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Silas Marner - George Eliot

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  • superb dialogue
  • well rounded in depth characterisation
  • difficult old fashioned language at times
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      07.08.2014 22:11
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      • "superb dialogue"
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      A good classic read



      ===The Author===

      George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Anne Evans who was born in 1819. Even though female novelists were being published at that time, most of them were writing easily dismissable, lightweight romantic novels. Mary Ann chose a male pseudonym in order to be taken more seriously and also, possibly, to attempt to avoid public scrutiny of her private life, which was particularly scandalous for the time.

      Her books are generally set in the 1700’s and often tell of simple country folk. She has great skill in painting a realistic picture of the villages and inhabitants of her books, describing not only the physical, but also the culture and psychology of the people. The realistic dialogue and clear description of the thoughts and feeling behind her character’s actions adds to the overall depth of her storylines.

      ===The Plot===

      Silas Marner is a weaver by trade. He is an honest and simple man, and when he is falsely accused of a crime he has no alternative but to leave his home town and settle in the far off village of Raveloe. Although his skills as a weaver are welcomed, his strange appearance, foreign ways and natural reservation mean that he makes no friends in his new home and becomes an outcast. His only pleasure becomes a small mountain of coins earned via his skill as a tradesman, and during the course of 15 years he becomes a hermit and a miser.

      One day, by a cruel trick of circumstances, his gold is taken from him. He is devastated, but the sight of his despair, and the realisation that he too has feelings, opens the hearts of a few villagers. One day his gold is suddenly returned to him, or so his confused mind believes, in the form of a beautiful golden haired child, Eppie.

      This child, as she grows, slowly opens up the heart of the weaver and with the help of the kindly Dolly Winthrop his world gradually expands again.


      Although, in theory, we should all dislike the miserly and miserable Silas Marner, George Eliot’s skills as a writer enable us to look inside his thoughts and empathise with his inevitable life choices. He is not in any way a bad man, he is just lonely and lost, and so sinks into solitude. This is a book in which we are clearly shown the good, the bad and the indecisive. Decisions not taken are shown to be sometimes as damaging as bad decisions

      ===My Opinion===

      Although I did not expect to enjoy this book, it is an enjoyable, highly descriptive account of 18th century English village life. It is easy to empathise with many of the characters, and even if I did not like them as a character, I could empathise with their life choices, right or wrong.


      I would recommend this book, as it is surprisingly easy to get into and enjoy.

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      18.05.2011 11:01
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      This is a classic novel that can still teach us a lot because of its lasting effects

      I was required to read this book for one of my classes, and I have to be honest and say that I wasn't too thrilled about. I am not a huge fan of reading, but classics and I usually don't mix. However, I was quickly impressed by the fast pace at which this book moved. It was a very enticing story with very relateable characters, even 100 years later. As many typically do, I was very touched by Silas's character. The sympathy that he felt for Eppie reminded me of my own mother and the way that she loves me unconditionally. I am out of my house now, but this book really showed me the power of love in a relationship between parents and children. I was amazed that Silas could still love such an innocent creature even though he had been previously scorned by society. I felt that this book had a variety of lessons to offer to the audience, particularly that the good guys always come out on top. When one looks at the character of Duncey, you see what Eliot was trying to convey to her audience (yes, it was written by a woman; George Eliot was simply her pen name in fear of judgment by her peers). This book is often read in high schools and entry-English courses, but I would recommend this book to all teenagers or anyone who feels a disconnect between themselves and his or her parents. The power of love is a great thing that is often taken for granted in this world, but this book can really show one just how great it can be. That is how an old man in an old book can teach this generation a variety of new lessons.

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        09.02.2010 12:13
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        A personal favourite

        Silas Marner: the Weaver of Raveloe is a novel written by George Eliott (real name Mary Anne Evans) in 1860. The novel is set some forty years earlier during the time of the napoleonic wars, the novel looks at the life of Silas Marner, a weaver.

        Silas Marner

        We first meet Silas at an unnamed northern town where he is happily working as a weaver. He lives in a small Christian group where he is accused of stealing church funds, he is found guilty and forced to leave the town. Silas ends up in the rural midlands in a village called Raveloe, there he becomes a miser, alone and isolated his only love is his hoard of gold galleons. Silas throws away his Christian past and focuses solely on making money, he is happiest running his fingers through his golden hoard. However, one day his money is stolen and his life appears to be over.

        Then sat by the fire one evening drowning in his misery, a golden haired child walks through his open door. The child is the daughter of the son of the local squire but none of the villagers know of the child. Silas adopts the child and calls her Epi, Epi then leads Silas back to life and back to society. Through the child, Silas is redeemed and becomes the person he should have been if the accusations of guilt had never happened. At the end the son of the local squire Edward acknowledges Epi as his own, and gives her a choice to live with him and his new wife. Epi decides to.... read it and find out.

