Silas Marner: Penguin Classics

Silas Marner: Penguin Classics

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Wrongly accused of theft and exiled from a religious community many years before, the embittered weaver Silas Marner lives alone in Raveloe, living only for work and his precious hoard of money. But when his money is stolen and an orphaned child finds her way into his house, Silas is given the chance to transform his life. His fate, and that of the little girl he adopts, is entwined with Godfrey Cass, son of the village Squire, who, like Silas, is trapped by his past. Silas Marner, George Eliot's favourite of her novels, combines humour, rich symbolism and pointed social criticism to create an unsentimental but affectionate portrait of rural life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780141908298
Publisher: Penguin UK
Publication date: 07/02/2007
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 684,247
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) (1819-80) was a philosopher, journalist and translator before she became a novelist, her first stories being published in 1856. She led an unconventional life, co-editing the liberal journal Westminster Review for three years and living with the married man and philosopher George Henry Lewes. Her novels are among the greatest of the nineteenth century

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Chapter 1

In the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the farm-houses—and even great ladies, clothed in silk and thread-lace, had their toy spinning-wheels of polished oak—there might be seen in districts far away among the lanes, or deep in the bosom of the hills, certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race. The shepherd’s dog barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men appeared on the upland, dark against the early winter sunset; for what dog likes a figure bent under a heavy bag?—and these pale men rarely stirred abroad without that mysterious burden. The shepherd himself, though he had good reason to believe that the bag held nothing but flaxen thread, or else the long rolls of strong linen spun from that thread, was not quite sure that this trade of weaving, indispensable though it was, could be carried on entirely without the help of the Evil One. In that far-off time superstition clung easily round every person or thing that was at all unwonted, or even intermittent and occasional merely, like the visits of the pedlar or the knife-grinder. No one knew where wandering men had their homes or their origin; and how was a man to be explained unless you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother? To the peasants of old times, the world outside their own direct experience was a region of vagueness and mystery: to their untravelled thought a state of wandering was a conception as dim as the winter life of the swallows that came back with the spring; and even a settler, if he came from distant parts, hardly ever ceased to be viewed with a remnant ofdistrust, which would have prevented any surprise if a long course of inoffensive conduct on his part had ended in the commission of a crime; especially if he had any reputation for knowledge, or showed any skill in handicraft. All cleverness, whether in the rapid use of that difficult instrument the tongue, or in some other art unfamiliar to villagers, was in itself suspicious: honest folk, born and bred in a visible manner, were mostly not overwise or clever—at least, not beyond such a matter as knowing the signs of the weather; and the process by which rapidity and dexterity of any kind were acquired was so wholly hidden, that they partook of the nature of conjuring. In this way it came to pass that those scattered linen-weavers—emigrants from the town into the country—were to the last regarded as aliens by their rustic neighbours, and usually contracted the eccentric habits which belong to a state of loneliness.

In the early years of this century, such a linen-weaver, named Silas Marner, worked at his vocation in a stone cottage that stood among the nutty hedgerows near the village of Raveloe, and not far from the edge of a deserted stone-pit. The questionable sound of Silas’s loom, so unlike the natural cheerful trotting of the winnowing-machine, or the simpler rhythm of the flail, had a half-fearful fascination for the Raveloe boys, who would often leave off their nutting or birds’-nesting to peep in at the window of the stone cottage, counterbalancing a certain awe at the mysterious action of the loom, by a pleasant sense of scornful superiority, drawn from the mockery of its alternating noises, along with the bent, tread-mill attitude of the weaver. But sometimes it happened that Marner, pausing to adjust an irregularity in his thread, became aware of the small scoundrels, and, though chary of his time, he liked their intrusion so ill that he would descend from his loom, and, opening the door, would fix on them a gaze that was always enough to make them take to their legs in terror. For how was it possible to believe that those large brown protuberant eyes in Silas Marner’s pale face really saw nothing very distinctly that was not close to them, and not rather that their dreadful stare could dart cramp, or rickets,1 or a wry mouth at any boy who happened to be in the rear? They had, perhaps, heard their fathers and mothers hint that Silas Marner could cure folk’s rheumatism if he had a mind, and add, still more darkly, that if you could only speak the devil fair enough, he might save you the cost of the doctor. Such strange lingering echoes of the old demon-worship might perhaps even now be caught by the diligent listener among the grey-haired peasantry; for the rude mind with difficulty associates the ideas of power and benignity. A shadowy conception of power that by much persuasion can be induced to refrain from inflicting harm, is the shape most easily taken by the sense of the Invisible in the minds of men who have always been pressed close by primitive wants, and to whom a life of hard toil has never been illuminated by any enthusiastic religious faith. To them pain and mishap present a far wider range of possibilities than gladness and enjoyment: their imagination is almost barren of the images that feed desire and hope, but is all overgrown by recollections that are a perpetual pasture to fear. “Is there anything you can fancy that you would like to eat?” I once said to an old labouring man, who was in his last illness, and who had refused all the food his wife had offered him. “No,” he answered, “I’ve never been used to nothing but common victual, and I can’t eat that.” Experience had bred no fancies in him that could raise the phantasm of appetite.

