100 of 104 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2001
Question: How can you ensure that a person will hate a book? Answer: Make her read it for 7th grade English class, make sure that the language is old-fashioned, and above all, make sure that the ideas and concepts are over her head. If that's what happened to you, and that's why you have an aversion to Silas Marner, and you are now over 30, pick it up again. Read it twice. Silas Marner is one of the greatest novels in the English language.
Yes, it starts out sad, as our pathetic hero looses both his trust in humanity and his faith in God. But the power of love replaces his lust for money, and wins out in the end. Meanwhile, morally poor but financially rich, high-living Godfrey Cass provides a counterpoint to simple Silas. At the end there's a surprise when the fate of Godfrey's evil brother is revealed.
When you're all done, before you file Silas Marner on the shelf, go back and read the paragraph about Silas' thoughts when he discovers that his hordes of coins are missing. If you have ever felt sudden extreme loss, you will recognize the stages of despair from disbelief to acceptance "like a man falling into dark water." Which is why this book is not suitable for children, and is most appreciated by those who have undergone their own moral redemption.
Silas has been the inspiration for many other characters, including Dicken's Scrooge. He has been portrayed in movies, including "A Simple Twist of Fate" starring Steve Martin. But none is as good as the original. If you haven't read it since junior high, try it again. Silas Marner is an excellent book. There's a gem of human understanding in every chapter.
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Silas Marner is an excellent classic novel set in early Nineteenth Century England. In this story, George Eliot (pen name for Mary Ann Evans) depicts a man named Silas Marner, a weaver by trade. He lives happily in his home town of Lantern Yard, until his best friend William Dane betrays him by setting him up as a thief. William then marries Silas' fiancée, and Silas is shunned from the town. He eventually settles in a very small cottage in Raveloe, where he spends his days making cloth and other materials for the townspeople. Due to his now secretive and reclusive ways, the people of Raveloe never really come to know Silas, and he lives in solitude, having turned away from his former faith and happiness.
But one winter's night, a small orphan girl comes to his house, and everything changes. Silas cares for the child (with the help of his neighbor, Mrs. Winthrop, whose family soon befriends him), and his heart begins to soften.
This is a very good representation of the redeeming power of love, and the consequences of a person's actions. For people who enjoy classic literature, this is definitely a must-read.
Author of the Aelnathan:
66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
If you have a heart, the story of Silas Marner will warm it. You are better coming to it fresh, without knowing anything of the simple yet solid plot, so I will say nothing of it. I will just urge you to read this wonderful book. Eliot writes beautifully and from page one, you realize you are in the hands of a true artist. This is a very human, very English story of simple people living through those very basic emotions that make the world turn and give the universe meaning.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I used to hate "Silas Marner" when I was forced to read the thing for my English class in Middle School (1959). The teacher I had was terrible AND I was not a gifted student. Since then, over the years, I have reread this classic about four times. Now that I have my Kindle I decided to read it again. The text is laid out very well for the Kindle. At this price it is truly a must-read. What a terrific book!
This is a tale of how love conquers all. A bitter man, Silas Marner, who was done wrong gave up on humanity and decided to live in a cocoon of his own making. Silas' only joy and purpose in life was making and hoarding money. He spent hours on end working himself to no end all for the purpose of earning, saving, and collecting money. Then one day his money hoard was stolen. The rest of the story is a lesson in love.
I have no idea why; here in America, George Eliot's "Silas Marner" is not well known. None of my friends have ever heard of this book. In India this work was well known. Anyway, if you have the time, patience, and inclination for a good read this is it.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2004
Reviews of this novel, seem to fall into three categories: those written by people who like to read great literature; those written by people who would prefer to read brain candy; and those written students forced to read the novel as a class assignment and,in some cases, would prefer not to read anything (if the third category is discarded, the average rating is much higher).
One of the most remarkable things about this novel is the fact it was written by a woman, using a male pen name, in 19th century England when women were generally oppressed, i.e., they were not encouraged to have careers or to do anything outside the home. The story is well known. A man who blacks out during seizures, not remembering what happened, is falsely accused of theft of money from his church. He is shunned by his former friends and becomes a recluse. When he is later robbed of his savings, and an abandoned child appears on his doorstep in place of the gold, his life is changed as he takes responsibility for the child.
