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Silas Marner | Discussion Questions 31 - 40

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What can be inferred from the description of Eppie's interaction with the donkey, the terrier, and the two cats in Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 16?

Readers learn that in Chapter 16 when Silas Marner and Eppie are on their way home from church, "a friendly donkey" follows them all the way to their door. Eppie pets the donkey "with her usual notice." From this, it can be inferred that Eppie enjoys animals and treats them with affection; for this, they love her back. This inference is borne out by the fact that Silas and Eppie share the cottage with a terrier, a cat, and one of the cat's offspring. Eppie plays with them and feeds them bits of food. All the while, Silas watches fondly. The presence of the animals and their easy inclusion in the meal highlight the change that has taken place in Silas's life since Eppie toddled through his door. Now his door is open not only to friends and neighbors (as shown by the invitation to Aaron Winthrop and his mother) but also to animals. Silas is no longer isolated from the village community or from the natural world.

In Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 16 what does the narrator mean by "the gods of the hearth exist for us still"?

Many pre-Christian religions had gods of the hearth. The Greek goddess of the hearth, for instance, was Hestia, known to the Romans as Vesta, who replaced an earlier hearth goddess, Cacia. Hestia's fire burned in each home, in the communal house, and in each temple. People made hearth sacrifices not only to the gods but to their ancestors. The Chinese hearth god was Zao Jun, the Irish hearth goddess was Brigid, and Sáráhkká was the Viking hearth goddess. Countless traditional cultures also had hearth gods, testifying to the identification of the hearth as the center of the home, the family, and the community. In contrast, Christianity, the dominant religion in England in the 19th century, worships only one God. The narrator warns, "let all new faith be tolerant of that fetishism, lest it bruise its own roots." She means to say that, as humans progress, they should not throw out their past. A person is like a tree, which cannot survive without access to its roots. Silas Marner feels a reverence for his hearth not because of some pagan god, but because it links him with that wonderful moment in his past when he roused from a fit to find Eppie on his hearth. She has been central to his life ever since.

How does the garden Eppie plans in Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 16 function as a review of Silas Marner's life in Raveloe?

When Eppie first brings up the garden as she and Silas Marner are leaving church, she says, "it 'ud take a deal of digging and bringing fresh soil." The idea of planting things in "fresh soil" reminds readers of the early development of Silas's love for his gold: "that habit of looking towards the money and grasping it with a sense of fulfilled effort made a loam that was deep enough for the seeds of desire." Aaron Winthrop then says he'll bring the soil from the Red House; no one knows yet that Godfrey Cass is Eppie's father, but it is significant that Silas's flowers will be growing in what was once Godfrey's soil. She wants to grow flowers and also herbs, reminding readers that Silas learned about the use of herbs from his mother. Eppie also wants to bring the furze bush where her mother died into the garden and plant snowdrops and crocuses against it; in this way, she will incorporate her arrival in his life. Silas comments that "there's nothing prettier ... [than] when it's yallow with flowers." So, when it's in bloom, the furze bush will be golden like Silas's lost coins and like Eppie's hair on his hearth when he first spotted her. Finally, when Eppie and Silas talk about fencing, she proposes bringing stones from around the quarry. They don't know it yet, but that is where Silas's gold has been all these years.

How is the theme of destiny explored in Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 17?

At the end of Part 1, Chapter 15, Godfrey Cass pictures marriage to Nancy Lammeter: "He saw himself with all his happiness centred on his own hearth, while Nancy would smile on him as he played with the children." He is confident that if he can just ensure she doesn't learn about his marriage to Molly Farren, they will marry, raise their own family, and live happily ever after. The rub is that he must deny his first-born child to make this dream come true. One of the important lessons of the novel is that destiny will punish duplicity and other wrong-doing in the end. And Godfrey is now, in Chapter 17, feeling the pricking of the ring mentioned in Chapter 15; even he suspects the loss of their only child is a punishment for his failure to claim Molly's little girl. It is a fitting punishment: Solely for the sake of appearances, he refused to take in his own daughter, and it is his destiny that he has no children.

In Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 17 what is the significance of the simile "like a raven flapping its slow wing across the sunny air"?

As Nancy Lammeter looks out the window at the end of Chapter 17, she is contemplating a vista of gravestones casting the long shadows of late afternoon. After Jane's concern that someone has been hurt and given that Godfrey Cass has not yet returned from inspecting the quarry, Nancy's mind easily combines these facts and the reminders of death into "a vague fear" about her husband's well-being. The narrator likens this fear to a raven crossing the sunlit scene on its black wings. The raven is a traditional symbol of death and bad luck. Nancy's reaction and this simile create a sense of foreboding in readers that something dark and significant has happened and is about to be revealed. This dark, significant event is the discovery of Dunstan Cass's skeleton in the drained quarry, which will lead to the revelation that Dunstan was the thief who stole Silas Marner's money.

How does Eliot use the rule of three in Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 18?

