Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe, by Victorian novelist George Eliot, was first published in 1861. The idea for the short novel, which she described as “a story of old-fashioned village life,” came upon Eliot suddenly and interrupted her plans for the writing of another novel, Romola. After the publisher John Blackwood read some of the manuscript and told her he found it somber, Eliot replied that it was not a sad story because “it sets in a strong light the remedial influences of pure, natural human relations.”
Silas Marner is a story of loss, alienation, and redemption that combines elements of fairy tale and myth with realism and humor. Set in the fictional village of Raveloe, it centers on Silas Marner, a weaver who is forced to leave his hometown in the north after being falsely accused of theft by members of his chapel. His religious faith gone, for fifteen years Marner isolates himself from the life of the village and becomes a miser. But when the gold that he cherishes is stolen, and he adopts a child whose mother has just died, his life changes dramatically for the better.
Silas Marner has always been admired as one of Eliot’s best and most appealing works. Not only is it a touching story that ends, like the fairy tale, happily ever after, it also presents a realistic portrait of nineteenth-century life in a traditional English village in which the spirit of kindness and cooperation overrule petty differences.