George Elliot's Silas Marner tells a tale of basic human nature depicted through the words and actions of the characters. The characterization presented throughout Silas Marner is enhanced with the uses of point of view, human understanding, and literary devices. Using these techniques, she creates believable characters that develop along with the plot to create a story line that, not only seems real, but also appeals to the human senses of understanding and sympathy.
George Elliot chose to write Silas Marner in the omniscient point of view (Holland, 57), meaning that the action could be viewed from any angle. In doing so, she creates an atmosphere in which any character is given the opportunity to display his or her feelings toward one another. This decision allows the reader to better understand why the characters feel the ways they do, because their reasoning is shown in their conversations and actions with others. Also, it allows the reader to realize that the characters' actions are dependent on the consequences one could face at the time it was written. This gave way for a more personal character to develop, because no one person was describing him or her. Certain traits are left for the reader to develop on his own.
Since Elliot chose to write in the omniscient point of view, she allows herself to control certain traits about each character through her use of narration. This is essential in presenting certain knowledge to the reader that not every character is aware of. Therefore, a strong presence of irony exists within the novel, and is displayed numerous times. One such situation continually represented is the knowledge that Eppie is the daughter of Godfrey Cass and his secret wife who died in the snow. The fact that no one knows of this situation, besides Godfrey, are the source of much irony and eventually the climax of the novel. Another example f dramatic irony is that the reader knows, from the minute of its occurrence, that the robbery is the doing of Dunstan Cass. However, no one in the novel is presented with these details. This concealing of information is the source of much irony within Silas Marner.
Along with point of view, literary devices are used to create and develop characters throughout Silas Marner. The use of speech is the most prevalent device found within the novel. The speech patterns of the "common man" are noticeably different from those of the "proper." A conversation takes place on p. 168, between Silas, the common, and Godfrey, the proper. The two are incredibly different in their speech. Silas uses numerous abbreviations for words like o', or eh', while everything Godfrey speaks Is drawn out and proper (ex. beholden p.169). Godfrey speaks to those around him in a condescending manor, making him seem as if he is better than others are. This proves to be parallel with his role in the plot. His is deceiving, self-righteous, and in the end, incredibly selfish when he asked for Eppie back as his daughter. His speech patterns helped to develop his character as one which undesirable. Speech was an essential aspect in creating many characters in the novel.
The frequent use of literary devices like similes also added to the characterization created in Silas Marner. His character was the most common used in the characterization. Early on in the novel, his eyes were said to be "set like a dead man's"(Elliot, 8). He was totally out of his senses at this point. This depiction of Silas is very effective in portraying his outlook on life. He sees life as dark, meaningless, as a dead man would. Using this literary device is a very effective way to get a character trait to really come to life and not seem just like a grouping of words.
George Elliot's keen sense of human nature and human emotions enabled her to create characters that appeal to the readers' hearts. Her main character, Silas Marner, is a prime example...