In Silas Marner, how is the New Year's Eve party contrasted with the subsequent chapter in which Molly dies in the snow?
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Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 are juxtaposed to highlight the plight of poor Molly as Godfrey in Chapter 11 makes moves towards gaining a second wife whilst he first wife is still alive. The New Year's Eve party is characterised by being a social event to which the higher members of Raveloe society are invited. As such, it is a party that involves a display of the wealth and the power of the Squire, Godfrey's father, and the commentary that Eliot provides the reader from the point of view of the working classes who attend shows how important both Godfrey and Nancy are considered to be in Raveloe society. The fine clothes and dancing that is mentioned completes the description of this event as being one that is representative of the higher tier of Raveloe society.
In Chapter 12, therefore the introduction to Molly indicates the complete opposite. Whereas Chapter 11 was defined by wealth and merriment, the poverty and despair of Molly is emphasised, including the cause of her poverty and despair, which is of course her addiction to opium. Molly is a character who is reduced to rags and travelling in freezing weather conditions. When she takes her opium and feels the need to sleep, note how Eliot describes where she lays her head:
She sank down against a straggling furze bush, an easy pillow enough and the bed of snow, too, was soft. She did not feel that the bed was cold...
The metaphors which compare the bush to a pillow and the snow to a bed seem to mock the wealth that Godfrey, Molly's husband, experiences and enjoys in just the previous chapter. The fact that such merriment and frivolous activity can occur so close to such a scene of want and despair highlights the inequalities within Raveloe society and the very different life that so many faced at that time.
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