How do the different levels of the community respond to the theft of Marner's gold in Silas Marner?   

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Silas Marner interrupts the repetitive conversations and banter of those gathered at the Rainbow Inn, the townspeople fear they may be seeing a ghost. The landlord asks Marner what is his business there and Silas exclaims that he has been robbed.  But, when Marner see Jem Rodney, he accuses him of the theft; Jem becomes angry, threatening to hit Marner with his drink. Interrupting this angry exchange, the landlord encourages Marner to speak sensibly if he expects the others to listen; the farrier further encourages Marner to stop his staring and screaming.

Gradually the suspicion of those at the inn diminishes, but the consensus of opinion is that because Marner acted out of character by leaving without locking his door, there must have been a thief  who is not known to them. Mr. Macey, the old tailor and parish clerk asks everyone to be fair to Marner.  So, after listening to Marner, Mr.Dowlas, the farrier tells Marner that the thief must be "some tramp"; he offers to come to the cottage and search it because Master Marner's eyesight is poor.  

In another room where the socially elite congregate, another discussion is conducted.  There, the landlord Mr. Snell recalls having seen in his inn a peddler with a tinder-box, a man who had "a look with his eye." Mr. Snell says that he wondered about him. Besides, the man had a "foreignness of complexion which boded little honesty."  To this observation, Mr. Crackenthorp, the rector, who "had some acquaintance with foreign customs, asks if the man wore earrings.  Then, because the more prestigious rector has asked this question, others place importance upon it, and the glazier's wife, "a well-intentioned woman, not given to lying," is ready to declare that the peddler was, in facet, wearing earrings.  The more imaginative Jinny Oates, the daughter of the cobbler, stated that these earrings made her blood "creep."

Thus, the business of discussing this robbery offers many a husband a good reason for coming to the Rainbow Inn.  While there is disappointment in the group that when Squire Cass questions Silas, he has no other recollection than that the peddlar called at his door and did not enter his house, the villagers conclude that anybody but a "blind creatur" like Silas Marner would surely have seen this peddlar lurking about since his tinder-box was found in the nearby ditch.

Doubtless, he had made his observations when he saw Marner at the door. Anybody might know...that the weaver was a half-crazy miser.

After this discussion, Godfrey Cass dismisses the suspicions of the peddlar, declaring the suspicion of the man's supposed evil looks as mere nonsense.  But, the others reject this opinion as that of mere youth.

Read the study guide:
Silas Marner

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question