Silas Marner and Two Short Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Silas Marner and Two Short Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

by George Eliot, George Levine

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Silas Marner and Two Short Stories, by George Eliot, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. George Eliot’s third novel, Silas Marner (1861) is a powerful and moving tale about one man’s journey from exile and loneliness to the warmth and joy of the family.

The story opens as Silas Marner, falsely accused of theft, loses everything, including his faith in God. Embittered and alienated from his fellow man, he moves to the village of Raveloe, where he becomes a weaver. Taking refuge in his work, Silas slowly begins to accumulate gold—his only joy in life—until one day that too is stolen from him. Then one dark evening, a beautiful, golden-haired child, lost and seeing the light from Silas’s cottage, toddles in through his doorway. As Silas grows to love the girl as if she were his own daughter, his life changes into something precious. But his happiness is threatened when the orphan’s real father comes to claim the girl as his own, and Silas must face losing a treasure greater than all the gold in the world.

This volume also includes two shorter works by Eliot—The Lifted Veil, a dark Gothic fantasy about a morbid young clairvoyant, and Brother Jacob, a deliciously satirical fable about a confectioner’s apprentice. George Levine is Kenneth Burke Professor of English Literature at Rutgers University, and director of the University’s Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture. He has written extensively about Victorian literature and culture, and has for a long time focused attention on Darwin and the relations between science and literature, particularly in his Darwin and the Novelists. He has written and edited many books, on subjects ranging from Frankenstein to the works of Thomas Pynchon. Most recently, he has edited The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot and written a study of Victorian scientific thought and literature, Dying to Know.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781411433175
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 546,855
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

From George Levine’s Introduction to Silas Marner and Two Short Stories


            Of all George Eliot’s novels, Silas Marner (1861) is the shortest and perhaps the most accessible to modern readers. That is partly because it is the only one of her novels that has the atmosphere of a fable, and indeed seems to have been deliberately written as one. The very qualities of apparent simplicity, clarity, and directness that have always made it among the most popular of her novels have also made it seem as though it is not quite as serious, not quite as “real” as the other much longer and more complex works, most notably Middlemarch (1872), universally recognized as her masterpiece and arguably the greatest nineteenth-century English novel.

            Unusual as it seems, among Eliot’s other more imposing works, Silas Marner is not as atypical as it at first appears to be. In fact, no book of Eliot’s gives more immediate access to the mysteries of her art, or rather, to the central preoccupations, formal and thematic, that determine the shape and style of her novels, and to the difficulties and potential contradictions they confront. Silas Marner, for all its fairy-tale aspects, is also a “realistic” novel, firmly set in time and place, sharply observed, focused not on the extraordinary, but on the everyday. And just as Silas Marner has elements of realism, so the larger works reveal elements of the kind of fable we find here. It does not take very close reading (which every book of George Eliot always deserves and requires) to detect the “fabulous” qualities behind the massive and complex structures of her more evidently realistic work: There is more than a touch of the legendary in Romola (1863, written just after Silas Marner), and even in Middlemarch, where fable is more elaborately disguised, and certainly in her last great work, Daniel Deronda (1877). Silas Marner, then, is interestingly representative of the work of one of the greatest of nineteenth-century novelists, at the same time as it is satisfyingly brief, precisely constructed, and yet full of the intelligence and circumstantial precision that mark all of Eliot’s earlier fiction.

            The great late books struggle—usually brilliantly, sometimes with “the odor of the lamp” upon them, as Henry James complained—to get the details of context right and full. The very abundance of contextual detail, of plot and of character, complicates and largely disguises the directness of the moral passion that drives them. George Eliot, a novelist with a moral mission, was too wise to think that morality was a simple matter of right and wrong. And yet, while Silas Marner is brilliantly crafted, it gives off an air of spontaneity and ease that her contemporaries greatly admired (and they often complained that the later novels had lost just that sense of spontaneity as they grew more apparently solemn and philosophical). While all of Eliot’s fiction (except for the remarkable short story “The Lifted Veil,” included in this volume) are written from the point of view of a sage narrator who does not often hesitate to intrude and comment on the action, Silas Marner ’s narrator is quite restrained, although also notably learned and sophisticated. Her eye is on the action, and for the most part, she simply tells the story, swiftly and efficiently, commenting on it only occasionally, though pithily.

Throughout her career, Eliot was committed, as she claimed, to keep her stories from lapsing from “the picture to the diagram.” She did not want to preach abstractly but, believing that truth is the basis of all moral life, to render faithfully the real world and the real people who lived in it. True morality, she argued, entails recognition of the realities of the world we live in. “Depend upon it,” she wrote in her first published story, “The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton”: “You would gain unspeakably if you would learn with me to see some of the poetry and pathos, the tragedy and the comedy, lying in the experience of a human soul that looks out through dull grey eyes, and that speaks in a voice of quite ordinary tones.” Her “strongest effort,” she wrote in Adam Bede (1859) “is to give a faithful account of men and things as they have mirrored themselves in my mind.”