This is classic literature from that time period, and is most certainly easier to read than many other novels from the same period (students should consider themselves fortunate that they were not assigned to read one of Thomas Hardy's novels). I first became acquainted with the novel when it was assigned reading in a high school English class. That was over 50 years ago, and the story is one that has stuck in my mind.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
George Eliot, born Marian Evans in 1819, spent most of her early life in rural Warwickshire. This early upbringing is apparent from her easy comfort in writing about country settings, with attention to detail and niceties that a born-Londoner would generally not be able to provide. Eliot's life was not that of the typical Victorian lady; she worked in publishing, including periodicals, translations, and writing her own fiction. Eliot led a 'colourful' life; living in a common-law marriage with Lewes, a man who left his wife and children for her, she then married after his death a man twenty years her junior, only to die eight months later.
In this novel, Silas is a weaver, a rather grumpy and sour man, whose primary occupation and avocation is the making of money. He is an outsider in Raveloe, having been driven from his earlier community under the false accusation of theft, an accusation that also cost him his engagement to his beloved, and left him with little faith in human nature, particularly that of the church-ly humans.
The high society in Raveloe reached the pinnacle in the Cass family. Squire Cass had two sons, Godfrey and Dunstan, each his own unique form of scoundrel. Godfrey, who had an illicit marriage to a local barmaid Molly, is being blackmailed by his spendthrift brother Dunstan. Alas, Godfrey is expected to marry another, Nancy Lammeter, daughter of another society family. Godfrey attempts to buy off Dunstan with his horse, Wildfire, and during a journey to sell the horse Dunstan accidentally injures and kills Wildfire.
Dunstan is stranded in the countryside, but sees light from a cottage -- the home of Silas Marner, reputed after fifteen years of weaving and miserly activity of having accumulated a large stash. He steals the bags of money he finds in the deserted cottage, and disappears into the night.
Silas reports the theft, but is unaided. He is heartbroken, for his life's purpose has been the accumulation of this wealth. No one seems to make the connexion between the lost money and the disappearance of Dunstan (one flaw in the novel, in my opinion). Silas gradually recovers from this blow, and the people of Raveloe begin for the first time to see him in terms of friendship.
At a Christmas party, the Cass family is in full celebration, for the upcoming marriage of Godfrey and Nancy. However, Nancy is not pleased, given Godfrey's reputation. Later in the holiday season, Molly makes her way to the Cass estate and confronts Godfrey with a two-year-old daughter in tow. Upon her return from the estate, she falls and dies in a drunken, drug-induced stupor, and the child wanders through the snow to the cottage of Silas. Silas lays claim to the golden-haired child, and Godfrey is relieved to be free from Molly and paternity.
Sixteen years pass, and we come to meet a very different Silas, one who is now a truly human being, who is loved, and has an object of love in his daughter Eppie. Eppie is in fact about to be wed to the nice Aaron Winthrop. Godfrey and Nancy, however, have had a loveless and childless marriage.
Things develop rapidly near the end of the novel. A pond near Silas' cottage is drained, and the remains of Dunstand with two bags of gold coins is found. Godfrey feels compelled to tell his wife now everything, how Dunstan dishonoured the family, how he (Godfrey) was being blackmailed, and admits his paternity of Eppie. Nancy is strangely tolerant -- she only complains of not having been told sooner. They decide to demand that Eppie be returned to them.
In a beautiful scene of compassion and love, Eppie, given the free choice of deciding between Silas and connexion with the noble Cass family, opts for the man who was her true father, and chooses to remain with Silas.
Later, Silas and Eppie revisit Lantern Yard, from which Silas was expelled so many years before. Here in no longer the old church, his old home, or his old friends -- all has changed; life has gone on. The old place is dirty and noisy by comparison to the serene Raveloe. The question of Silas' guilt or innocence cannot be resolved, but then, is no longer a question of concern for anyone in either place. Eppie then marries Aaron, in a wedding paid for by Godfrey, who cannot attend due to business, and Eppie declares in the end that 'nobody could be happier than we are.'
Elliot intended to show that misfortune can lead to greater things, and provided a typical Victorian happy ending.
This novel has been a traditional one assigned to students of secondary school age for decades now; it is a classic, fairly simple in construction and vocabulary, and brings up the timeless themes of good, evil, fate, and has a wide range of characters who change over time. Alas, many school-age readers come away cold, often determined never to read another novel again, as it is presented poorly and not put in a more modern context which students will more readily understand. But, it remains a good story, and a fine representative of the Victorian novel.
