Eliot begins chapter one with an overview of the society in which her story takes place. She describes the hermit-like lifestyle of those like Silas Marner, who she jokes, "looked like remnants of a disinherited race." Eliot also addresses the suspicion surrounding these solitary weavers and collectors of herbs, saying, "all cleverness...was in itself suspicious." Silas, too, a linen-weaver who had emigrated to Raveloe fifteen years ago, is similarly thought to possess quasi-demonic powers due to his solitary nature and ability to cure others with herbs. To further support the townspeople’s claims that Silas is possessed, the author describes sudden times when the weaver would have "cataleptic fits," in which it seemed his soul had left his body. Yet Marner’s whole life hasn’t been spent in this manner. Before he fled to Raveloe, he was a quite normal person, active in his church in Lantern Yard and eagerly awaiting his wedding day. Soon, however, Silas is suspected of having the devil’s influence when he has his cataleptic fits during the church service prayers. Eventually he is set up by William Dane (who he thought was his best friend) and is said to have stolen money from the dying deacon whom he was suppose to watch. Soon his wife-to-be is married to William and Silas is found guilty by the church council following a drawing of lots. Silas decides to isolate himself from his inner pain, taking up weaving as a means of escape. Chapter 2
Eliot begins chapter two with the same retrospective writing with which she began the first chapter. Again, describing those people alienated from society after a traumatic event, like Silas Marner, she asserts, "the past becomes dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the present too is dreamy because it is linked with no memories." Later she addresses the reasons Silas fled to another region of England. She follows, "In the early ages of the world, we know, it was believed that each territory was inhabited and ruled by its own divinities, so that a man could cross the bordering heights and be out of the reach of his native gods, whose presence was confined to the streams and the groves and the hills among which he had lived from his birth. And poor Silas was vaguely conscious of something not unlike the feeling of primitive men, when they fled thus, in dear or in sullenness, from the face of an unpropitious deity." The trust which Silas had previously had in his faith and in the church had now been turned to bitterness. No longer was his faith or personal relations important to him since they had betrayed him. Gold now became the object of his work, and nothing else but weaving his loom day and night in order to get more of this gold mattered. Eliot admits, "money had stood to him as the symbol of earthly good, and the immediate object of toil... His life had reduced itself to the mere functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended." Chapter 3
Eliot’s third chapter discusses the Cass family, a very prominent and wealthy family of nobles headed by Squire Cass. The Squire has four sons, including Godfrey and Dunstan. While the author says that Dunstan is commonly thought of as the mischievous one, lately Godfrey has been following in his brother’s footsteps. The two brothers hate each other deeply, but realize they need each other in order to advance their own selfish desires. It soon becomes evident that Godfrey is hiding a very dark secret. It seems he has married "a drunken woman," Molly Farren, without consulting his father, who thinks he should marry Nancy Lammeter. Godfrey now wishes he was in fact married to Nancy, but realizes that he will have to decline since he’s already married. Furthermore it seems the first-born son is in financial trouble, having borrowed heavily from a friend of his father. Dunstan uses all of this to his own advantage, threatening to tell the truth of Godfrey’s marriage to...
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