The accumulation of gold has been a selfish and loveless claim, but the love of Eppie is a selfless and heart-warming claim.
- The selfish and loveless claim
After losing his beloved and a man he has believed to be his friend, Silas Marner departs from Lantern Yard and moves to the wooded region of Raveloe, but he remains a recluse, hoarding his gold and counting it each night in his spiritual desolation, hoping that it can provide him some security as he works assiduously each lonely day.
Every man's work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life. (Ch. II)
Silas tries to fill this "loveless chasm" with the gold he earns from his tireless weaving. But, even though he does not suffer from financial want, "the future was all dark, for there was no Unseen Love that cared for him." (Ch II) And, because of this void in his life, Silas becomes a very passive character.
- The selfless and fulfilling claim
Eppie is a living being whom Silas quickly loves and for whom he works tirelessly and lives in order to provide her protection and happiness. After the baby stumbles into his cottage and he discovers her, Silas has
...a dreamy feeling that this child was a message come to him from that far-off life. (Ch.XIII)
He carries this baby outside and soon finds her mother lying dead in the snow. So Silas carries the baby girl with him as he seeks the doctor. When he enters Red House where the holiday party is in progress, the question is asked, "Whose child is this?" The good-natured Mrs. Kimble suggests that Marner leave the child with the women, but he refuses: "It's come to me--I've a right to keep it." Even Silas is surprised at what he says.
Further, as Dolly Winthrop brings him some clean clothes for the baby, the little golden-haired child takes his face in her hands. So Dolly suggests that Marner dress the baby himself as he trembles with emotion.
...he could only have said that the child was come instead of the gold--...the gold had turned into the child. (Ch. XIV)
From this moment on, the life of Silas Marner is changed. Now love is in his home and in his heart again. This golden-haired baby enriches his life, providing him human interaction and the redemption that love brings. "...she'll be my little un...She'll be nobody else's." (Ch. XIV) The entry of this child into Marner's life recreates Marner's soul, giving him a new and fulfilling claim to love and life.