        My thoughts

        This book by George Eliot is her shortest but for me is the best of her, in it she winds a story of redemption from the very pits of human despair. Silas is a likeable but slightly narrow minded man who just wants to be, he loves his job and his church, but the actions of a supposed friend takes the anchor of his church away so he turns to his job and through that he develops a love of money. Money is the next anchor, one which Silas grabs onto desperately, endless counting his golden hoard he transfers one obsession to another. When that money is stolen, you fear for Silas' mentality but he is redeemed.

        Epi

        The introduction of the golden haired child to this embittered man is one of the great literary moments, this child so obviously depicting his lost gold with her golden locks takes away Silas's pain and through her devotion brings him back to the light of friends, society and God. Epi is the last and most important anchor for Silas and through her he realises all the other anchors he had used were simply shadows without meaning. Silas and Epi's relationship brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the heart as the golden haired child helps Silas with his own problems and shows this broken man how much he is missing out on.

        I first read this novel when I was in my teens and the symbolism is obvious, Epi is a kind of Christ figure used to save a broken and lonely man. The first time I read it, this book genuinely moved the then cynical teenager, the beauty of the writing is one which grabs the reader and some of the scenes are in my heart forever. Now as a father myself and re-reading the novel a few months ago I appreciate the dualism of Epi, as a child with all the problems parenting encounters but the possibility that through her you can become the person you should have always been is a powerful one.

        George Eliot in Silas Marner wrote on the surface a fairly simple moral tale about a lonely weaver who through the evil of others is given a hard life but through the act of a child walking through the door is given one final chance for a meaningful life. The greatest joy of this book is that he takes his chance and lifts the reader to places few other novels take you, here is a world with redemption, poetry, beauty and the simple statement that an honest man is a decent man through out and whatever ills are thrown at him he will always be a man to be trusted.

        This oh so short novel is one of my favourites and at 179 pages can easily be read in a day or two so if I could be so bold why not read it and find out what the novels about for yourself.

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        11.11.2009 23:28
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        Lessons of faith, love and community beautifully woven together to make a brilliant story.

        This is a beautiful moral tale. I think George Eliot must be one of my favourite authors from what I've read of her, and this book was apparently her own favourite among her works. It's certainly the shortest and for this reason according to the notes has often been chosen for children to study, though parts of it might not be appreciated by children, especially the sections of adult conversation which though they set the scenes are thoroughly boring even for an adult. Their purpose is atmospheric, to give a feel for village life, a canvas for the beautiful and simple plot as well as acting as a pause to hold the reader in a state of suspense. As well as canvas and painting, there are also beautiful moments when the author steps back to look at what she has drawn and surveys the deeper themes, helping the reader empathize with the state of mind of her characters and it is these philosophical sections which I loved most about the work.

        The book is set in the village of Raveloe in pre-industrial Britain and centres around the short-sighted solitary weaver Silas Marner who goes about his daily work with methodical efficiency earning plenty of gold for his labour, but living a frugal life as an outsider in his community and figure of suspicion. We learn immediately that he had chosen to leave the town where he grew up having been accused wrongly of a crime he did not commit, abandoned by his betrothed and lost his faith. The chasm of emptiness within is filled with the accumulation of gold which he earns. Repetition breeds a want and want becomes a habit. "The same sort of process," the author muses, "has perhaps been undergone by wiser men when they have been cut off from faith and love - only instead of a loom and a heap of guineas, they have had some erudite research, some ingenious project, or some well-knit theory."

        It is a clinging life. The gold serves no purpose beyond it except as the object of his clinging. What if the gold were suddenly taken away? The emptiness this time would be replaced by grief and the love of money irretrievably broken, but it would also create a receptive state. Could anything replace the loss? "We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look more backwards; and the hand may be a little child's." Or as the frontispiece reads, quoting lines of Wordsworth,

        "...a child more than all other gifts
        That earth can offer to declining man,
        Brings hope with it and forward-looking thoughts"

        The other main character of the book is the indecisive eldest son Godfrey of the wealthy Squire Cass. He is desperately in love with the beautiful Nancy Lammeter, but some terrible mistake in his past, a Damocles sword that hangs over his head, prevents him from pursuing his affection. He stands at the crossroads between good and evil, and having been tempted by the latter, tries to tread water, delaying the inevitable revelation of his secret, hoping with all his heart for some miracle of Chance that can save him so that Nancy's smiling love may draw him safe to the green banks of paradise. In the meantime though, he is in an unreceptive state and terribly unhappy. But blessed Chance can bear fruit in a way quite contrary to the karmic principle of an "orderly sequence by which the seed brings forth a crop after its kind".

