Silas Marner, Far From Home

October 4, 2012 | 4 comments
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George Eliot sends Silas Marner packing.

Early in the novel, Silas is framed for a theft he didn’t commit (probably by his best friend who also has designs on pinching Silas’ fiancé). Silas appeals to God in his defense, but when the church elders cast lots to divine the truth, the lots say he’s guilty.

Betrayed by God and men, Silas is left broken-hearted and faithless. He leaves home, settles elsewhere, and abandons life to his work as a weaver, drawing petty consolation only from the coins he amasses.

Of people like Silas, forced far from home and their native faith, Eliot says:

Even people whose lives have been made various by learning, sometimes find it hard to keep a fast hold on their habitual views of life, on their faith in the Invisible, nay, on the sense that their past joys and sorrows are a real experience, when they are suddenly transported to a new land, where the beings around them know nothing of their history, and share none of their ideas – where their mother earth shows another lap, and human life has other forms than those on which their souls have been nourished. Minds that have been unhinged from their old faith and love, have perhaps sought this Lethean influence of exile, in which the past becomes dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the present too is dreamy because it is linked with no memories. (10/190)

More pointedly, Eliot says of Silas:

His life had reduced itself to the functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended. The same sort of process has perhaps been undergone by wiser men, when they have been cut off from faith and love – only, instead of a loom and heap of guineas, they have had some erudite research, some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory. (16/190)

How far from home and faith, despite yourself, have you wandered?

How unhinged do you swing?

With what ingenious projects or well-knit theories do you console yourself?

4 Responses to Silas Marner, Far From Home

  1. Stephen R Marsh on October 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    That is a question well worth asking yourself.

  2. Rachel Whipple on October 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    I’ll think about it while I weave during conference this weekend. My loom has been neglected lately.

  3. ZD Eve on October 8, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Such beautiful, poignant passages. I suspect all our theories are well-knit consolations–but maybe we can’t live without well-knit consolations, false as they ultimately are.

  4. ZD Eve on October 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    One of the things I find most haunting about this novel is the way Eliot thwarts Silas’s belated attempt to understand his previous life. When he finally takes Eppie and goes back to Lantern Yard, the church is changed to a factory, and no one knows anything of the former inhabitants. There seem to be no answers in the past, nor even any possibility of human encounter.

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