Silas Marner, Empty Casket

October 24, 2012 | 5 comments
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Defamed and exiled, Silas Marner loses his native faith. Now he’s got nothing to prop up his soul.

Unpropped, he fashions an idol.

The light of his faith quite put out, and his affections made desolate, he had clung with all the force of his nature to his work and his money; and like all objects to which a man devotes himself, they had fashioned him into correspondence with themselves. (40/190)

The idol, of course, reshapes him even as he busily fashions it. The law of correspondence holds.

His work and money don’t point his life in the right direction, but at least they give it a semblance of direction. His days, while empty, are eager. His idolatrous days gave him a sense of

immediate purpose which fenced him in from the wide, cheerless unknown. It had been a clinging life; and though the object round which its fibres had clung was a dead disrupted thing, it satisfied the need for clinging. (80/190)

Silas limps along under the weight of this idol until his piles of gold are stolen by the scoundrel, Dunstan Cass.

Silas is crushed. He despairs at the sight of his own salvation. But soon he will see. God has freed him for life by stealing the life he made for himself.

Formerly, his heart had been as a locked casket with its treasure inside; but now the casket was empty, and the lock was broken. Left groping in darkness, with his prop utterly gone, Silas had inevitably a sense, though a dull and half-despairing one, that if any help came to him it must come from without; and there was a slight stirring of expectation at his fellow-men, a faint consciousness of dependence on their goodwill. (85/190)

Some grace, though vaguely seen, now comes this way.

But what’s in your locked casket? What dead thing satisfies your need for clinging? What idol props up your soul?

What must God, like a thief in the night, break in and steal to save you from yourself?

At the sight of what salvation do you despair?

5 Responses to Silas Marner, Empty Casket

  1. Robert C. on October 25, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Excellent, Adam.

    I’ve composed my own list of answers to your questions, but I think I’ll keep these confessions private for now. Thanks for the spur.

  2. Julia Taylor on October 25, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Most of my answers I will keep private to, but there is one I will share because I think it is so common.

    I have had significant health issues over the last two years. I finally thought they were coming to an end, only to find out that they are MUCH worse than any if us thought. The new specialist who is good at helping people move into lifelong health instead found what everyone else had missed, and so instead of a goal of backpacking next summer, I have a goal to have most of the surgeries I need finished, and maybe even be out of a wheel chair. My pride at being a 35 year old mom who still could do cartwheels in the park is gone. I will never swing high and jump off, hitting the ground in a summersault, and winter will not start when there is enough snow to cartwheel into a snow angel spot. My pride at having gained baby weight, but still kept my flexibility and basic gymnastics has come to bite me, literally, up and down my spine.

  3. Snyderman on October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Excellent questions. I expect that if I knew the answer to them, God would not need to “break in and steal” whatever was impeding my salvation.

  4. Carey on October 30, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Last week during EQ, I’m sad to report, we had a discussion about sharing our food storage with those who if the “time came” didn’t heed the warning and prepare. One Elder used the parable of the 10 virgin’s to defend his position that God doesn’t expect us to share with those that aren’t prepared.

    I couldn’t help but reflect on that during these last few days as Sandy destroyed people’s homes that that could easily happen to any of us even if we are “prepared”. I have no doubt if there is an disaster some of us are going to end up just like Silas.

  5. Susan Staker on May 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    UMMMMMM.Not quite the way I read Eliot.

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