Places: Silas Marner

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1861

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Domestic realism

Time of work: Early nineteenth century

Places DiscussedRaveloe

Raveloe. Silas MarnerVillage in central England to which Marner moves after his best friend’s false accusations of dishonesty force him to leave an unnamed industrial city in northern England. During his first fifteen years in Raveloe, he lives an almost wholly solitary life; his work is all that he has; he virtually lives within his loom, reduced to the stooped and malformed life of a spinning insect. After he takes a foster child into his home, he finally begins to connect with the community.

Marner’s cottage

Marner’s cottage. Former home of a stone cutter in which Silas Marner lives in Raveloe. The cottage is located at the edge of an abandoned quarry. Within his cottage, Marner quietly amasses a hoard of gold coins, which he earns through years of painstaking weaving work. After his gold is stolen, his literal and figurative myopia–accentuated by his cataleptic trances–causes him to mistake for his returned coins the golden hair of an orphaned infant girl, Eppie, who wanders into his cottage on a dark, cold night, seeking light and warmth. Marner’s loving care of Eppie for sixteen years, shored up by the kindness of the villagers, awakens in him an imaginative sympathy that renews and expands his formerly dead sensibilities. Through the influence of the child, Eppie, the bare, stone cottage and its surroundings are transformed into a place of a growing garden that promises to keep flowering at the end of the story, with the help of the young man whom Eppie marries.

Rainbow Inn

Rainbow Inn. Village gathering place in which the character of the community is revealed through the vivid dialogue of those who come to socialize. Marner comes to the inn to seek help after he discovers his gold has been stolen because it is the place where important village decisions are made, such as what to do about the robbery. The narrator reveals that the unaccustomed human interaction that Marner experiences here precipitates his growth of social consciousness. The suggestion of hopeful promise connoted by the inn’s name culminates with its serving as the location of Eppie and Aaron’s wedding feast.

Red House

Red House. Home of Squire Cass, the village landlord, which provides a background for developing the character of his two sons, Godfrey, who refuses for sixteen years to acknowledge that he is Eppie’s natural father, and Dunstan, whose thievery of Marner’s gold goes undiscovered through the same period. The motherless home is seen as loveless until Godfrey marries Nancy, when feminine touches begin to add warmth.

Lantern Yard

Lantern Yard. Gathering place for Dissenters of a narrow religious sect with whom Marner attended chapel when he lived in an unnamed northern industrial city before moving to Raveloe. The Lantern Yard is associated with impersonal and mechanical ways, represented in part by the drawing of lots to determine guilt or innocence. At the beginning of the novel, Marner is victimized here, falsely accused by William Dane, whom he has regarded as his best friend. Although he is innocent, the drawing of lots makes him appear guilty. After being cast out by his Calvinist-influenced religious group, he arrives in Raveloe feeling abandoned and betrayed by God and man.

Through the influence of Dolly Winthrop, Marner becomes open to fellowship through the traditional church of Raveloe. At the end of the novel, he and Eppie go in search of Lantern Yard because Marner hopes to find explanations for the earlier events in his life. However, they find only a factory where the chapel stood before. Eppie’s repulsion at the crowded and dirty scene reinforces Eliot’s presentation of place as all-important to the nurturing of community fellow-feeling.

BibliographyBeer, Gillian. George Eliot. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. A feminist approach to the novels of George Eliot that acknowledges Eliot’s power to redefine issues relating to gender while remaining within the traditional canon of English literature. The chapter on Silas Marner focuses on Silas’ weaving as a metaphor, with feminine associations, for the interconnections of circumstance that form Silas’ destiny.Draper, R. P., ed. George Eliot: “The Mill on the Floss” and “Silas Marner.” London: Macmillan, 1977. Useful casebook anthology, containing early reviews and nineteenth century criticism in addition to more modern studies. See especially David Carroll’s “Reversing the Oracles of Religion,” an authoritative essay on Eliot’s humanist religious views.Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds. George Eliot. Boston: Twayne, 1985. A compact literary biography that addresses various moral and philosophical aspects of Eliot’s intellectual development. In the chapter on Silas Marner, Ermarth sees a central theme emerging from opposed realms of circumstance and moral order linked by the bonds of human sympathy and trust.Paris, Bernard J. Experiments in Life: George Eliot’s Quest for Values. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1965. Has limited coverage of Silas Marner but includes a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the philosophical background of George Eliot’s “religion of humanity.”Swinden, Patrick. “Silas Marner”: Memory and Salvation. New York: Twayne, 1992. Criti-cally sophisticated but readable book-length study that focuses on Eliot’s narrative method. Offers a valuable analysis of the historical and societal contexts of the novel’s two settings, Lantern Yard and Raveloe.Thale, Jerome. “George Eliot’s Fable for Her Times.” College English 19 (1958): 141-146. A classic essay; argues that the contrasted realistic and fabular elements of Silas Marner are successfully unified by Eliot’s moral vision. Also published as chapter 4 of Thale’s excellent The Novels of George Eliot (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959).Uglow, Jennifer. George Eliot. New York: Pantheon, 1987. Explores the connections between Eliot’s life and work, in particular the feminine values her work affirms. In the chapter on Silas Marner, sees imagery of rebirth and regeneration at the core of the novel’s celebration of nurturing and maternal actions.Wiesenfarth, Joseph. George Eliot’s Mythmaking. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter, 1977. Wiesenfarth argues that George Eliot’s fiction in general embodies a mythology of fellow feeling that includes various folk, classical, and biblical sources. The chapter on Silas Marner explores the novel’s fairy-tale analogues and influences, and relates them to its form and themes.
Categories: Places