Silas Marner Symbols Essay, Research Paper
What Makes a Good Symbol?
Symbols are a key aspect of the novel Silas Marner, by George Eliot. Eliot uses them to help develop and intensify the plot of the story. Each symbol represents major themes of the story. Some of the symbols she uses are so discrete, it makes the reader wonder if she meant to use them or not. Without Eliot s skillful implementation of these symbols, the reader would be lost in the pages of the novel and would not understand the major social impacts of Silas Marner.
Lantern Yard is a good symbol of Silas s past. He lived there in the past but it represents more than that. It represents the darkness and loneliness of his past, compared to his life in Raveloe. The setting of the town involves an old prison and dark alleys with overcast weather. This setting portrays a scene of darkness in the mind of the reader. In Lantern Yard, Silas spent all of his time weaving by himself. The Church that he devoted his life to betrayed him. The town of Lantern Yard helps intensify the change in his life after he left for Raveloe.
Marner s gold is also another crucial symbol to the plot. It represents the greed of Silas before Ellie came into his life. It helps strengthen the reader s view of the change between Silas s life before and after Ellie. It also helps portray his emptiness and loneliness. Since he spends every night counting and bathing in his gold, he spends no time with anyone else and is very lonely inside.
New Year s Eve is a crucial event in the lives a few major characters in the book. It is a symbol for change in the characters lives. For Silas, he gets new start. Eppie comes into his life and he becomes more of a father figure and a hero. He does not need to rely on his gold to make him happy anymore. Molly Farren dies in front of Silas s cottage. That is a serious change for her. Godfrey Cass is very grateful for her death. This allows him to get on with his life and marry Nancy Lammeter. Eppie also undergoes a drastic change. She loses a mother and gains new role model and father. That one date in Raveloe s history changed the entire story.
Eppie is a symbol by herself. She is a symbol of youth and new beginnings. She gives Silas a new meaning to life. Her golden blonde hair is a symbol that she is the replacement for the gold that Silas lost. She is more of a spiritual type of gold than the literal gold he lost before.
The symbol of evil is represented by none other than William Dane and Dunstan Cass. William Dane betrayed Silas and set him up for banishment from Lantern Yard. Even though this proved to be good for Silas in the end, it was still evil at that point in time. Dunstan stole Silas s gold. That gold meant more to Silas than anything else in the world at the time. The theft of his gold left him with no more reason to live. As they were both symbols of evil, they were also symbols of justice. When Silas went back to visit Lantern Yard later in life, nothing was left of the town he had known before, even William Dane. No one knows what happened to him but he is definitely gone. Dunstan gets caught in the stone pit and drowns for being a thief. They both received the justice they deserved from their actions.
The open door of Silas s cottage was also an important symbol in the novel. According to Robert W. Watson, The door represents Marner s death, burial, and resurrection. He claims that Marner is spiritually dead from being exiled from Lantern Yard. Silas knows William did it, and he told him, You stole the money, and you have woven a plot to lay the sin at my door (Eliot 11). His fits were described as death-like. He was, in a sense, a dead man when he moved to Raveloe. As he collected more and more money for his work, he began burying himself in his work and his gold. His life became based on weaving and counting his gold. Eliot states, His life had reduce itself to the mere functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tended (Eliot 18). He then left his door open as he went on an errand and Dunstan stole his treasured gold. The loss of his hard earned gold then represents his start of his rebirth, or resurrection. He discovers a new faith and a new meaning of life in Eppie. During one of his fits, he left the door open again and when he came back, Eppie was waiting for him. His opened door first brings a curse, and then it brings him a blessing in Eppie.
Symbols are obviously a big part of Silas Marner. Through the examples shown above, symbols portray all the major themes of the book. Eliot uses symbols to make the story more interesting for the reader. She knows how to spice it up.