The Main Messages In Silas Marner By George Eliot

George Eliot’s “Silas Marner” examines the effects that oppressive communities and repressive religious regimes can have upon the human psyche. Eliot breathes through her characters her very own experience with religion, community, criticism and with society norms that skirt those who are different to the outside. “Silas marner,” like many of Eliot’s stories, is an extension of her own thoughts and is especially a tale meant to teach her readers a lesson, or a few.

In the very beginning of the novel, silas suffers a great betrayal by his best friend and by his community. Already, Silas’s community treated him as an outsider for being a poor weaver. With this being the case, silas’s security in society is on thin ice. When William Dane betrays silas, framing him for his own crime, the community rejects silas and this destroys silas’s faith as well as his sense of self. Silas is told, “Brother, how do i know what you may have done in the secret chambers of your heart, to give Satan an advantage over you?” This creates a scene where silas stands alone with a whole community of like minded christians against him. Silas, knowing he has done nothing wrong, renounces his religion claiming there is no “righteous God” only are that “bears witness against the innocent.” This creates for a very interesting contrast to Eliot herself as a devout Evangelical Christian. Edwinn P. Whipple, in his reviews of George Eliot’s life in letters says “she was overcome by the emotional side of Evangelical Christianity and her whole soul was absorbed by it.” Yet here Eliot shows us a character losing his faith and denouncing christianity entirely as a regime against the innocent. This begins the start of a point Eliot means to make about religion and about christianity specifically.

The communities of Lantern Yard and Raveloe already show stark contrast. Lantern Yard is gray and uptight, and dreary. Raveloe is laid back and “there were no lips in Raveloe from which a word could fall that would stir Silas Marner’s benumbed faith to a sense of pain.”(Eliot) Ravelow was a town that was happy and peaceful and in complete contrast to the cold village of Lantern Yard that Marner left behind. While this may be quite far fetched and venture off from the realistic point Eliot is trying to make; there is an important purpose. Silas Marner has a “fairy tale simplicity and overt almost systematic symbolism” as observed by Fred C. Thomson. This however is incredibly effective in appearing just as the bible does in stories that can seem unreal but are acceptable in relation to an Almighty God. This story and its style speaks the language of christianity that Eliot knows and loves so well. She uses this style to make a clear point of how religion should be used and how it should not. God is a forgiving, loving and listening God. He specifically has a soft spot for the poor and does not gawk at and shut them out. Instead eliot wants people to have a curiosity instead of suspicion and an openness instead of a close of nature toward those who are different. This can be witnessed when silas is robbed and despite never being approaches by his neighbors, he asks for help and is immediately given just that. “Neighbors, who had nothing but veranl consolation to give [greeted] silas, and discuss his misfortune at some length when they encountered him in the village,”(Eliot) shows the true nature of Raveloe. These were the kind-hearted people he needed.

The people of Raveloe however are not perfect and silas would never have his beloved Eppie if it weren’t for Godfrey Cass. Godfrey Cass is the biological father to Eppie and entirely unlikeable character. He is described as having a “natural irresolution and moral cowardice.”(Eliot) Not so coincidentally, Eliot’s own partner, George Henry Lewes, while not hated was not so well liked to begin with either. A Lucy Aiken regarded him as “flippant, pretentious and irreverent.”(Whipple 326) Even so, after several meetings with Lewes, Eliot says “he is always genial and amusing. He has quite won my liking in spite of myself.” While Eliot loved her husband and he also adored her there is a similarity, perhaps inspiration, drawn from their marriage. Even in the marriage itself that was not perceived as entirely legal and legitimate because of his first wife “By technicality of english law, lewes had forfeited his right to be divorces from his faithless partner.” This shows similarity to Godfrey’s situation with his first wife, and the child he had by her. Similarities can also be seen just in comparing Eliot to Nancy Lammeter and their shared characteristics. Both are high strung but sweet natured to others generally but not so equivalent as they are related. According to eliot, “faith in the religion of christianity was designed to be established on and indestructible foundation.” She has a severe idea of what it meant to be a christian herself, holding herself to quite strict standards including enjoying certain pleasures, even reading. Eliot came to know certain things that generally people thought to be normal as sinning, “overcome by the sense of sin, even while indulging in what the general theological sense of the world has come to consider [...] sinless.” This is quite reminiscent of nancy’s idea that because she cannot give birth to a child she is not meant to have a child, even to adopt. According to Nancy, “to adopt a child because children of your own had been denied you, was to try and choose your lot in spite of providence.” While not the same, these instances share a certain energy of severity. Most people would disagree with both of these principles, but these were the standards Eliot held she and her Nancy Lammeter as well.

Despite all the flaws of characters in Raveloe, they by far were entirely more accepting and loving to silas and other community members than those of Lantern Yard were. This was the message. Eliot’s whole point of “Silas Marner” was to be a little more kind and to love every one. This is what she found in her genter husband, George Lewes, and in her religion. The way the people of lantern yard treated silas was clearly unacceptable. Kristen A. Pond Analyzes the use of sympathy in “Silas Marner.” She claims it “establishes an approach to the other that does not view difference as something to be overcome; when difference becomes irrelevant, understanding is no longer necessary.” This point can be seen when finally Godfrey and Nancy accept Eppie and Sila;s relationship. When Godfrey sees Silas, like everyone else is capable of being a father, and does quite well at it, being how much eppie loveshim, godfrey must move on.

George Eliot takes inspiration from her life and her passion for her faith in christianity to give us the story of Silas Marner. She teaches readers the lesson of understanding and kindness aht should come with chrisitanity. She shows the audience the importance of religion in a community as well as the importance of having a community in order to have a strong faith in one’s religion. She did all this by breathing through her own characters, giving them a life of their own but flaws and gifts that she herself possessed. She gave the people of Eppie, her tender and gentle love for love. She gave silas her dispositions and many of her flaws whether it be his health issues or his tendency to isolate. She gave Nancy her overbearing standards that she gave herself. By doing this she created an incredibly personal story that communicates messages just as the bible did and appeals to readers of the bible most of all. This was a message mainly to Christians, but also to people who have trouble understanding others and being accepting and tolerant. It is not supposed to be easy, but it is a fulfilling lesson to be learned.

Works Cited

  • Eliot, George. Silas Marner. Project Gutenberg,,
  • Pond, Kristen A. “Bearing Witness In Silas Marner: George Eliot's Experiment In Sympathy.” Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 41, no. 4, 2013, pp. 691–709., doi:10.1017/s106015031300017x.
  • Thomson, Fred C. “The Theme of Alienation in Silas Marner.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 20, no. 1, June 1965, pp. 69–84., doi:10.1525/ncl.1965.20.1.99p00235.
  • Whipple, Edwin P. “George Eliot's Life.” The North American Review, vol. 141, no. 347, Oct. 1885, pp. 320–330.,     
16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now