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Silas Marner | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


What do readers learn about the Lammeters in Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 6?

Chapter 6 recounts the conversation among the working men in the Rainbow Inn, while the wealthier inhabitants of Raveloe are at the Osgoods for a party. One topic the men explore is the history of the Warrens, the farm rented by the Lammeters. Readers learn how the Warrens came to be Charity Land, why Mr. Lammeter's father came to Raveloe and rented the land, and what happened to Mr. Lammeter's wife, an Osgood. Earlier, the narrator explained that the Osgoods are the oldest family in Raveloe; so, by marrying an Osgood, Mr. Lammeter aligned himself closely with the history of the village, adding to the respectability of his children, one of whom is Nancy Lammeter, Godfrey Cass's love interest. Also, the Lammeters have money but no land; this is the opposite of the Casses, who have land but less and less money due to the profligate ways of the widowed father and the two elder sons.

In Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 6 how does the men's conversation in the Rainbow Inn set the scene for Silas Marner's entrance?

In Chapter 6, the last topic of conversation among the men is the alleged haunting of the stables at the Warrens, the farm rented by the Lammeters from the charity that owns it. The Lammeters don't use the stables, but it is said that on a dark night, people "see lights ... [and] hear the stamping o' the hosses [and] the cracking o' the whips, and howling." The story is related by Mr. Macey, who once suggested that Silas Marner's soul sometimes leaves his body to wander around on its own; this would explain his cataleptic fits. The farrier, John Dowlas, doesn't believe in ghosts and says, "If ghos'es want me to believe in 'em, let 'em leave off skulking i' the dark and i' lone places—let 'em come where there's company and candles." Silas Marner, whose pale skin and bulging eyes give him a somewhat ghostly appearance, enters almost immediately after this line is spoken. It is as if he were a ghost—or perhaps his own soul, having left his body to wander. Either would be in keeping with the dark, rain-drenched night.

What is the significance of the words "sitting in the warmth of a hearth not his own" in Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 7?

In the early 1800s, the hearth was the center of a home. It offered warmth to keep the chill away and light to keep the darkness away. It was also where most working-class people did their cooking. Thus, in Silas Marner, as in so many novels of the time period, it represents well-being and safe haven. Hearths have been mentioned several times in the novel: In Chapter 2, the narrator describes how Raveloe differs from Lantern Yard and mentions men who have "supped heavily and [sleep] in the light of the evening hearth"—an image of peace and contentment. In Chapter 3 the Casses' spaniel Snuff is lying on the hearth, again in peace and contentment, until Dunstan Cass walks in. Then the spaniel leaves the hearth to hide under a chair. Dunstan has brought a threat into the room. In Chapter 4, Dunstan sees the light of Silas Marner's hearth shining from the cottage windows; this leads him through the cold, foggy night to safety and welcome warmth and light in the cottage. Upon entering, the narrator says, "Nothing at that moment could be much more inviting to Dunsey than the bright fire on the brick hearth: he walked in and seated himself by it at once." Having stolen Silas's money, which is a violation of the hospitality offered by the hearth's fire, he leaves the cottage and hurries out of the fire's light and back into the dangers of darkness. When Silas returns home in Chapter 5, he first sees nothing amiss and appreciates the "welcome increase of heat" coming from the hearth. After taking off his hat and the sack he'd used as a wrap, he settles "to the agreeable business of tending the meat and warming himself at the same time." His hearth provides both sustenance and life-giving warmth. In Chapter 7, when Silas is put in a chair by the hearth in the Rainbow Inn, he experiences a sensation of community, a "promise of help." After all, if the Rainbow is where the men of the village gather, the hearth is the heart of the village.

In Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 7 how does Mr. Macey trick John Dowlas?

