Silas Marner: Chapter 16-Finish!

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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!”

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Eppie, probably.

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.




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?