It has been said that Silas
Marner's tragedy and redemption is caused as much by the ignorance
and superstition of the societies of Lantern Yard and Raveloe
as by the greed and dishonesty of William Dane and Dunstan Cass.
Do you think this is true?
The mistrust of strangers in places like Raveloe ;
"In that far-off time superstition clung
easily round every person that was at all unwonted, or even
intermittent and occasional merely, like the visits of the pedlar
or the knife grinder .... how was a man to be explained unless
you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother?"
The mistrust of skilled artisans in general -
"all cleverness ... in some other art unfamiliar
to villagers, was in itself suspicious"
- and weavers in particular - "alien looking men"
. "The shepherd ...was not quite sure that this trade of
weaving , indispensable as it was, could be carried on entirely
without the help of the evil one"
Raveloe as a place caught in the past:
"Raveloe was a village where many of the
old echoes lingered, undrowned by new voices."
Add to this Silas's slightly odd appearance, his occasional
cataleptic attacks, in which he goes into a sort of frozen trance
and his awareness of herbal remedies, learnt from his mother,
and the ideal conditions for the superstitious shunning of Silas
Lantern Yard is described as "a narrow
religious sect." These people shun science and rational
explanations as a rejection of the spiritual side of life:
"To have sought a medical explanation for
this phenomenon (his fits) would have been held ... as ... a
wilful self exclusion from the spiritual significance that might
They consider it spiritual to remain ignorant.
The Lantern Yard Christians do not believe in following the
normal courses of law but in "praying
and drawing lots" to establish whether or not Silas
is guilty of the theft of which he is accused. They expect God
to intervene so that the truth is known. When the lots declare
Silas to be guilty, which he is not, Silas loses his faith and
"there is no just God that governs the earth
righteously, but a God of lies, that bears witness against the
This superstition allows William Dane to get away with committing
the robbery, framing Silas and stealing both his fiancee and
his good name.
Silas's healing of Sally Oates through his herbal knowledge
is misinterpreted by the Raveloe folk as a supernatural gift,
a form of witchcraft. His refusal to go along with this, and
his rejection of those who come to him for charms etc., leads
to even more complete isolation from the community;
"every man or woman who had an accident
or a new attack after applying to him, set the misfortune down
to Master Marner's ill-will and irritated glances. Thus it came
to pass that his movement of pity towards Sally Oates ... made
his isolation more complete."
In the absence of any other company or outlet for his affections,
Silas becomes fixated on the money he is gradually earning and
is transformed over 15 years into a rich miser. All else "belonged
to the past, from which his life had shrunk away."
Chapters 4 & 5
Dunstan Cass is moved by greed and opportunism to steal Silas's
money, which has become everything to Silas and without which
he feels like "a forlorn traveller
on an unknown desert" (chapter 5) However, this
dishonest act leads Silas, gradually, into a new and more open
relationship with his neighbours, who pity him and cease to
"And yet he was not utterly forsaken in
his time of trouble ... was now considered mere craziness."
The Raveloe folk are as superstitious about their Christianity
as they are about everything else, but they can be well meaning;
Dolly Winthrop brings him some cakes with the letters IHS stamped
on them because those letters are on the pulpit cloth at church
and "whativer the letters are, they've a good meaning"
Silas's insistence on keeping the child further softens Raveloe
opinion towards him; Dolly's insistence that Eppie be christened,
as one of those "good words and good
things to keep us from harm", begins to bring him
into the mainstream of Raveloe life,
"and in this way, as the weeks grew to months,
the child created fresh and fresh links between his life and
the lives from which he had hitherto shrunk continually into
In this way, therefore, the Raveloe's superstitious approach
to religion can be seen to be redemptive for Silas.
As the novel continues, Silas grows to rely increasingly on
Dolly Winthrop, whose simple and uneducated faith, very akin
to superstition, brings him comfort and reconciliation.
It becomes clear that Silas now realises that the gold was
a chain to him, and that the theft of it was a blessing, not
a curse ;
"The money was taken away from me in time
... It takes no hold of me now."
These notes should enable you to produce a thorough, coherent
and balanced answer to the set title.