Literature Study GuidesSilas MarnerPart 2 Chapter 21 Summary

Silas Marner | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Silas Marner | Part 2, Chapter 21 | Summary

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Summary

At breakfast the following day, Silas Marner suggests that he and Eppie go to Lantern Yard. He wants to talk with the minister about "the drawing o' the lots" and the "religion o' this country-side." So four days later they arrive in a "great manufacturing town" where "the noise, the movement, and the multitude of strange indifferent faces" make Eppie uneasy. It has been 30 years, and the town is very different from the one Silas remembers. They ask for and find Prison Street. Eppie finds it "a dark ugly place" that "hides the sky" and is "worse than the workhouse." Silas assures her that Lantern Yard is different and leads them in the direction of Shoe Lane. Eppie is horrified by how close together people live; Silas comments on how bad it smells. When they finally arrive in Shoe Lane, they find Lantern Yard has been replaced by a large factory. They ask around, but no one remembers Silas's Lantern Yard friends or Mr. Paston, the minister.

So Silas returns to Raveloe and tells Dolly Winthrop what they found, saying he will "never know whether they got at the truth o' the robbery, nor whether Mr. Paston could ha' given me any light about the drawing o' the lots." He tells her that, since Eppie first came to him, he's "had light enough to trusten by; and now she says she'll never leave me, I think I shall trusten till I die."

Analysis

Silas tells Eppie that his reason for returning to Lantern Yard is to talk with Mr. Paston. He still has a sense that his treatment there was wrong, but he now feels God is on his side because he has been so blessed since Eppie came to him 16 years earlier. So this has made him consider that perhaps the sect's practices were not actually correct; perhaps drawing lots is a game of chance and not a way of divining God's justice. Before he is too old and before Eppie is married with a family of her own, it is time to go back and get closure for that early betrayal.

Eliot's reasons for taking them back to Lantern Yard are different. On a surface level, she uses the visit to explore the effects of the Industrial Revolution on English society. But, on a deeper level, she makes a statement about the human lifetime. While we are the products of our pasts, those pasts cannot be regained. Just as Godfrey cannot go back and fix his earlier denial of fatherhood where Eppie is concerned, Silas cannot go back and undo the congregation's rejection of him. Like Godfrey, he must accept things as they are.

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