SILAS MARNER . George Eliot . NC 1116
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An outwardly simple tale of a linen weaver, the novel is notable for its strong realism and its sophisticated treatment of a variety of issues ranging from religion to industrialisation to community.
The novel is set in the early years of the 19th century. Silas Marner, a weaver, is a member of a small Calvinist congregation in Lantern Yard, a slum street in Northern England. He is falsely accused of stealing the congregation’s funds while watching over the very ill deacon. Two pieces of evidence implicate Silas: a pocket knife, and the discovery in his own house of the bag formerly containing the money. There is the strong suggestion that Silas’ best friend, William Dane, has framed him, since Silas had lent his pocket knife to William shortly before the crime was committed. Lots are drawn in the belief – also shared by Silas – that God will direct the process and establish the truth, but they indicate that Silas is guilty. The woman Silas was to marry breaks their engagement and marries William instead. With his life shattered, his trust in God lost, and his heart broken, Silas leaves Lantern Yard and the city for a rural area where he is unknown.