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CHAPTER 2: Summary
Silas’ life at Raveloe is very different from that at Lantern Yard. The countryside is different, the church has little in common with that of his old sect, and even the old Power that he had trusted in seems far away here.
Work claims all of Silas’ attention until he receives his first money. Then the coins offer him companionship. Silas comes to look forward to the evenings when he could be in the brightness of his gold.
From his mother, Silas had learned the medicinal properties of herbs, and once he used his knowledge to bring relief to a sick woman. For some time after that, he was believed to possess charms against disease or other evils. Silas knew of no such charms, but his refusal is taken as mere ill-temper, and after that, he was left alone.
His work and his love for his gold drew Silas ever farther from contact with his neighbours. Only once does anything happen to show that he has any affection left: Silas drops his old pot and saves the pieces like a piece to remember the pot. After that, there is only his money and his loom, and he thought of them when he is away from home. He forgot his herbs. His life had shrunk into the compass of his room.
Q1. How did Silas’ treatment of Sally Oates affect his life at Raveloe?
Ans. Sally Oates, a cobbler’s wife, was suffering from symptoms of heart disease and dropsy, which reminded Silas of the symptoms his own mother experienced prior to dying. Silas remembered giving her a certain concoction made of foxglove which made her recover. Silas Marner charitably administers to Sally Oates some foxglove, a liquid which eases her pain. Silas hopes of opening up better relations with his neighbours by relieving the discomfort of the cobbler’s wife. After this he finds mothers at his door for a cure for whooping-cough, men for something for their rheumatism or their arthritis, all of whom carry money in their hands. Matter tells them he cannot cure them. However, no one believes him. After Marner turns them away, they blame the attacks of their symptoms on him. Thus his moment of pity towards Sally Oates, which had given him a temporary sense of brotherhood, heightened the repulsion between him and his neighbours.
Q2. Describe Silas’ life in Raveloe.
Ans. Silas lived in a stone cottage near a deserted stone-pit in Raveloe. The boys of the village were drawn to the sound of his loom, and would often peer through his window with both awe and scorn for his strangeness. Silas responded by glaring at them to scare them away. The boys’ parents claim that Silas has special powers, such as the ability to cure rheumatism by invoking the devil. In the fifteen years, Silas had not invited any guests into his home, made an effort to befriend other villagers, or attempted to court any of the town’s women. Silas’s reclusiveness has given rise to a number of rumours among the townspeople. Despite these rumours, Silas was never persecuted because the townspeople feared him and because he was indispensable, being the only weaver in town. Spiritually depleted, Silas uses his loom as a distraction, weaving more quickly than necessary. For the first time, he was able to keep the full portion of his earnings for himself, no longer having to share them with an employer or the church. Having no other sense of purpose, Silas felt a sense of fulfilment merely in holding his newly earned money and looking at it. As the years passed, local lore also began to hold that Silas’s business had enabled him to save a sizable hoard of money.
Q3. Contrast Silas’ life in Lantern Yard with that in Raveloe.
Ans. Silas’ old life at Lantern Yard is contrasted with the new life at Raveloe, where he feels “hidden even from the heavens.” The “unquestioned doctrine,” the hymns, all the old “channels of divine influences” have been closed; the symbols of the past have vanished. In Lantern Yard, Silas was a happy person. He did have fits, but he had friends and a fiancé Sarah. His honesty, hard work and genial disposition endeared him to everyone. In Raveloe, “There was nothing that called out his love and fellowship toward the strangers he had come amongst.” It is this lack of companionship which turned him from his work to his gold as the interest of his life. To Silas, coins are friends to enjoy.
So Silas withers and adopts the “bent, treadmill attitude”. He became almost a machine himself. “His life had reduced itself to the mere functions of weaving and hoarding”. The only sign of any human feeling left in him is his saving the bits of his ruined pot as a memorial, yet this is a hopeful sign.
A contrast that Eliot emphasises is that between the religious customs of Lantern Yard and of Raveloe. Whereas the religious community in which Silas grew up was founded and governed by a strict belief system, the community of Raveloe shared a looser set of superstitions. When Silas rejected his former beliefs, he began to idolise his money to fill the void. This spiritually impoverished worship only reinforced his isolation. Money allows Silas to once again worship something, but without involving other human beings. When he is banished from his church, he casts away his desire for human fellowship and found a new source of fulfilment in his gold coins.