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Silas Marner | Symbols

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Gold

Gold represents something to be treasured. When Silas Marner moves to Raveloe, he has lost what he treasured most—love of God, his congregation, and his closest friends. That is when William steals the church money and frames Silas for the theft. In Raveloe, Silas is paid for his first commission with five gold guineas. The coins are beautiful; they glint in the setting sun. Being a loving man with no one and nothing to love, he invests his love in these beautiful objects. He works and is given these beautiful coins in return. As the narrator explains, his "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" (Part 1, Chapter 2). But it is not really their monetary value Silas treasures. In fact, he loves his coins so much that he can barely make himself part with them to buy things. Then Dunstan steals Silas's money, and for the second time Silas loses what he loves most. On New Year's Eve, though, his gold appears on his hearth. But when Silas reaches out to touch it, "instead of the hard coin with the familiar resisting outline, his fingers encountered soft warm curls" (Part 1, Chapter 12). It's not gold but a golden-haired child, and she becomes the greatest treasure of all.

Hearth

The hearth is the traditional symbol of the home. In old one-room cottages like Silas's, the hearth provided heat, but also sustenance because the cooking was done at the hearth. He finds contentment sitting beside it, counting his coins. The warmth and light of Silas's hearth also draws others into his cottage—such as Dunstan and later Eppie. In larger homes, like the Casses', the hearth was the center of the main room, and people (and animals, like Godfrey's dog, Snuff) gravitate toward it for warmth and comfort.

Loom

The loom functions as a symbol on several levels in Silas Marner. For Silas, it represents his livelihood and a comfort when all else has been taken from him. For the community, it represents the continuation of their feudal rural environment, while keeping the strangeness of a newly mechanized outside world at bay. Silas is self-sufficient in his work, which is very different from the interdependent agricultural community around him. For the reader, the loom is very much a symbol of Silas's time in Raveloe before Eppie comes to him. Like the loom, he works busily, but never changes or moves forward with his life.

Open Door

An open door symbolizes an opportunity for change to enter one's life. For instance, Silas's life changes dramatically several times because of an open door. In Lantern Yard, William comes in through an open door to steal the church money. In Raveloe, Dunstan enters Silas's cottage because the door is unlocked; he steals Silas's money. As a toddler, Eppie wanders through Silas's wide-open door, changing his life for the better. But Silas's is not the only open door in the novel. At the New Year's Eve party, Silas, carrying Eppie, enters the open door of the large parlor at the Red House to announce that he's found a dead woman in the snow. This is an opportunity for Godfrey to claim Eppie, but he doesn't grasp it.

Rainbow Inn

The Rainbow is the village pub where all the men of the community meet on a regular basis and which is open to all on special occasions, like Eppie's wedding in the conclusion. Just as a hearth is the center of a home, the Rainbow is a center of the Raveloe society and functions as a symbol of that society. For the first 15 years of his time in Raveloe, Silas never enters the pub. But when his money is stolen, he goes straight there to ask for help. When the landlord has him sit down beside the pub hearth, it marks the beginning of his inclusion into the Raveloe community.

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