While Silas Marner lives in Lantern Yard, he is a member of a Dissenting chapel, a sect that is not affiliated with the Church of England. His life in such a sect is originally satisfying as he experiences close fellowship in which he is afforded the opportunity of speaking and casting votes in the governing of the community. But, when a deacon dies mysteriously under his watch, Silas finds himself betrayed by his friend and reviled by his brethren, who cast him out.
Marner was respected in Lantern Yard; after having a rather peculiar experience in which he suffered some rigidity of his muscles and he lost consciousness, some of the members of his sect perceive him as "selected for a peculiar discipline." He formed a close friendship with a younger man named William Dane, who was also respected by the members. But, when the members recognized Silas as special after his strange experience, Dane's manner towards him altered; he felt that it was
a visitation of Satan...and exhorted his friend to see that he hid no accursed thing within his soul.
In addition, the attitude of Silas's fiancee altered as she showed "signs of shrinking and dislike." Silas, then, asked her if she wished to break the engagement, but she could "render no reason that would be sanction" by the religious community.
One night, Dane and Marner were keeping watch over a senior deacon who was very ill, but now seemed to be making a recovery. However, Silas noticed that the deacon had stopped breathing. When Silas examined the man, he had been dead for some time. Also, Silas noticed that somehow it was four o'clock in the morning, and William had not come to take his place. Two hours later, William and the minister summoned him and the minister produced the pocket knife of Silas, asking him where he had left it. Confused, Silas stated that he did not remember putting it anywhere; it had been in his pocket, he thought. But the minister urged him to confess his sin and repent because the knife was located where the bag of church money had been. Confused, Silas responded,
"God will clear me: I know nothing about the knife being there, or the money being gone. Search me and my dwelling: you will find nothing but three pound five of my own savings, which William Dane knows I have had these six months."
But, when the search is made, William Dane produced the bag from behind a chest of drawers in Silas's room. He urged Silas to confess. Then, because he had that occasion of paralysis in which he lost consciousness, Silas was unsure of all his actions; nevertheless, he kept his faith and insisted that "God will clear me."
Still, Dane's treacherous acts accomplished his goal. Lots were drawn by the members of the community, and poor Silas was suspended from church-membership, told to render the stolen money, and to repent if he wished to be received back into the community. Poor Silas made no sound. As the members rose to leave, Silas spoke to William Dane, telling him that the last time he had his knife was when he cut something for Dane. "You stole the money and you have woven a plot to lay the sin at my door." Dane said nothing. Sadly, too, Silas also lost his faith, for he declared that there is no God that is righteous, He is "a God of lies."
Broken, Silas returned home and stunned by this despair, he just sat before his loom and worked for hours. The next day, representatives of the sect informed Silas that Sarah broke the engagement; Silas merely turned back to his loom, saying nothing. About a month later, he learned that she married William Dane, and, not long afterwards, Silas left Lantern Yard, where everyone had condemned him solely on the treacherous acts and words of William Dane, who had stolen from him his friends and fiancee both.
In his youth and early adulthood Silas had friendships and socialized with the people of the town in which he lived. He resided in a community of artisans and religious people. He grew up with a close friend named William Dane and looked forward to marrying a girl in his village. One night while Silas and his friend William were supposed to be caring for the church Deacon, the elder died. William had not shown up for his post and Silas was alone. Silas leaves the Deacon to seek help. William plants Silas' knife by the Deacon's bedside and removes a small pouch with the church funds in it. He then accuses Silas of having stolen the money. Silas Marner becomes angry at the injustice cast upon him and moves to a different town.
In the town of Raveloe, Silas becomes self-isolated and the focus of town gossip. He had lived a life that was one of goodness and community, but it had led to betrayal and humiliation. He no longer trusts or desires to be around human companionship. His new neighbors are nervous and suspicious of him. Silas, in an effort to relieve his hurt and anger, becomes focused on making money and keeping it. He alienates himself from everyone.
One night, an infant is found by Silas. The mother had died and not knowing who she is, Silas takes in the baby girl as his ward. The child brings out everything good and compassionate in Silas, and the townspeople begin to see a different side of Silas. Through his love and devotion to the child, he becomes more involved in the community and begins to change. When the girl's true father is revealed and he tries to take the girl, the townspeople who have witnessed Silas' care and devotion to the child know that Silas has transformed into the person who should be allowed to continue to raise the girl.