Literature Study GuidesSilas MarnerPart 1 Chapter 10 Summary

Silas Marner | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Silas Marner | Part 1, Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Since the description of the peddler as having "curly black hair and a foreign complexion, carrying a box of cutlery and jewellery, and wearing large rings in his ears" has not yielded any specific suspects, no arrest has been made for the theft of Silas Marner's money. No one suspects Dunstan Cass because it seems in character for him to have disappeared after getting Wildfire killed. After all, once before, he disappeared for six weeks. The village is still divided as to the culprit: Some believe it was the peddler; others still attribute the theft to supernatural causes.

Silas is lonely and miserable. He no longer has the companion that had filled so many of his evenings. The gold had been at the center of his thoughts, but now there is only a blank space, which he "fill[s] ... with grief." He moans sometimes as he works and sits moaning all evening. But he is no longer as alone as he was before. The people of Raveloe feel more kindly than they did in the past. Rather than a cunning and selfish man who may have connections to the dark powers, they now view Silas as a "poor mushed creatur"—a little crazy but harmless. It is nearing Christmas, and some neighbors bring him surplus food; others greet him and commiserate at length when they run into him or stop by the cottage. One day Mr. Macey stops by, meaning to be kind but managing to be insulting. Fortunately, Silas is so miserable he pays no attention to the comments about his perhaps being in league with the devil, and thanks the parish clerk. Mr. Macey then suggests Silas get a Sunday suit and start coming to church. That night in the Rainbow, Macey remarks that Silas is so confused he probably has no idea which day is Sunday, which proves he's "a worse heathen than many a dog." The pleasant and patient wheelwright's wife, Dolly Winthrop, also stops by, bringing with her seven-year-old son, Aaron Winthrop, and some lard cakes. She points out that each cake is stamped with some letters she can't read. Silas says they are IHS, but doesn't know what the letters mean. Dolly says they're also printed on pulpit cloth in the church, so must be good letters. Dolly asks whether he heard the bells, as it's Sunday today. He did, but doesn't know what they mean since no bells were rung in Lantern Yard. Dolly suggests he go to church for Christmas, but Silas says he's never been to church and that, where he comes from, he attended chapel. Dolly, who doesn't know what "chapel" is, tells him that she always feels better after going to church. Not knowing what to say, Silas offers Aaron a bit of lard cake. Because he is sitting a few feet away, he can't see Aaron's features, just "a mere dim round, with two dark spots in it." At his mother's urging, Aaron sings "God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen" for Silas, and Dolly explains that the song is "Christmas music." As Dolly and Aaron leave, Silas thanks her, but he's relieved that he can go back to his grieving. Despite the suggestions from Mr. Macey and Dolly, when Christmas comes, Silas spends it at home alone.

The church in Raveloe is full on Christmas Day. After the service, everyone goes home "to eat, drink, and be merry." At the Red House, Squire Cass's entire extended family is there and looking forward to "the great dance on New Year's Eve that made the glory of Squire Cass's hospitality." Godfrey Cass is looking forward to seeing Nancy Lammeter at the dance, but his anxiety keeps niggling away at him, reminding him that he can't marry Nancy and that he needs money he doesn't have.

Analysis

As the days pass, the theft grows less immediate in the minds of the villagers. They still discuss who the thief might be, but it seems increasingly unlikely that the case will be solved. For Silas, however, his loss remains fresh; perhaps it is becoming even less bearable as time passes and he is forced to accept the realization that he will never spend an evening in the company of his coins again. No one in the village knows what he is going through because, even though he has lived among them for 15 years, the villagers know nothing at all about Silas beyond what they have invented in their imaginations. This is not all their fault; if they have made no attempt to get to know Silas, the reverse is also true. He is an introverted man and has made no overtures toward them. But, as this chapter shows, his loss has forced him to be more open to speaking with his neighbors and has made them realize he is not a frightening witch but a flawed human being in need of neighborliness.

Readers meet Dolly Winthrop for the first time in this chapter. The narrator describes her as "a very mild, patient woman" and the first person the villagers think of "when there [is] illness or death in a family ... a 'comfortable woman'—good-looking, fresh-complexioned ... never whimpering." Nothing fazes Dolly; she's a hard worker and has a generous spirit. In fact, in those qualities, she's much like Silas was back in Lantern Yard. It's no wonder, then, that, when the two meet in Chapter 10, it's the beginning of a close friendship—even though, after this first meeting, both Silas and Dolly would probably find it quite unlikely.

Neither Silas nor Dolly knows that IHS is a Greek monogram standing for "Jesus Christ." That's why it can be found in the Anglican church in Raveloe. Despite his religious past, Silas isn't familiar with it because his sect in Lantern Yard was Calvinist, and Calvinism rejects the use of images in Christian worship.

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