Silas Marner Summary

The plot surrounds the titular character, Silas Marner who is a weaver in an English village with the name of Raveloe. Although he excels in his craft, Silas keeps to himself and the villagers too are wary of him since he is not originally from the town. Silas also stands out in the crowd due to his chronic epileptic fits, which causes him to lose sense for short periods of time.

A backstory is provided regarding his mysterious origins: Silas used to be a respected member of the community Lantern Yard in a larger town. He was betrothed to a local girl and his epileptic fits were considered to be a God-given characteristic, to be revered by peers in that religious Puritan environment. However, he was betrayed by his best friend, William Dane, who frames Silas by proving him to be a thief of a crime by planting a bag of gold coins in his house. The community castrates him and his epileptic fits make his word unreliable against that of Dane. After everyone finds him guilty of theft and Dane marries his girl, he leaves Lantern Yard behind for good as well as his faith in God and justice.

In Raveloe, Silas lives in exile only communicating through his work. However, he is also somewhat of a healer due to his knowledge about herbs, which he had acquired from his mother. After he uses these herbs to help a ill local woman, word of his magical powers get spread causing people to be even more suspicious about him; many call him a witch doctor. However, they still hire him for work since he is the best weaver in town.

A recluse, Silas has little to spend on so most of the gold he receives, he saves it. He considers each gold coin to be a friend and spends a considerable amount of time every night counting his wealth. He becomes even more determined to increase his collection and decides to micromanage even more, hiding the coins in two bags underneath his floor. This goes on for fifteen years.

We are introduced to more characters as the book progresses. One of the wealthiest families in the town is the Cass family with the patriarch being Squire Cass. He has two sons; the older being Godfrey and Dunstan is the younger one. Dunstan is greedy and self-centered while his older brother is impressionable although he has a good heart. Dunstan convinces Godfrey to secretly get married to Molly Farren, a girl from the lower socioeconomic background and then blackmails him into helping him commit fraud by threatening to disclose his wedding to their father. Godfrey embezzles 100 pounds from a tenant’s rent money and gives it to Dunstan but finds himself in a trap when his father demands an explanation for the missing rent. Godfrey confronts Dunstan who asks him to pay the money and exempts him from any part in the crime doing by again reminding his brother of his secret marriage to Molly. Desperate, Godfrey sells his pride and joy, his horse Wildfire to recover the fraud money. Dunstan takes the responsibility for selling the horse, which he intends to do at a town hunt. However, at the hunt, he participates at the game with the horse and gets in an injury that kills Wildfire. Now that he has no way of repaying the 100 pounds and aware of the fact that Godfrey has no savings as well, he deduces another solution. He plans to steal the money from Silas who as rumor would have it correctly saves all his gold in the cottage.

Meanwhile, Godfrey is suffering for his own errors. Molly is an opium addict as well as an alcoholic that has drifted the already unhappy couple even far apart. Godfrey regrets his decision of marrying Molly and pines after the beautiful town girl Nancy. He spends his time drinking and stuck in a dilemma as to whether attempt to make his marriage with Molly work or woo Nancy.

Dustan arrives at Silas’s and finding the cottage empty, he searches for the gold, finding the bags beneath the floorboards. He flees with the gold at once. When Silas returns, he is shocked to find his money gone and at once reports the theft at the local bar. Although the villagers are not initially responsive due to Silas’s withdrawn nature, they sympathize with him after hearing his sob story. They promise to help him find the thief and news spread about the thief who stole from local recluse weaver Silas Marner. However, all searches end up futile and villagers theorize that it must have been an outsider who had fled with the money. Although Silas is unable to recover his stolen money, for the first time in fifteen years, he is able to be a part of the Raveloe community. One of the many villagers who pay him visits in a Dolly Winthrop and Silas forms a closer bond with her as she emits more empathy than pity at his state. She advises him to pray at the church for things to get better although he has renounced his faith in god since the Lantern Yard incident.

On the other hand, Dunstan is not heard of since the day of the hunt and Godfrey becomes worried. When he hears news about the death of Wildfire, he finally comes clean to his father about the stolen money. Squire Cass is enraged at the embezzlement but does not go to any extreme measure to punish Godfrey contrary to his fears. He forgives Godfrey and dismisses Dunstan’s disappearance like the rest of the village. This is apparently not the first time Dunstan had run away.

Winter comes around bringing with it the spirit of Christmas, Godfrey resolves himself to persuade Nancy to marry him although he is still married to Molly and has a two year old with her. He is unaware that his wife is on her way to Raveloe, wishing to reconcile with him and disclose their marriage to his family either way. Midway, close to Silas’s cottage, she takes an amount of opium but overdoses in the snow. Her child, a daughter ventures into the cottage and finding the door open, enters his home. She falls asleep beside the fire. Right at that moment, Silas was inside, having one of his seizures. When he comes to, he is shocked to the find the girl, at first mistaking her golden hair locks as his stolen gold coins. He investigates the scenario outside and comes across the body of Molly, who he surmises to be the little girl’s mother. He heads off to the local Christmas ball at the Cass mansion with the girl in order to notify the doctor. Godfrey recognizes his daughter and almost passes out in anticipation of his truth coming out in front of everyone. He comes along with the doctor who states Molly to be dead. Silas adopts the apparently orphaned girl and names her Eppie.

Sixteen years pass and Eppie grows to be beautiful young maiden. Her arrival into Silas’s life brings about a number of changes: the villages openly welcome Silas into their lives now that he is a family man with a daughter who he raises with the help of Dolly Winthrop. Godfrey remarries but does not have any children with Nancy. Although he wishes to adopt, Nancy believes that they must not be meant to be parents if they are not conceiving naturally, after the death of their only baby when it was a newborn.

After all these years, the reason behind Dunstan’s disappearance is discovered when his body is found in the stone-pits, he is found still clutching the bags of gold coins he had stolen from Silas. In amidst all the distress, Godfrey comes clean to Nancy about his secrets, even revealing to her about Eppie’s true parentage. Contrary to being angry, Nancy regrets not knowing about Eppie, wishing to adopt her and finally experience the joys of motherhood.

They both visit the Marners and reveal to Eppie about her mother and that Godfrey is her true father. However, after hearing the truth, Eppie refuses to come with them, choosing to stay with Silas, not willing to forsake her bond with him that runs thicker than blood. Godfrey and Nancy are surprised and disappointed but accept her decision. In light of all the loose ties that have been tied up, Silas takes Eppie to his hometown. They visit Lantern Yard and he is curious to learn if after all these years, he is still perceived as a thief. However, the town has forgotten all about Silas Marner and his old community, Lantern Yard is being demolished to build a new factory in its place. Silas is content with never knowing the aftermaths of his departure and leaves with his daughter to return home to Raveloe. Tat summer, Eppie weds Dolly’s son, Aaron Winthrop and he moves in with the Marners.