Silas Marner Questions and Answers
by George Eliot

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In Silas Marner, how is Christmas spent in Raveloe?

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Raveloe is a town which revolved among the parties and generosities that the richer clans could offer the town. It was not unusual to see that one family, such as the Cass clan, would throw the biggest of all parties for all walks of life to partake.

In their case, they prepared for the Christmas party in a family-type event where they would basically offer their goods to the poor (some) and spent the night drinking their ale in a close-knit group. This is because later on they would prepare the home for the New Years Eve dance, which was the talk of the town.

Silas, however, would not partake of the party. He had spent his holiday in deep mourning, grieving still his loss despite of what his neighbors would try and do for him such as bringing him lard cakes, some meat, or other items. Even their company was not enough for them.

According to the story,

Silas spent his Christmas-day in loneliness, eating
his meat in sadness of heart, though the meat had come to him as a neighbourly present. In the morning he looked out on the black frost that seemed to press cruelly on every blade of grass, while the half-icy red pool shivered under the bitter wind; but towards evening the snow began to fall, and curtained from him even that dreary outlook, shutting him close up with his narrow grief. And he sat in his robbed home through the livelong evening, not caring to close his shutters or lock his door, pressing his head between his hands and moaning, till the cold grasped him and told him that his fire was grey.

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This is near the end of Part I. The Cass family, being among the upper crust (perhaps the highest social rank in Raveloe), spends Christmas by attending church service and entertaining certain guests at a party. The Christmas party includes the immediate family (Squire, Godfrey and Dr. Kimble and his wife). It is the New Year’s Eve party that is the bigger deal. Acquaintances from all over Raveloe and Tarley are invited. It seems that the New Year’s Eve party is more inclusive (in terms of social classes); but this is not clear. Those who attend the party could still be among the upper class of these towns. This would make sense considering that Elliot is using the fairy tale form and consistently juxtaposes the two stories of Godfrey, woven into the fabric of society from birth, and Silas, first involuntarily then voluntarily made an outsider. Silas spends the holiday alone, mourning the loss of his money; until New Year’s Eve when Eppie winds up on his doorstep and the two stories become inextricably linked.

It is important to note that Silas’ cottage is not actually in the town of Raveloe; it is just outside town. At the beginning of the novel, he is described as almost inhuman-like in appearance. So, until Eppie’s, arrival, Silas is an outsider in every way. Until Eppie’s arrival, Godfrey is the opposite; a popular member of society, never excluded from the daily or holiday events of the town.

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