And Raveloe was a village where many of the old echoes lingered, undrowned by new voices. Not that it was one of those barren parishes lying on the outskirts of civilisation—inhabited by meagre sheep and thinly-scattered shepherds: on the contrary, it lay in the rich central plain of what we are pleased to call Merry England, and held farms which, speaking from a spiritual point of view, paid highly-desirable tithes. But it was nestled in a snug well-wooded hollow, quite an hour’s journey on horseback from any turnpike,2 where it was never reached by the vibrations of the coach-horn, or of public opinion. It was an important-looking village, with a fine old church and large churchyard in the heart of it, and two or three large brick-and-stone homesteads, with well-walled orchards and ornamental weathercocks, standing close upon the road, and lifting more imposing fronts than the rectory, which peeped from among the trees on the other side of the churchyard:—a village which showed at once the summits of its social life, and told the practised eye that there was no great park and manor-house in the vicinity, but that there were several chiefs in Raveloe who could farm badly quite at their ease, drawing enough money from their bad farming, in those war times,3 to live in a rollicking fashion, and keep a jolly Christmas, Whitsun, and Easter tide.

It was fifteen years since Silas Marner had first come to Raveloe; he was then simply a pallid young man, with prominent short-sighted brown eyes, whose appearance would have had noth- ing strange for people of average culture and experience, but for the villagers near whom he had come to settle it had mysterious peculiarities which corresponded with the exceptional nature of his occupation, and his advent from an unknown region called “North’ard.” So had his way of life:—he invited no comer to step across his door-sill, and he never strolled into the village to drink a pint at the Rainbow, or to gossip at the wheelwright’s: he sought no man or woman, save for the purposes of his calling, or in order to supply himself with necessaries; and it was soon clear to the Rave- loe lasses that he would never urge one of them to accept him against her will—quite as if he had heard them declare that they would never marry a dead man come to life again. This view of Marner’s personality was not without another ground than his pale face and unexampled eyes; for Jem Rodney, the mole-catcher, averred that one evening as he was returning homeward he saw Silas Marner leaning against a stile with a heavy bag on his back, instead of resting the bag on the stile as a man in his senses would have done; and that, on coming up to him, he saw that Marner’s eyes were set like a dead man’s, and he spoke to him, and shook him, and his limbs were stiff, and his hands clutched the bag as if they’d been made of iron; but just as he had made up his mind that the weaver was dead, he came all right again, like, as you might say, in the winking of an eye, and said “Good night,” and walked off. All this Jem swore he had seen, more by token that it was the very day he had been mole-catching on Squire Cass’s land, down by the old saw-pit. Some said Marner must have been in a “fit,” a word which seemed to explain things otherwise incredible; but the argumentative Mr. Macey, clerk of the parish, shook his head, and asked if anybody was ever known to go off in a fit and not fall down. A fit was a stroke, wasn’t it? and it was in the nature of a stroke to partly take away the use of a man’s limbs and throw him on the parish, if he’d got no children to look to. No, no; it was no stroke that would let a man stand on his legs, like a horse between the shafts, and then walk off as soon as you can say “Gee!” But there might be such a thing as a man’s soul being loose from his body, and going out and in, like a bird out of its nest and back; and that was how folks got over-wise, for they went to school in this shell-less4 state to those who could teach them more than their neighbours could learn with their five senses and the parson. And where did Master Marner get his knowledge of herbs from—and charms too, if he liked to give them away? Jem Rodney’s story was no more than what might have been expected by anybody who had seen how Marner had cured Sally Oates, and made her sleep like a baby, when her heart had been beating enough to burst her body, for two months and more, while she had been under the doctor’s care. He might cure more folks if he would; but he was worth speaking fair, if it was only to keep him from doing you a mischief.

