What significance does Chapter 21 have to Eliot's Silas Marner as a whole?

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writergal06's profile pic

writergal06 | Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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By returning to Lantern Yard with the hope of showing Eppie were he used to live, Marner is able to finally get closure on his past life. Though he sought to find out if his name has ever been cleared, he finds instead that Lantern Yard is gone. He finally realizes that his past is gone and doesn't matter any more. Adding to this, Eppie has rejected Godfrey's offer and is remaining with Silas until she marries Aaron. At this point, Silas fully understands what is truly important in his life.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Aside from being the denouement of the novel, Chapter 21 is, like the two previous answers correctly state, the long-awaited moment in Silas's own story line where he finds closure. Not only does he find closure, but the reader also learns, along with Silas, the biggest lessons of the novel: Life is dynamic, and not static. Everything changes, and nothing lasts forever, whether it is good or bad.

Silas went to Raveloe years before to escape the shame and pain that he suffered at Lantern Yard. In Chapter 21, he wants to return, now healed mentally and spiritually, to finalize resolve the issues and misunderstandings that drove him out of his beloved, former city.

I want to see Mr. Paston, the minister: something may ha' come out to make 'em know I was innicent o' the robbery. [...] And I should like to talk to him about the religion o' this country-side, for I partly think he doesn't know on it.

When he gets to Lantern Yard, Silas learns that the whole town is no longer there.

The old home's gone; I've no home but this now. I shall never know whether they got at the truth o' the robbery, nor whether Mr. Paston could ha' given me any light about the drawing o' the lots."

Essentially, everything changed. People moved on, with or without Silas. Life went on, whether the truth was ever found out or not. Time kept moving forward, whether fairly or unfairly.

Such is the reality of life. Silas suffered for years remembering one incident which should have just been used as an agent of change, and not as a source of suffering. Now he has learned, finally, that life is not just one event, but a series of continuous events, most of which give us a chance to start over and make everything different. 

Since the time the child was sent to me and I've come to love her as myself, I've had light enough to trusten by; and now she says she'll never leave me, I think I shall trusten till I die.

That these lessons were learned means that Silas has arrived to the zenith as a character, and has reached the goal of finally learning that what really matters in life cannot be acquired from the outside in, but the other way around. Love, and not gold, is what truly made Silas a richer man within.

vanertc's profile pic

vanertc | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Chapter 21, along with chapter 22, is the denouement of the novel, which ties up all the loose ends after the climax (which occurred in chapter 20). It brings the novel to a satisfactory close because we finally get to shed that feeling of injustice that poor Silas suffered so many years ago. Yes, it would be nice to hear the people from his past admit they were wrong about the robbery and see the people of Lantern Yard view Silas as the excellent soul that he his, but somehow this ending is better. It is Silas’ final lesson: what truly matters in life is what is in your own heart, and this echoes what Godfrey has learned from Silas. Blessings fall on those who open their doors to them.

It is fitting that Eppie goes with him to wrap up his past in Lantern Yard. After all, if he hadn’t been so ill-treated by those he thought were near to his heart, he never would have experienced the deep father/daughter love he built with Eppie. She symbolizes Silas’ renewed faith in humanity. The past events of Lantern Yard are now so insignificant in his life that the whole place is physically gone, yet there stands Eppie beside him, vibrant and full of love for life. We see how renewed Silas is by her when, upon returning from his quest, he tells his friend Dolly, “‘Since the time the child was sent to me and I’ve come to love her as myself, I’ve had light enough to trusten by; and now she says she’ll never leave me, I think I shall trusten till I die.’”


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