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How Silas Is Drawn Back Into Humanity by the Loss of His Gold

  • Date Submitted: 12/21/2010 01:23 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 65 
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English Coursework:

HOW IS SILAS MARNER DRAWN BACK INTO HUMANITY WHEN HE LOSES HIS GOLD?

The novel Silas Marner is set in the 1780s because George Eliot describes Silas Marner (the main character) as living in Raveloe ‘’in the early years of the century’’ and by this time he had been living there for fifteen years. By the end of the novel, when a further sixteen years have elapsed since Eppie’s arrival, they are in the 1820s. George Eliot set many of her novels in what was, for her, the recent past. This enables her to celebrate the best in traditional rural life, while acknowledging the inevitability of progress and change.

Thus, at the start of the novel, Silas Marner’s prosperity is set against the background of a thriving economy in the countryside at the time of the Napoleonic wars. No one needed to work too hard in order to make a comfortable living: ‘’there were several chiefs in Raveloe who could farm quite badly at their ease, drawing enough money from their bad farming in those war times, to live in a rollicking fashion, and keep a jolly Christmas, Whitsun and Eastertide.

Sixteen years later, however, increased industrialisation means that there is little work for weavers like Marner and Godfrey Cass and his father-in-law discuss ‘’the increasing poor rate and the ruinous times.’’   When Marner and Eppie return to the city in chapter 21, we glimpse the dehumanising effect of industrialisation in the urban areas.

The novel opens in the English countryside. In this era one would occasionally weavers-typically pale who looked like ‘’the remnants of a disinherited race.’’ Because they possessed a special skill and typically had emigrated from, larger towns, weavers were invariably outsiders to the peasants among whom they lived. The peasants were superstitious people, often suspicious of both ‘’cleverness’’ and the world beyond their immediate experience. Thus, the weavers lived isolated lives and often developed the eccentric habits that result...

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