It was partly to this vague fear that Marner was indebted for protecting him from the persecution that his singularities might have drawn upon him, but still more to the fact that, the old linen-weaver in the neighbouring parish of Tarley being dead, his handi- craft made him a highly welcome settler to the richer housewives of the district, and even to the more provident cottagers, who had their little stock of yarn at the year’s end. Their sense of his usefulness would have counteracted any repugnance or suspicion which was not confirmed by a deficiency in the quality or the tale of the cloth he wove for them. And the years had rolled on without producing any change in the impressions of the neighbours concerning Marner, except the change from novelty to habit. At the end of fifteen years the Raveloe men said just the same things about Silas Marner as at the beginning: they did not say them quite so often, but they believed them much more strongly when they did say them. There was only one important addition which the years had brought: it was, that Master Marner had laid by a fine sight of money somewhere, and that he could buy up “bigger men” than himself.

But while opinion concerning him had remained nearly stationary, and his daily habits had presented scarcely any visible change, Marner’s inward life had been a history and a metamorphosis, as that of every fervid nature must be when it has fled, or been condemned to solitude. His life, before he came to Raveloe, had been filled with the movement, the mental activity, and the close fellowship, which, in that day as in this, marked the life of an artisan early incorporated in a narrow religious sect, where the poorest layman has the chance of distinguishing himself by gifts of speech, and has, at the very least, the weight of a silent voter in the government of his community. Marner was highly thought of in that little hidden world, known to itself as the church assembling in Lantern Yard; he was believed to be a young man of exemplary life and ardent faith; and a peculiar interest had been centred in him ever since he had fallen, at a prayer-meeting, into a mysterious rigidity and suspension of consciousness, which, lasting for an hour or more, had been mistaken for death. To have sought a medical explanation for this phenomenon would have been held by Silas himself, as well as by his minister and fellow-members, a wilful self-exclusion from the spiritual significance that might lie therein. Silas was evidently a brother selected for a peculiar discipline;5 and though the effort to interpret this discipline was discouraged by the absence, on his part, of any spiritual vision during his outward trance, yet it was believed by himself and others that its effect was seen in an accession of light and fervour. A less truthful man than he might have been tempted into the subsequent creation of a vision in the form of resurgent memory; a less sane man might have believed in such a creation; but Silas was both sane and honest, though, as with many honest and fervent men, culture had not defined any channels for his sense of mystery, and so it spread itself over the proper pathway of inquiry and knowledge. He had in- herited from his mother some acquaintance with medicinal herbs and their preparation—a little store of wisdom which she had imparted to him as a solemn bequest—but of late years he had had doubts about the lawfulness of applying this knowledge, believing that herbs could have no efficacy without prayer, and that prayer might suffice without herbs; so that his inherited delight to wander through the fields in search of foxglove and dandelion and coltsfoot, began to wear to him the character of a temptation.

From the Paperback edition.

