Silas Marner, by George Eliot

This novel has some interesting themes woven into a straightforward tale of a miserly and reclusive man whose bitter obsession with gold is cured by the almost miraculous appearance of a child in his cottage. His fixation that the child came to him by fate just as the gold was taken away drives him to care fiercely for the toddler, a care which grows into a genuine and loving relationship between father and daughter.

The narrative has its amusing elements. Eliot revels in describing the dynamic between the residents of the town, especially in the pub gatherings. However there is a danger that some readers might miss the humour altogether as they get bogged down in the length of these scenes which have no overt relevance to the plot. Yet plot is not really what this novel is about – rather it is a social commentary. The themes of redemption, faith, community are interesting, especially the contrast between Marner’s non-conformist background and the Church of England community into which he moves.

The themes are thinly veiled due to the shortness of this novel. The back story of Silas Marner is the element I was most interested in, and although our strange hero returns to his old abode towards the end of the book, his reaction to its alteration was a little trite and melodramatic. Other small criticisms I had were that I was not won over by the other characters Eliot spent time with; Dunstan and Godfrey Cass. We are not intended to like them, and it was necessary to be shown their personalities in contrast to Marner’s, but I found myself wanting to be finished with those chapters and so get back to Marner.

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