Chapter 6 established that there is no love lost between Mr. Macey, a tailor and the parish clerk, and John Dowlas, the farrier, who also serves as the village veterinarian. Both are important men in the village, but the clerk is getting old and already sharing his duties as clerk with another, younger man. Of course, this means that the clerk has been around a while and knows the other villagers quite well. This knowledge gives him an edge in a battle of wits—one that he enjoys using to take the rather self-important farrier down a peg or two. In Chapter 7, the farrier volunteers to take Silas Marner to see the village constable to report the theft of Silas's money. The farrier clearly expects to be deputized and to go to Silas's cottage to investigate. In a small village where such crime is rare, this would raise Dowlas's level of importance. But Macey, after taking a moment to consider his strategy, comes up with an objection: According to his father, a doctor cannot act as a constable. To add insult to injury, the clerk continues, "And you're a doctor, I reckon, though you're only a cow-doctor—for a fly's a fly, though it may be a hoss-fly." Rather than question whether such a law exists, Dowlas disagrees that there is a difference in the "quality of doctor" and interprets the questionable law to mean that a doctor has a choice about whether or not to be a constable. Macey thought the law would not single out doctors in this way, but, if it did and "if it was in the nature of doctors more than of other men not to like being constables, how came Mr. Dowlas to be so eager to act in that capacity?" This forces the farrier to say that he doesn't want to be a constable and doesn't want to go to Kench's in the rain anyway. In the end, Dowlas goes, but it has been agreed that he will not "act officially" as constable, so Macey has triumphed.

According to Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapters 3 and 8 how is Squire Cass both like and unlike his son Godfrey Cass in character?

Both Squire Cass and Godfrey Cass can be manipulated easily. Readers see this in Chapter 3 when Dunstan Cass uses blackmail to keep Godfrey quiet about Dunstan's having squandered the tenant's rent money he talked Godfrey into giving him. Then he cajoles Godfrey into selling his prized horse to pay the money—and into letting Dunstan do the selling. Similarly, Squire Cass, readers learn in Chapter 8, lets his tenants "get into arrears, neglect their fences, reduce their stock, sell their straw, and otherwise go the wrong way." The narrator explains that Godfrey finds no fault with this because he finds it "natural enough." This is because Godfrey knows what it feels like to want to avoid conflict. But his father is not avoiding conflict; he just isn't paying attention to detail. Godfrey is, at heart, a kind person who doesn't want to hurt anyone, whether himself or others. He gets angry, but soon talks himself out of his anger. He makes a decision and continually rethinks it, deciding in the end not to decide. As a result, he leaves things to chance. The squire, in contrast, is "violent and implacable." He gets angry, makes decisions based on that anger, and then sticks to those decisions no matter what. Godfrey disapproves of this implacability.

What narrative techniques does Eliot use to explore Godfrey Cass's deliberations in the last four paragraphs of Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 8?

In Part 1, Chapter 8, Eliot uses three narrative techniques to show what Godfrey Cass is thinking in these paragraphs: description, direct discourse, and free indirect discourse. For example, she uses description to link together her explorations of Godfrey's thoughts and set them within a visual context. The first sentence of the fourth-to-last paragraph in Chapter 8 begins, "Godfrey rode along slowly, representing to himself the scene of confession to his father from which he felt that there was now no longer any escape." This sentence describes what he's doing: riding a horse and imagining a conversation with his father. The very next sentence delves into his thoughts: "The revelation about the money must be made the very next morning." Although there is no lead-in, such as "Godfrey thought," his is not narration of events, but Godfrey's thoughts expressed in the third person, so this is free indirect discourse. This technique contrasts with the direct discourse used in the following paragraph: "'I don't pretend to be a good fellow,' he said to himself; 'but I'm not a scoundrel—at least, I'll stop short somewhere.'" Here, Godfrey's words are set in quotes, stated in the first person, and introduced by the narrator's descriptive phrase "he said to himself." Sometimes the line between direct discourse and free indirect discourse is a very close, at least superficially. An example can be found in the last paragraph of Chapter 8 when Godfrey has woken and suddenly thinks that some chances might arise that could offer him hope: "Why, after all, should he cut off the hope of them by his own act?" To shift this to direct discourse would require only a change from first to third person ("Why, after all, should I cut off the hope of them by my own act?"); however, the need for an explanatory phrase such as "he wondered" or "he mused" would add extra words to the passage and therefore add a certain distance between the reader and Godfrey's thoughts. The effect of free indirect discourse is that it gives readers the sense of being inside the character's head.

How does George Eliot use poetic devices in the final paragraph of Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 9?