        But though the hand of fate works in mysterious ways, Eliot's story is very karmic. As well as Silas Marner's miserliness and Godfrey's indecisiveness, Nancy too, though an epitomy of goodness, has what Eliot no doubt perceived as a terrible flaw, namely a conformity to principles of what is "right" and a religious fatalism that for example three days of rain preventing her purpose would act for her as a sign of God's will against it, but this was a flaw more generally of her times. As the good but uneducated Dolly says with soothing gravity in reassuring Silas Marner, "it's like the night and the morning, and the sleeping and the waking, and the rain and the harvest - one goes and the other comes and we know nothing how nor where. We may strive and scrat and fend, but it's little we can do arter all - the big things come and go wi' no striving o' our 'n - they do, that they do".

        Eliot was a humanist, believing in faith and love, without believing in God. Godfrey is literally free of God, and Silas Marner too, which leads both men astray, but through the power of love they are redeemed.

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          16.02.2002 17:20
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          George Eliot's "Silas Marner" is a memorable tale of blood ties, honour and love. Eliot (female, writing with a male pseudonym) was a notable figure in Victorian literature - a pioneeer when it came to describing the inner landscapes of the human soul. "Silas Marner" is not her greatest work, but does make an interesting place to start - its a lot shorter and more straightforward than much of her other writing. Raveloe is an unremarkable English village, with a full range of local characters. The Squire has his two less than reputable sons, the pub is full of yokles, and in a small house lives the feared and reviled Silas Marner. Silas is an outsider, his past unknown to the local people, but a dark cloud seems to hang over him. Worse still, Silas is known to be a miser, hording the money he makes from his weaving. Everything changes wen Silas returns hoem one day to find that his horde has been plundered and the long years of saving have been wasted. He is distraught, and forced to seek out help from the locals in order to track down the thief. No trace of his missing money is found. However, only a little while later, a small girl with shining blond hair is abandoned at his home. Short sited Silas at first mistakes her locks for his lost gold, but son realises his error. The arrival of the child so soon after his monetary loss sparks a change in Silas - he adopts the girl and raises her as his own. Through Eppie, he learns to be human agaiin, to trust, to open his heart and make friends. There are several other narrative lines unfolding, all of which are interconnected. Eppie is a foundling, and for a long time the identity of her parents is a mystery to her (although there are plenty of big clues for the reader.) When the revelation of her origins comes, she must chose between a new life with her blood father, or continuing with the man who has been a father to her all her life. Is blood really thicker t
          han water? Silas has a history - one of sorrow and loss. Through Eppie he is able to come to terms with the past, and the reader sees his tale unfold, and comes to understand what drives him. His tale is a sad one, but his redemption and rebirth through learning to care again is quite uplifting. The tale of the missing gold flits through the book like a ghost - a trail of clues is left for the reader, and you might well peice it all together before the end. There revelation is perhaps not a surpriing one. Style of the book. "Silas marner" is written with the rich, full prose typical of Victorian writers - some readers will find these dense and ofputting, others will lvoe it, its jsut a matter of taste. The plot is laden with coincidences - this is largely a feature of writing from the period. Fate and the hand of god are not unusual features in such texts and you just have to suspend your disbelief a little at times. Some of the writing in the book is superb - dark, moody, filled with grim social realism and insight. However, now and then it does lapse into sentimentality - you might find it sweet or you might reach for the bucket, it depends a lot on how you as an individual reader respond to pathos and sentiment. One final thing to watch for - the narrator's little asides, which are laden with clues about the various unfolding plots. Reading carefully will furnish you with a great deal of informaiton. One of the things that has always fascinated me about Eliot's writing is the way in which she handles socieites. Many writers, botht hen and now tend to set their characetrs in a social context that reflects their own - books are domianted by the middle classes, while 'working class' tales never venture outside their own boundaries. Eliot is rare in that she tends to depict communities in their entirity, from the local gentry through to the lowlier peasants. While some writers would reduce poorer
          characters to bit parts, plot devices and comedy moments, Eliot treats all her characters with equal respect. Any judgemernt of a character is based not on their worldy wealth but on their morality. Fuerthermore, Eliot shows the ways in which the actions of the powerful imapct on their poorer neigbours, and the ways in which the actions of those who seem insignificant can have long reaching effects. Her communities are fully depicted with a realism that is missing from far too many texts. If you haven't read any Eliot, "Silas Marner" is not a bad place to start - being a lot smaller than most of her works it is also a lot more palatable. If you enjoy the writings of other Victorian authors, I would strongly recomend giving her a go. If you like an easy read, modern language and simple plots, then look elswhere, this probably won't suit you at all. I liked this book, it's not my favourite of her works, but it has a great deal of merit, and for just a pound, how can you go wrong?

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        • Product Details

          After he is wrongly accused of a crime and expelled from his community, weaver Silas Marner becomes a miser and a recluse. A strange sequence of events, and the appearance of a small child, transforms his life in this realistic tale of rural life, and symbolic drama of sin and repentance.