This particular edition contains many extra pieces of commentary, notes and other study aids that will be helpful to the student trying to understand the text, the motivations of the characters, the world context of the story, and different ideas of interpretation.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 1999
Silas Marner is a very interesting book. It is filled with excitement and suspense. I liked the book very much, but as a freshman in high school, it was very hard for me to read. George Eliot uses a lot of dialect along with some Old English words in her lovable tale. Eliot tells the story of a lonely weaver. After getting betrayed by friends in his old town of Lantern Yard, Silas moves to the town of Raveloe searching for a new life. His delusions keep him from getting accepted into the Raveloe community. After losing his faith in God and having his money stolen he gets a very special gift from someone he doesn't know, a little baby girl with golden hair. After that things work out for Silas and Eppie. George Eliot tells her classic novel in great detail with a lot of adjectives and metaphors. She has made a great novel that while a challenge is good for everybody. Silas Marner is really easy to comprehend because it is so realistic. I live in a small town and it reminds me of Raveloe. Sometimes I imagine that I am in Silas Marner's place and all my friends are the villagers. I think about what I would do if I was in Marner's place. Eliot also created a great plot for this book. This classic is great because it teaches people about life. It teaches people not to be selfish and to be kind to people no matter how good you think you are. Eliot has made a great book that would be great to read as a family.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2006
Silas Marner spends his days weaving for the village-folk of Raveloe, weaving and saving, hiding his money in leather bags in the floor of his home. At nights, he counts the money, tinkling it between his hands, memorising the increasing total. He spends little, and has no friends or family. His life consists of waiting to leave his life, an endless weave that seems to have no beginning and no end.
But Silas was not always a weaver. As a young man, he was engaged, and living in another town. But his best friend, William Dane, who was jealous of his good fortune and hopeful prospects, engendered a plan to strip Silas of everything he held dear. His hometown, convinced he was involved with the robbery of a senior deacon, accused him of theft and he was forced to leave. He stumbles upon Raveloe and begins to weave, and fifteen years past.
It is to George Eliot's credit that a story with such fairy tale qualities is so successful. From the very beginning we are made aware of character-types and ideas, with Silas being an innocent man wrongly accused, and then, as a weaver, a giant metaphor of toil and struggle in an unfair world. The townsfolk of Raveloe, as they are outlined, remain simply that - a thick line that purports to show the broad details of a person, but in no way offers the subtle shading that makes a character come to life and become a person. But this is to the story's credit, for we are not interested so much in depth of character and complexity of situation, as we are in the constant weaving, the endless sadness, of Silas Marner's self-imposed exile.
While we learn of Marner's new life as a hoarder, a miser, a weaver, we come to see other characters and situations. There is a young man, Godfrey, who is running out of money and seeks a desperate measure to fix his worries. There is his father, who disapproves of his life and choices. One New Year's, the two stories intersect, and after Silas is robbed of all his money, a young girl, blonde and innocent and nameless, is found on his doorstep. Her mother, an opium addict, is discovered nearby, frozen to death. A father, if there is one, does not step forward.
Here, Eliot allows us to know the secret well before Silas or Eppie, his newly christened adopted daughter. Godfrey is the father, and it is a secret he carries with him well past necessary. His duplicitous action is flagged at a very early stage, which sets in our mind the idea that a comeuppance, or a truth revealing set piece, is somewhere along the line. Because this is known - for what fairy tale does not, in the end, end in goodness and retribution and justice for those who deserve it? - we are able to enjoy the experience of Silas as he becomes a good father, and learns how to love.
In a sense, the themes surrounding Silas are trite and over-used. The idea of a sad, lonely man discovering the beauty of the world again through love, is nothing new. Yet Eliot's mastery of character and evocation of place allow us to sail along with Silas as he sheds the hard carapace of armour that he has placed around himself. He becomes, as we do, devoted to Eppie. She is a caricature, a purely good and ultimately pure girl who, through the tutelage of her father, understands the meaning of love even where Godfrey, her real father, does not.
Eliot makes heavy use of dialect in Silas Marner. As a personal taste, I distinctly dislike dialect, because I find I spend more time translating what is being said than enjoying and understanding the character as they are presented. Yes, it can aid in characterisation and 'realism', but at what cost? Much like Wuthering Heights, several characters in Silas Marner were ruined for me, purely because I had to work so hard at what they were saying. And of course, upon figuring out their obscure words, I realised that they were saying nothing meaningful at all. A great disappointment, that.
