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Silas Marner | Plot Summary

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Summary

Silas Marner is set in the village of Raveloe in England during the first four decades of the 19th century. It tells the story of a linen weaver, Silas Marner, who moves to Raveloe after being wrongly accused of theft in the town where he grew up. Part 1 first tells about this accusation and Silas's life in Raveloe, then it relates what occurs 15 years later. Part 2 picks up 16 years after Part 1 leaves off.

Part 1

Silas Marner is a friendless linen weaver who lives in a small cottage beside an old, unused quarry. Silas has catalepsy, a medical condition involving seizures, trances, loss of consciousness, and rigidity, and one of the reasons his neighbors find him off-putting. He wasn't always friendless, though. Before coming to Raveloe, he lived in Lantern Yard, a tiny neighborhood in a big town. Everyone in Lantern Yard belonged to a small congregation that adhered to the word of the Bible. Silas's best friend, William Dane, and his fiancée, Sarah, were both members of the congregation. One night, William stole the collection money and framed Silas for the theft. By drawing lots, the congregation determines Silas was guilty. Soon afterward, William married Sarah, and Silas left town. Silas arrives in Raveloe and moves into the cottage. He's a funny-looking man: pale, bug-eyed, and stooped from long hours at his loom. He does good work, though, so he makes a steady living. Soon, he finds companionship in the money he earns, spending his evenings counting and admiring his gold guineas. Over the next 15 years, Silas's hoard of coins grows. He keeps it in two large leather bags placed beneath his brick floor.

The oldest son of the local squire is Godfrey Cass. Several years before, Godfrey, who is in love with Nancy, the daughter of a wealthy local farmer, married Molly, an opium-addicted barmaid in another town; Molly now has a two-year-old daughter. Godfrey's brother, Dunstan, lives simply for his own pleasure. He is a habitual liar, a blackmailer, a drunk, and a gambler. One rainy night in late autumn, Dunstan takes shelter in Silas's cottage when the weaver is out. Having heard rumors of a stash of money, he searches and finds the bags of coins, which he steals. When Silas finds his coins are gone, he goes to the village pub to report the robbery and ask for help. No trace of the coins or the thief is found, but the villagers now take an interest in Silas for the first time. On New Year's Eve, Godfrey's father is hosting his annual dance, and Godfrey is enjoying spending the evening with Nancy. At the same time, Molly is on her way there to tell everyone about her marriage to Godfrey. It's a cold, snowy evening, and Molly has fortified herself with laudanum (opium). Unable to go further, she sinks to the ground and dies. Her toddler rolls from her arms and, seeing a bright light nearby, makes her way to Silas's cottage. The nearsighted weaver sees her golden hair on the hearth and mistakes it at first for his golden coins.

When he realizes he has found a child and that the child's mother is dead, Silas goes to the party and asks for the doctor. Godfrey comes, too, desperate to make sure Molly is really dead. She is, and, although he realizes he should claim responsibility for his daughter, he doesn't. Silas takes the girl in and, with the help and advice of his neighbor Dolly, raises her as his own. He calls her Eppie, after his little sister who died. Godfrey contributes some money from time to time. Eppie becomes the catalyst for Silas's acceptance into the local community.

Part 2

Eppie is 18, and Dolly's son Aaron wants to marry her. Godfrey, who is now married to Nancy, has contributed furnishings and helped Silas extend the cottage. He has also acquired some new fields and is having them drained. This drains the old quarry as well. When the water is gone, Dunstan's skeleton is found at the bottom, along with Silas's money. The realization of what his brother did inspires Godfrey to confess to Nancy that Eppie is really his child. They go to the cottage and tell Silas and Eppie that they want to adopt Eppie, finally revealing that Godfrey is her father. But Eppie refuses to leave Silas. In the end, Godfrey accepts this as just punishment for not claiming her when Molly died.

Silas and Eppie travel to the town Silas came from. He wants to visit Lantern Yard to see whether the congregation ever discovered he was innocent of the theft. But Lantern Yard has been torn down and replaced by a large factory. The following spring, Eppie and Aaron get married, which is an occasion for great celebration in Raveloe.

Silas Marner Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Silas is found guilty of theft and leaves Lantern Yard.

Rising Action

2 In Raveloe, Silas is lonely and finds company in money.

3 Fifteen years later, Dunstan steals Silas's money.

4 Silas asks the villagers to help him, and they try.

5 Silas finds a dead woman and adopts her toddler.

6 Silas decides to have the child christened Hephzibah.

Climax

7 Dunstan's skeleton and Silas's money are found.

Falling Action

8 Godfrey admits he's Eppie's father; Eppie won't leave Silas.

Resolution

9 Eppie marries Aaron, who moves in with her and Silas.

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