Literature Study GuidesSilas MarnerPart 1 Chapter 7 Summary

Silas Marner | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Silas Marner | Part 1, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

The men in the Rainbow Inn are shocked at the sight of Silas Marner suddenly standing among them. It's as if he were a ghost or his own soul having gone "loose from his body." He's out of breath after running from his cottage and still very upset, which leaves him unable to speak. Finally, John Snell asks what he needs, and Silas announces that he's been robbed and wants "the constable—and the Justice—and Squire Cass—and Mr. Crackenthorp." Much like Silas himself, the men find that hard to believe at first and think he might be "off his head." Jem Rodney, the poacher, is among the men in the pub, and Silas confronts him, saying that if Jem is the one who stole his money, Silas will give him a guinea if he'll return it. Jem angrily denies that he stole it. The landlord has Silas sit down near the fire in the midst of the men and tell them what happened.

As he speaks, the men become invested in helping Silas. The landlord assures him Jem was not the thief because he was in the Rainbow at the time. The parish clerk, Mr. Macey, says, "Let's have no accusing o' the innicent. That isn't the law. There must be folks to swear again' a man before he can be ta'en up. Let's have no accusing o' the innicent, Master Marner." This awakens Silas's memory of the accusation against him 15 years earlier, and he feels "a movement of compunction as new and strange to him as everything else within the last hour." Silas goes to Jem, looks deeply into his eyes, and apologizes, saying he was wrong and is not accusing him. John Dowlas, the farrier, asks how much money there was, and Silas tells him: £272, 12 shillings, and sixpence. The farrier thinks that wouldn't be too heavy for even a tramp to carry off. He suggests he go to see Kench, the constable, and explain what happened; since the constable is sick, Dowlas expects he'll be deputized and will then go back to Silas's cottage with him to check it out. After a small verbal tussle over whether or not the farrier can legally act as a constable, Dowlas and the landlord set off to visit Kench.

Analysis

When Silas dashes into the Rainbow and asks for the villagers' help, it is a turning point in his relationship with them. Eliot understands a basic contradiction in human nature: Providing help—as Silas did when he cured Sally Oates's heart trouble—may be repaid with resentment, but asking for help can open people's hearts. The men suddenly see Silas as a human being with normal human concerns. If he were the witchlike being they had thought him, he would not have been robbed and, even if he had been, he would not have needed their help to catch the thief or get back his money. For Silas the encounter proves that this community will accept and help him. He can start to trust again; he does not need to live in complete isolation. The loss of his hoard is the price he must pay for acceptance into the community.

Again, the farrier and the parish clerk provide an enjoyable moment of comic relief when Mr. Macey uses Dowlas's pride to talk him out of volunteering to be deputized by the constable and investigate the theft. Macey claims "that no doctor could be a constable"—something he learned from his father—and that being a "cow-doctor" counts, too. The two men bicker briefly, with the clerk causing the farrier to entirely reverse his stance, before the landlord once again steps in to smooth ruffled feathers and propose a compromise solution.

George Eliot's opinion of organized religion shows in her comment about the landlord's artificial reticence when pushed to go to see the constable with Silas and Dowlas. The narrator comments that "after ... duly rehearsing a small ceremony known in high ecclesiastical life as the nolo episcopari, he consented to take on himself the chill dignity of going to Kench's." Nolo episcopari is a Latin phrase meaning "I don't want to be bishop." Supposedly, when a clergyman was offered a promotion to bishop in the Roman or Anglo-Catholic church, he would refuse twice using that phrase before accepting the job. Since he was going to accept in any case, the phrase came to indicate a false modesty. Eliot is saying that the landlord intended to go to the constable from the start; he only refused so that he'd have to be entreated to go, which would make him feel important.

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