Throughout, various characters are introduced and then pushed to the background, as needed by the story. When Silas is in difficulties concerning the raising of a child, a goodwife is found, Dolly Winthrop, who provides him with advice and stresses that the child must be christened. Later, a love interest is given to Eppie, because what happy ending does not finish with a wedding?
But these are minor quibbles. As a fairy tale, Silas Marner excels. There are good people done wrong, and bad people who come right in the end. There is a happy - or mostly happy - ending for everyone who deserves it, and a few that don't. But more than that, there is the construction of a wholly sympathetic man, and that is Silas Marner himself. Eliot does not stray down an easy route with him - when he becomes a miser, there is sadness, not avarice, in our minds as we sympathise.
This novel is considered minor Eliot; it is not hard to fault that estimation. Middlemarch is a towering literary achievement, whereas Silas Marner is merely a single flower in a garden of like experiments with words. But what flower does not deserve to be smelled, at least once?
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
While reading SILAS MARNER, I kept thinking of a scene from Season Five of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, in which Tara's father and other relatives come to take her back home with them, very much against her inclination. Once Buffy realizes that Tara wants to stay, she states that they can take Tara only by going through her first, which causes the father to ask, "We are Tara's blood-kin. Who are you to interfere in her affairs?" To which Buffy replies, "We're family." The same emotions that I felt watching that episode of BUFFY came roaring back in the marvelous scene near the end of this novel when Mr. Cass decides to reveal after sixteen years of denial that Eppie is his daughter and will take her to live with him instead of Silas when he says, "Your coming now and saying 'I'm her father' doesn't alter the feeling inside us. It's me she's been calling her father ever since she could say the word." And Eppie herself adds, "And he's took care of me and loved me from the first, and I'll cleave to him as long as he lives, and nobody shall ever come between him and me." It is one of the lovelier climaxes of any 19th century English novel.
SILAS MARNER is very much a novel about faith and the search for those values that make life worth living. Marner himself seeks early on to find hope in a superstitious religion that ultimately disappoints him, and later in the acquisition of gold through hard labor, gold that is stolen from him. The money is later returned to him, but during the long interval he discovers the power and greater importance of love and simple human relationships, as he inadvertently inherits a young toddler who miraculously appears inside his cottage whom he adopts as his own child. Despite his hurts and crusty personality, Marner in loving the child is brought into the larger community as well, and achieves a kind of happiness he scarcely imagined earlier in his life.
These concerns were very real to Mary Anne Evans, better known by her penname of George Eliot. Though of humble intellectual origins, she was precociously intelligent, and no figure of the 19th century overcame such obstacles to become one of the leading intellectuals of her day. In the 20th or 21st century, Evans would have held a chair of religion or literature at Cambridge or Oxford. Instead, she wrote literary reviews on a host of books on a wide range of subjects, made some of the most important translations into English of crucial German theological texts ever made (Feuerbach's THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY and David Strauss's THE LIFE OF JESUS), and wrote some of the most intellectual novels of the century. Eliot's novels are remarkable for their intellectual diversity and depth. Her novels constitute a fascinating exploration for how to have faith in a post-Christian world, and in this way she is the most typical post-Darwinian novelist of the 19th century. Furthermore, during the first half of her career as a novelist, she brought the novel down to earth. If Dickens was unique in writing in his books about many lower and working class characters in an urban setting, George Eliot did much the same for the rural poor. In novels like ADAM BEDE and THE MILL ON THE FLOSS, the bulk of her characters, even the landed characters, are very much below virtually all of the characters in Jane Austen's novels, and set even more off the beaten path than hers. Although she would turn to more universal, less specifically rural characters in themes beginning in ROMOLA and her later novels, SILAS MARNER represents her last exploration of the rural poor. She manages to catch in her pages a rapidly changing world, setting SILAS MARNER in an area where the lone weavers such as Marner were disappearing in favor of industrialized cloth manufacture and the countryside was giving way to a rapidly expanding coal industry (Eliot's part of England is very near what would later be the setting for D. H. Lawrence's coal mining novels, with Lawrence also reflecting in his pages on the changes industrialization had wrought, although he writes from the end of the process while she writes at its beginning).