The rule of three is a rhetorical method used in all sorts of written and spoken communication. In effect, it means that grouping ideas, words, or other things in threes will enhance their humor, effect, or memorability. In Chapter 18 of Silas Marner, George Eliot applies this rule in the number of pieces of news Godfrey imparts to his wife: Dunstan Cass's body has been found at the bottom of the quarry. This is surprising and a sad end to years of supposing Godfrey Cass's brother is alive, but, because Dunsey has been gone for more than 16 years and was unlikely to reappear, it is not deeply painful. It was Dunstan who stole Silas Marner's money. This is a much greater shock. No one had suspected it, and it brings shame on the family. The third piece of news comes in its own three stages. First, Godfrey is silent for a long time before telling Nancy Lammeter the third piece of news. Then he prefaces it by saying he has been keeping a secret from her all these years. These delays raise Nancy's anxiety about what he might have to say. Readers, however, realize what it is; for them the suspense relates to how Nancy will react. Finally, Godfrey confesses that he was married to Molly Farren and that Eppie is his child. It is a moment readers have been anticipating for most of the novel, and Nancy's response is gratifying in that it confirms her love for Godfrey, who, for all his flaws, is a good person at heart.

In Silas Marner, why would Nancy Lammeter and Godfrey Cass not have married if he had claimed Eppie when she was first found?

When Godfrey Cass first decides not to claim Eppie in Chapter 13, he is sure Nancy Lammeter will not marry him if he confesses that Eppie is his child. He's still sure of this in Chapter 18, and it's likely he's right. When Nancy first appears in Chapter 11, she is well aware she loves Godfrey but intends never to marry at all rather than marry him because of his debauched way of life. Readers know this because they are privy to her thoughts and her conversation with her sister. But Godfrey does not know. In Chapter 11, readers are frequently told that Nancy does not show her emotions; only her sister knows her real feelings. She withholds them from Godfrey, so Godfrey is forced to make his decision with incomplete information. Godfrey covers up his marriage and child, and Nancy covers up the fact that she loves him. It is possible that, if he had known how Nancy felt, he might have acted on the "half-jealous yearning in his [heart], when [the child's] blue eyes turned away from him" and taken her home with him. If he had, over time he might have proven himself to be the good man Nancy required and won her in spite of his marriage to Molly. He would have had to leave that to chance, but that is something Godfrey has always been good at.

In Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 19 what is the significance of Eppie holding "the door wide for [Godfrey and Nancy Cass] to enter"?

Throughout Silas Marner, the open door represents being ready to allow change to enter one's life. Silas Marner has benefited greatly from his willingness to embrace change. After all, Eppie came in through his wide-open door. He welcomed her into his life and was redeemed by it. Now the potential for change has come again in the form of Godfrey Cass's offer to take Eppie to live with him. Seeing that it might benefit the girl, Silas is once again willing to, if not embrace, then accept change if it is what Eppie wants. Eppie, however, although she is the one who opens the door, reserves the right to limit the extent of the change she will accept. She accepts a closer relationship with her "natural father" but continues to think of and treat Silas as her real father because that is what he has been for as long as she can remember.

How does Eliot address the theme of wealth in Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 19?

When Godfrey Cass offers to take Eppie to live with him, neither he nor his wife, Nancy Lammeter, imagines Eppie or Silas Marner will refuse. This is because they have so much to offer. Because they have money, Eppie will not have to work hard; she can become better educated; she will be a lady. Nancy in particular, having always enjoyed the benefits of wealth, cannot understand how they can be refused. Godfrey indicates Silas's newly returned money and says, "It wouldn't go far if you'd nobody to keep but yourself." For him and Nancy, money is indispensable. The Casses' definition of wealth, though, is different from Silas and Eppie's definition. Silas and Eppie are happy because they have each other, a home, enough to eat, and good friends. For them, this is wealth enough. Even Silas, who once loved his hoard of coins above everything and everyone else and who looked forward to each new golden guinea as if it were a new child, looks at the money now and says it is "almost too much."

In Silas Marner, Part 2, Chapter 20 how does Godfrey Cass's confession that Eppie is his child affect his marriage?

In Chapter 20, by the time they arrive home, both Godfrey Cass and Nancy Lammeter have realized Eppie will never consent to live with them. At home with Nancy, Godfrey can be himself; she is his "refuge." For the first time, he can speak completely openly to her about the thing that has been most on his mind. In being able to speak about it, he is also able to admit that Silas Marner was right: the time to claim Eppie was 16 years ago. Godfrey is sad, but the fact that he has confessed to Nancy and to Eppie and Silas has cleared his conscience. He recognizes his current childlessness is just what he asked for when he refused to take responsibility for Eppie before. Nancy's silence says she agrees, but this is not a point of contention for the two; they have reached a state of honesty and trust they never had before. Finally, Godfrey realizes the most important thing for him is still Nancy, and that he can accept childlessness if it means he has her. Thus, his confession has made his good marriage more solid than ever.

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