Copyright 2001 by George Eliot

Table of Contents

Introduction; Text; Glossary; Activities

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Silas Marner 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 107 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Since I am not used to reading classic novels, I found it really interesting to read. I found this book really excellent because of the the descriptive writing and now I am really looking forward to reading many classic novels through my high school years. George Eliot is a really good writer. I want to read all of her books now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was required to read this book for my English class. Although it isn't a modern book, it still is an excellent read and applies to modern times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is outstanding. The characters are interesting and story is great. The only reason this book didn't get five stars is that it should of been longer because I would love to know more about silas marner and his relationship with Eppie. It is a good short read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a classic for all time. Kids today don't get it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book club choice as our classic of the year. Thought something from the 1800's would be difficult to follow but the language is interesting and not too wordy as some of the classics can be. I have not finished this but am still interested and enjoying it 2/3 of the way through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an English teacher I love re-reading novels each year. What I didn't expect this year was a new-found appreciation for Silas Marner. The theme of redemption and the colliding of parallel plots moved me this year like no year before. It just makes you feel good to read a story based in love, honor and just reward in a time like ours. I recommend this book for anyone looking for a feel-good story for spring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although the language is 'old,' this book is a fabulous read. I encourage readers to 'plow through' the beginning even if it seems a little long on description. Once the story begins to unfold, it is engaging. Eliot's ability to weave a story out of small vingettes is amazing. The language may be old, the but the themes in the book are timeless: love, dishonesty, redemtion, and celebration. If the text is too difficult to read, let me suggest that you get the book on tape (or CD), take it on a long trip and listen to it. I think that by the end of the first CD, you will be fascinated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If u like old books the you'll love it an early verson of a simple twist of fate
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Poor Marner went out with that despair in his soul- that shaken trust in God and man, which is little short of madness to a loving nature." (Eliot P 9) It was Silas's night to watch the sick and old Senior Deacon in the Church of Lantern Yard; the home in which Silas had become so fond of. Then something horrific happened that night. "The lots declared that Silas Marner was guilty." (Eliot P 9) Silas had lost everything. But he would not leave until he cleared his conscience of the false accusation. "The last time I remember using my knife, was when I took it out to cut a strap for you. I don't remember putting it in my pocket again. You stole the money, and you have woven a plot to lay the sin at my door. But you may prosper, for all that; there is no just God that governs the Earth righteously, but a God of lies, that bears witness against the innocent." (Marner P 9) And with that, Silas set off as far away from the town of Lantern Yard, hoping that God would justify him and show him refuge. To inflict more damage to the already broken Silas Marner, late in the wintery night in Raveloe, to his astonishment he looks down to what appears to be a baby sitting at his chair looking at him. Bewildered by this sight, Silas grabs the baby and goes outside to see where she had come from. In the snow, he sees fresh made footsteps by this mysterious baby, which leads him to a furze bush, and behind it lay the baby's mother dead. "You won't be giving me away father, she had said before they went to the church; you'll only be taking Aaron to be a son to you." (E. Marner P 150) In the light of all Silas's misfortune and peculiar incidents involving him, it is clear that will all sacrifices comes goodness, and in the end, all ends well and restoration is made to the broken hearts of all that seek love again whether be in gold guineas, another woman, or in the heart of a toddler brought to your doorstep by the all mighty himself. Although a rather average novel at two-hundred-fifty pages, Silas Marner goes in depth and there are multiple outlooks and perspectives to take on the novel. Readers will also face up to a novel written in majority of classic English, which is often confusing and will lead readers off track constantly. One who reads will find that the book begins slowly and is jumpy throughout. Some chapters revolve all around one character and at the end, readers will be left with cliffhangers to think about. However, the novel begins to interest towards chapter five when readers actually get a feel for what each character represents and symbolizes. This novel provides historical fiction as it is based in England, and shows a complexion that many books may seem just too simple. As the headline states, for those who are only intrigued by the Harry Potters and Twilights of literature who look for action around every corner, unfortunately this book does not deliver. However, a person who is looking for a decent intellectual book that goes deep into the culture of a century ago will find the plot and storyline rather graceful. One book that although does not portray the same historical connection as Silas Marner, but does force the reader to think is Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Silas Marner delivers a spin and a twist which takes any reader for a rollercoaster ride, and in the end delivers a thought provoking insight to love, friendship, betrayal, societal hierarchy, religion, and hope earning "9" out of
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this story, it is one of the best classic novels. It makes me sad to learn that it has become highschool english fodder. It is the perfect book for reading by the fire on a cold winter day. Silas's tale of loss and gain, love and and selflessness, and the many ways to have wealth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first half of this book is hard to get into, and quite boring, but after that, it becomes an unforgettable heart warming story of a child's love changing an old man's life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is outstanding!! George Eliot has to be one of the greatest writers ever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story of love, gold, and redemption. I highly recommend it. Go out and buy it or rent it!!
