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Literature / Silas Marner

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Silas Marner is an 1861 novel written by George Eliot. Unlike other Eliot novels, Silas Marner is a very compact book with a straightforward narrative and very few subplots. It concerns Marner, a weaver unfairly forced out of his home village after being framed for robbery. Moving to the small town of Raveloe, he leads a quiet, lonely life where he hoards his money and is treated with suspicion by the townspeople until he is struck by tragedy, and then redemption, shortly thereafter.

It is now in the public domain, and can be read in its entirety here. Steve Martin produced, wrote and starred in a modern-day movie adaptation of Silas Marner called A Simple Twist of Fate, released in 1994. It was also adapted into a 1995 episode of Wishbone, "Golden Retrieved".

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adoption Conflict: Long after the theft of his savings, Silas comes home to discover a young girl who broke in to get warm on a winter night. He adopts and raises Eppie, only finding out when she's grown that she's the love-child of the wealthy Godfrey Cass. Silas and Godfrey agree to let Eppie choose whether to be adopted as Godfrey's heir. She chooses to remain with Silas, and Godfrey accepts her choice and then pays to renovate the Marners' house when her new husband Aaron moves in with her and Silas.
  • Blackmail: Dunstan threatens to expose Godfrey's secret marriage to Molly Farren, a.k.a. Eppie's mother.
  • Character Title
  • Daddy's Girl: Eppie is raised by Silas alone and becomes very devoted to him. When Godfrey offers her a wealthy life, she turns it down in favor of staying with the only father she's known.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Silas's backstory involves being framed by his best friend.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While nobody in Raveloe likes Silas or his miserly ways much at that point in the story, he's clearly so utterly and profoundly devastated by the loss of his money that they can't help but immediately take pity on him.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: Silas's mistreatment by his church in his backstory causes him to lose his belief in religion, but he recovers some faith as the novel progresses.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Eppie has golden hair, symbolizing the gold Silas lost.
  • Happily Adopted: Silas literally finds a young child wandering into his house for help after her mother collapses in a snowstorm. Their first meeting goes so well, that Silas is worried that the toddler will be taken away from him to be raised by a more traditional family (he is a curmudgeonly loner who has never had children). But little Hephzibah is left in his care, and they bond so strongly that she will not leave him, even when her titled father is finally ready to publicly acknowledge her.
  • Karmic Death: Right after stealing Silas' gold, Dunstan falls to his death in the quarry.
  • Loners Are Freaks: This is kind of the point of the novel, but it's also the general attitude of the townspeople.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: What forces Marner out of his hometown.
  • Nurture over Nature: At the end, Eppie's natural father reveals himself and offers to acknowledge her and make her his heir. Despite his promise of a loving family and great wealth, Eppie prefers to stay with the title character, who has raised her for the last sixteen years, and is the only parent she knows.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Silas himself lampshades that he'll never know whether or not he was ever proved innocent of theft.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Inverted with Silas, as evidenced by the fact that the book is subtitled, "The Weaver of Raveloe." He makes beautiful linen, really loves his work and you can hear his loom going day and night.
  • The Scrooge: Silas is an unpleasant, misanthropic skinflint at the beginning of the story. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, he gets better.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Molly, for Godfrey.
  • You Can't Fight Fate