and-white, almost naive thing for her to say. On the other hand, it highlights the fact that everyone has to make their own choices by themselves. They can’t blame other people for their choices or hold up others as their reason for doing the wrong or right thing.
Chapter 19 is a doozy. Mr. and Mrs. Cass’s decision to go and adopt Eppie out of NOWHERE made me want to hit my head against the wall.
Like, I understand they want kids, and they feel responsible, and they especially feel GUILTY, but that’s no excuse to wander into people’s houses and make impassioned pleas for parental rights! It’s just weird, Godfrey! And Nancy, you should know better!
Once Godfrey makes his offer to take Eppie off of Silas’ hands, he is completely blindsided by Eppie’s rejection. I love it. I drink up Godfrey’s confusion like delicious nectar. I love this bit in particular: “he was not prepared to enter with lively appreciation into other people’s feelings counteracting his virtuous resolves.” Here he is, doing what he believes is noble, proper, and generous, and these people are tossing it back like it’s worth nothing! The thing is, Godfrey is just trying to make up for his past bad choices at this point. It’s not that he loves Eppie particularly for her own self – he loves the idea of a child, and of having his own child after all, but….yeah. Godfrey, no.
Silas’ response to Godfrey’s claim of parental rights is spot-on: “God gave her to me because you turned your back upon her, and He looks upon her as mine: you’ve no right to take her!” Silas never rejected Eppie. He took the blessing offered, which Godfrey had treated like nothing, and Godfrey just has to DEAL WITH THAT now.
To his credit, he finally does in chapter 20: “Marner was in the right in what he said about a man’s turning away a blessing from his door: it falls to somebody else.” It’s sad but there it is. This chapter was very sweet in showing the trust and affection that Nancy and Godfrey have for each other, even after everything. Good job, kids!
One parallel that stuck out to me: Nancy/Godfrey and Eppie each mention one specific thing that they want, that one thing that is lacking that will make them perfectly happy with their lives. For the Cass couple, it’s a child. For Eppie, it’s a garden.
Chapter 21 shows Silas’ attempt to return to Lantern Yard and make sense of what happened to him there. I discussed it a little above. The only closure Silas (and therefore the reader) gets is that sometimes there ISN’T any closure, and sometimes that’s okay.