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had been put off George Eliot by my English teacher at school, who had a strong dislike of 'Middlemarch' that soon communicated itself to me. In a way this was a good thing, as I soon found myself enjoying 'Silas Marner' much more than I had expected, having expected to hate it. It is a convincing illustration of parochial English country life, with the short-sightedness and inherent distrust in all things 'foreign' typical of society at that time. Eliot is easier to read than I thought she would be, and she is also a fine storyteller. Maybe it's time to take another look at 'Middlemarch.'
bkinetic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Being horribly wronged is compensated by the creation of new lives as father and child. A wonderful story that stays with you.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Silas Marner is a reclusive weaver whose greatest pleasure in life is to count his gold in the evening. Then one night a rascally neighbour steals his gold and Marner is bereft. On the night of a ball at the squire's a woman carries her daughter through the cold to confront the squire's son who married and then abandoned her. She collapses from the cold and drugs and her young daughter manages to crawl into Marner's cottage. From then on his life is transformed as he raises the girl. Wonderful story of transformation and consequences.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still considered as a stranger in the village in which he has lived and worked as a weaver for the last fifteen years, Silas is further treated with suspicion and dislike for his solitary life, as well as the well-founded rumour that his greatest pleasure is counting his gold coins every night. When a thief finds his way to the treasure, Silas' world seemingly falls apart, until one winter night, when a small child appears by his fireside, seemingly out of nowhere. Silas at first mistakes the toddler's golden hair for his lost fortune in gold, but instantly becomes attached and decides to keep and raise her as his daughter, and he comes to see that she has taken the place of the gold and brought many greater riches to his life. A beautiful and poignant story of redemption, this short novel (around 200 pages) is also an astute social commentary by the author of Middlemarch, which I intend to tackle in future eventually.
SirRoger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a sweet little book about how one person's life is changed after he loses everything he cherished in his life. After losing all that he thought was most important, he has an opportunity to devote his life to serving and loving someone else, and then his soul is enlarged and he learns what is truly important.I do recommend this book. The story is a bit sad, but it ends very sweetly, and it deals with such timeless questions as honesty, family responsibility, & love. I found the Victorian language overly flowery, at least in the first half, and it made it difficult to stay connected with the story. If one recognizes the ornate language and is prepared for it, however, there should be no problem. There are also several colloquial speech spellings which may confuse at first, but make perfect sense if you just say them out loud.
theeccentriclady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I choose to read this book by George Eliot because I was interested in her life story and was curious to see if I would like her writing. This was a small book and seemed like a good start. I did enjoy this story. The old writing is hard at times but I found the story still timely.
quoddy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good book overall; though definitely not in the period of Eliot's ripe penmanship. The descriptions are beautiful, and the emotions are very real.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a real-life Book Circle read that, well, got mixed reviews. Some people thought the writing was brilliant and others found it dated; some people thought it was too short, others too long for the short story they felt it truly was and not the novel it's pretending to be.I think it's a lovely book. I think Silas is about as honestly drawn and cannily observed a character as fiction offers. I think the village of Raveloe is as real as my own village of Hempstead. It's a delight to read about real people, presented without editorial snark, in a book from the 19th century.And therein the book's real achievement. When it was published in 1861, it was a revolutionary tract! The hoi polloi were not to be represented in Art, and novels were then most definitely considered Art, unless they were romanticized, made into prettier or uglier or in some way extreme examples of a Point of View. Simple, honest, direct portrayal of people that novel-readers employed but never conversed with?! Shocking!A book of great importance, then, for its groundbreaking treatment of The People. But also...and this is the reason it helped wreak the revolution whose Robespierres and Dantons were Hemingway and is a simple story of a man's journey down an ever-widening path that leads to enlightenment, told without A Message or A Moral, in prose that remains graceful 150 years later.If you read it in high school, don't blame IT for the hatred your English teacher left you feeling...blame the teacher. It's not fairly presented in English courses. Read it as an adult, and judge it for itself. Maybe it'll be to your personal taste, maybe not, but I think a grown-up read of a book this seminal to all the others we read today, never thinking about how improbable their existence is, isn't too much to ask.
andreacarole on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Is the story about fate or the fairness of a god who sees what is hidden and rewards or punishes accordingly? Maybe it's just a comment on the human condition.
herschelian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Solitary simple-hearted weaver Silas Marner has lived alone for 15 years amassing a hoard of money. One New Year's Eve he finds a baby girl left abandoned by his cottage; for the next 9 years he fosters her and she becomes all in all to him. It transpires that she is connected with the son of the village Squire. A novel of rural England before the Industrial Revolution. Filmed several times.
gercmbyrne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A cult member, Silas Marner placaes his entire faith, literally and figuratively in the hands of his fellow sect members. They betray him in two ways - one his best friend frames him and persaudes his girlfriend to jilt him and two the other members of the sect believe the lies about him and expell him.Sials turns against human kind becoming a hermit and a miser; until he accidentally becoems the adoptive father of an abandoned baby. Through the child he returns to life, and society and he loves her deeply.However the child is not what she seems, eing in fact the legitimate heir of the local landlord. When this secret is discovered the issue arises - will she choose gold and social status over the plain love of her adoptive father and his fellows?More sentimental and less profound than Middlemarch, and occasionally straying into hyperbole and didactic moral fable-telling Silas Marner is nevertheless one of the classics of English literature. Its plot reveals hidden pockets of 19th century life including their very own version of what modern society calls cults, the class divide, the lure of greed over humanity and much mroe, under a deceptively simple disguise.