At the end of Chapter 9, Eliot employs a rhetorical technique known as anaphora—repeating the first part of the sentence. Let even a polished man of these days get into a position he is ashamed to avow ... Let him live outside his income ... Let him neglect the responsibilities of his office ... Let him betray his friend's confidence ... Let him forsake a decent craft that he may pursue the gentilities of a profession to which nature never called him, and his religion will infallibly be the worship of blessed Chance, which he will believe in as the mighty creator of success. The repetition of "let him" at the beginning of each sentence captures readers' attention and emphasizes the different verb that follows "let him." Each of these verbs has an increasingly negative connotation, moving from getting into a shameful position to living "outside his income" to betraying a confidence and, finally, to forsaking a craft. As Eliot, a biblical scholar, would have known, anaphora was used in the psalms of the Old Testament. Thus, its use here lends a poetic, almost religious cadence to the text, which is a good lead-in to her statement that such a person will believe in the religion of "blessed Chance." That final sentence uses many words that conjure the concept of a religion: religion, infallible, worship, blessed, believe, and mighty creator. Eliot's prose reads very naturally, but is carefully constructed.

In Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 9 why does Godfrey Cass say to his father, "It isn't my place to tell [Dunsey] to keep away"?

Squire Cass has just implied that he will disown Dunstan Cass for what he perceives as embezzlement of the £100 pounds' rent paid by his tenant Fowler. This intention can be understood from his comments that Dunstan will "keep no more hacks at my expense" and that Godfrey Cass should "tell him to spare himself the journey o' coming back home. Let him turn ostler, and keep himself. He shan't hang on me any more." (An ostler was a person who tended the guests' horses at an inn.) The squire likes to have other people do his work for him, which is why he asked someone else to arrange for Fowler to be evicted for not paying his rent and why he has now asked Godfrey to stop Fowler's eviction. Godfrey is glad to make sure the tenant is not wrongfully evicted—especially because he is the one who handed the rent money to Dunsey—but he is not about to look for his brother and pass on the message that their father is disowning Dunstan. He knows that the more time passes, the less likely his father is to follow through on the idea; moreover, Godfrey has trouble standing up to his brother and would not want to provoke Dunsey into revealing Godfrey's secret marriage to Molly Farren.

Why do the villagers find it hard to communicate with Silas Marner in Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 10?

Chapter 10 relates what occurs when the villagers stop to chat with Silas Marner when they meet him on the street and during two villagers' visits to Silas's cottage. All of these people find it hard to talk with him about the theft of his money. Mr. Macey and Dolly Winthrop, both of whom drop by his cottage, also suggest he go to church—another subject where there is a distinct disconnect. The villagers understandably make the assumption that the theft is a financial setback for Silas, and they sympathize. Mr. Macey goes so far as to suggest Silas earned his money "by foul means," still thinking his cures came as a result of his supernatural connections, perhaps with the devil. Fortunately, Silas is so distracted by his grief that he doesn't take in any of what Macey is saying. The reason Silas is so distraught is that, for him, the loss of the gold is the loss of his only loved one. All the love he gave to people back in Lantern Yard has since been given to his coins, leaving him a wealth of love with no one to focus it on. For Silas, it's as if his only child had just died. But, because the villagers can't know that he feels this way—and wouldn't understand if they did—they cannot communicate with him about his loss. There's only one church in the village—the Anglican church. On Sundays and holidays, the bells ring to call people to service. Filled with statuary and other symbols of faith, it's all they know. But Silas's Calvinist sect in Lantern Yard didn't hold elaborate church services. No bells rang out to call them to prayer meetings. There was no cross on the steeple, no statues or other images inside the church. Even if Silas hadn't felt betrayed by God, he wouldn't think of going into a church full of "graven images"; worshiping images would have been considered sinful in Lantern Yard. He tells Dolly he went to chapel, not church. That's a clear distinction for him but means nothing to Dolly at all.

In Silas Marner, Part 1, Chapter 10 why is Godfrey Cass so anxious?

Unlike his brother Dunstan Cass, Godfrey Cass is not ruled by imagination. Reality keeps intruding. At the end of Chapter 10, he is looking forward to seeing Nancy Lammeter at the Casses' New Year's Eve dance and trying to stay focused on seeing "Nancy's eyes, just as they will look at [him], and feel[ing] her hand in [his] already." But his anxiety won't let him rest. He worries Dunsey will come home and demand more bribes to keep his silence. He worries he cannot get any money to pay Molly child support. He worries the squire will approach Mr. Lammeter about Godfrey and Nancy getting married and that he will have "to decline marrying her—and to give [his] reasons." He tries to silence these worries by drinking a lot, but nothing works. They are all real problems. But he faces none of them head on; he just leaves them to chance to solve. As a result, he cannot be free of anxiety about them.

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