            Why then, one might ask, does Silas Marner feel so much like a fable with a moral? Doesn’t it, as it deals out its punishment for Godfrey Cass’s youthful failure or redeems Silas from the moral isolation caused by his friend’s betrayal and his own subsequent miserliness, feel just a bit too much like a “diagram”? It is easy to take this remarkable novel as itself too easy, rendering a bit too much “poetic justice.” But the texture of the narrative belies the simplicity of its apparent moralizing. Although this is a fable, it contains all its characters within a clearly defined historical and social context, and it allows nobody the kind of heroism that fables usually require. Only Eppie may seem unnaturally endowed with virtue and education, and happily, unlike Dickens with his Oliver Twist, she speaks with the same dialect as those among whom she has lived all her life. Nevertheless, Nancy Lammeter points out that Eppie “doesn’t look like a strapping girl come of working parents.”

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Silas Marner and Two Short Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Hannahkop More than 1 year ago
Silas Marner, written by George Elliot, depicts the evolution of a money-crazed man to a father. George Elliot cleverly writes Silas Marner as he presents new characters and situations in every chapter. Elliot later connects them through the main character, Silas Marner, thereby giving depth to him. At first, Silas is content with the pleasure of his gold and his weaving as he lives a lonely, single life. Suddenly Silas' life changes as the Squire's son, Dunstan Cass, steals his gold. Though Silas feels devastated over his loss, a welcome change to his life is about to occur. To Silas' surprise, a toddler wandered into his house from the cold night outside. Once he mistakes her hair for gold, he comes to a conclusion that the toddler is a symbol of the gold and a blessing sent to him. Silas becomes elightened to the idea of raising this child and realizes he can fill the void of his missing gold with her. However, no character knows that this child is the true daughter of the Squire's other son, Godfrey Cass. While reading this novel, I especially enjoyed Elliot's structure and use of vocabulary. The way the novel is structured allows the reader to understand future connections relating to Silas and his "daughter." Elliot ties up all of the loose ends as he provides background information about each essential character. When the book concludes, I felt that everything made sense and there weren't any inconsistencies. The vocabulary really added to the overall experience of the novel as Elliot infuses older, uncommon language and references into the novel. Since I chose the Barnes and Noble edition equipped with notes, I was able to understand Elliot's allusions and obtain a better understanding. I would highly recommend this edition of Silas Marner. There were no disappointments regarding the novel itself; however, the actions of the characters, such as Godfrey Cass and Dustan Cass, are somewhat upsetting. First Dustan steals from Silas his only pleasure in life revealing that Dustan is an inconsiderate antagonist. This also shows how disrespectful he is to steal from an elder, or anyone for that matter. Godfrey, on the other hand, doesn't steal but commits the other terrible deed of abandonment. Godfrey doesn't tell anyone that the wandering child is his own and allows someone else (Silas) to take full care of her. He abandons his child because he doesn't want to tell his love, Nancy, the truth about his previous marriage and child. What really astonished me was that 18 years later, Godfrey and Nancy want the child back as their own. This is so ludicrous and unjust to Silas as once again, a Cass brother is trying to take away the keystone of Silas Marner's life. The Cass brothers' poor actions are essential to Silas Marner because they truly develop Elliot's novel. I would recommend this novel as a good classical read. It isn't "action packed" like Harry Potter or Twilight, but it is still a wonderful story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Silas Marner.
MsNikki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A really lovely book. Marner is a stranger in a town. He is an outcast who is accepted only because he is tremendously skilled as a weaver.He doesn't go to church, since he was betrayed in his home country by his best friend and abandoned by his fiancee. So Marner decides he will no longer engage with people or believe in God. He will find joy in the money he makes, all gold coins.But then someone steals the coins, and Marner discovers an abandoned blond baby girl in his house.Eliot wrote an interesting piece on spirituality, religious and human morality. It is a surprisingly modern piece, that echoes what one guesses is the authors assessment of her own religous ambiguity.
seoulful on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An unusually satisfying story of redemption in the life of a miser whose greatest delight is in counting his gold each night after a day at his weaving loom. A little two-year-old girl whose mother lies dead in a ditch wanders into his hut in a snowstorm and radically alters his values and lifestyle. His door was open to her and his life was greatly enlarged and blessed. The little girl's father, who has never acknowledged her, remains childless and lives in deep regret and unhappiness. The author gives a very authentic description of life in a country village in the early years of the 19th century, not only in word pictures, but in the speech and mannerisms of the people. A story of fierce devotion between two very needy people who in finding each other, transform an ugliness into something of great beauty.
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