The life of Silas Marner becomes "blent in a singular manner with the lives of his neighbours," with Godfrey Cass and others, when mysterious events occur - events which induce Silas to enter again the life he had shunned as a strange thing. There is the day he discovers, with stricken heart, that his gold has been stolen. Silas is still lamenting his lost treasure on a bitter cold New Year's Eve when he finds a child on his hearth. His determination to adopt the waif (astonishing to himself as it is to Raveloe) leads to his own salvation - and his own transformation - but it also culminates in some startling discoveries. "In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's." The arrival of Eppie compels Silas to trace again the hand of Unseen Love as the presiding power in the lives of men.

This powerfully moving and remarkable classic is a testimonial to George Eliot's descriptive giftedness (the chapters recording Silas's transformation read like poetry), her profundity, and adroit delineation of characters' emotions and motives. Myriad themes are illustrated in Silas Marner, including "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." Eliot wrote eloquently that masquerade is "like a dark by-street, behind the goodly ornamented façade that meets the sunlight and the gaze of respectable admirers." 

Silas Marner embraces themes of families and homes. Squire Cass is volatile and neglects to bring up his children in the way they should go. Godfrey Cass's "need of some tender permanent affection, the longing for some influence that would make the good he preferred easy to pursue," is not satisfied at loveless Red House, "a home where the hearth had no smiles, and where the daily habits were not chastised by the presence of household order."

There are many things to discuss from Silas Marner. You can discuss how Silas and Nancy Lammeter are both affected and abased by the poor choices others (people they trusted) make, and how each respond; why it is difficult to right a wrong when it is not properly and immediately dealt with; or evaluate the themes (like honesty and commitment) treated in this novel. Silas Marner is also available in shortened and expurgated versions (there are two mild imprecations in two places). A Beka contains an abridged Silas Marner in Masterpieces of World Literature.

Copyright, 2003. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Used with permission. Jubilee Barker, 23, is a home school graduate and the editress of the literary magazine, Rose of Sharon. Rose of Sharon is published to enrich literary awareness and provide edifying literature in the spirit of Philippians 4:8. It contains classic book reviews, poetry, literary articles and old fashioned inspiration - written by readers as well as writers of the past. To comment on this piece, e-mail