We tend sometimes to think of those who reacted against the Christian faith following Darwin and David Strauss as having forsaken faith entirely, but that is very much not the case. Most Victorians who forsook Christianity looked instead for alternate forms of faith. Take the philosopher Henry Sidgwick, who ceased to believe in Christianity, but founded the Royal Society of Psychical Research. Like many of his age, Sidgwick believed that a supernatural realm was essential to provide the ultimate validity of morality, and no longer believing in Christianity, sought to investigate like a 19th century Fox Mulder a wide range of supernatural phenomena to validate some vague form of faith. Eliot in this novel is desperately trying to believe in something. Like Mulder with the poster on his wall reading "I Want to Believe," Eliot wanted faith. Not merely that, but she was convinced that there had to be a viable form of faith to make life worth living. She was hardly the atheistic materialist that many wrongly believe that Darwin produced.
Just as Sidgwick believed that there was a supernatural order that make sense of morality (in particular instances of self-sacrifice), so George Eliot clearly sees a divine order in the workings of the world. This is illustrated over and over in SILAS MARNER, where everything balances at the end. Although she no longer believed in the Christian teachings, she remained very much a person of faith and ultimately an optimist. By the end of the novel, no bad deed has gone unpunished and no scales are left unbalanced. In the old expression, "Bad deeds will out." But it is also a novel of redemption, with Marner finding his anti-social sins being forgiven and through family and friends discovering, very much to his surprise, happiness.
Though George Eliot always liked to write superficially simply stories that were in fact paragraph by paragraph commentaries on the intellectual debates of her age (she had, for instance, been reading widely in German and English theorists on the folktale when writing MARNER), her surface simplicity always feels real and unforced. And the story she created is a lovely one, with vivid characters, a marvelous plot, and a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. I will confess that I came to this novel much, much later than most others who read the book, and only after having read many of her other books. This is one unquestionably one of her most enjoyable and marvelous works.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans..." John Lennon's lyric are words to live by in this hardy Victorian chestnut about a simple miser who finds love at his doorstep one snowy evening.
Published in 1861, George Eliot's novel has a reputation for dreary earnestness that kept me away from it for quite some time, until I decided to make an effort at reading all the books I successfully avoided in high school. "Silas Marner" turned out one of the easier assignments, not only because of its shortness and simplicity, but for Eliot's engaging manner of writing, which feels less wedded to its time than even more famous writers of her generation like Dickens.
Marner is a weaver and a kind of social exile who sets up his home and business in the English country town of Raveloe. Not happy but content, he spends his time either working or sleeping, his sole recreation being the counting of his gold coins. All this is suddenly taken away from him, but Silas's misfortune turns out to be a blessing, pushing him out of what had been a rut-like comfort zone.
"Our consciousness rarely registers the beginning of a growth within us any more than without us," Eliot notes early on in Silas's transformation. "There have been many circulations of the sap before we detect the smallest sign of the bud."
There's a lot to like about "Marner" the novel. The title character is a real treasure of literature as Eliot describes him, not because he's particularly exciting so much as because he's so readily identifiable, especially with those of us who are old enough to know disappointment in life. Many reviewers here compare him to Scrooge; Marner is a materialist and a bitter social outcast, but unlike Scrooge he retains a certain palpable sympathy and humanity throughout. This in turn makes the character's journey more compelling.
Eliot captures a pastoral vision of English village life that feels absorbing and affecting, even if it is a bit gauzy. Her philosophic asides are marvelously quotable without ever getting in the way of the narrative. Her plot twists are well designed and hardly predictable, at least to me; I was especially impressed by how she dealt with a long-absent antagonist late in the story.
But here's an odd criticism for a Victorian novel: It wasn't long enough. That's actually a problem, as the central game-changing transformative act of "Silas Marner" takes place when the novel's already half-over, and from then on the story speeds toward a spotlessly tidy resolution. The development of Silas's relationship with the others in his village, and with the little girl that changes him, feels rushed.
To want more of a book is thin criticism of what is there. Perhaps a solution might be to read it again, for Eliot's ruminations on how people deal with the specter of misfortune, using various designs to try and ward it off, are both deep and charming. Her metaphysics are a trifle muzzy (I'm not sure if she was a Deist or an agnostic; maybe she was both at various times) but her take on the human condition comes across as well-grounded and relevant. She is a keen social critic, but not a blanket one; her take on organized religion manages to be both dubious and positive.
In short, this woman with a man's nom de plume is very hard to pigeonhole, which also goes for her nifty novel. To adults like me of a certain age, the title may suggest boring homework assignments thankfully dodged, but "Silas Marner" is a real treat worth picking up.