In Silas Marner, explore Eliot’s presentation of Dolly Winthrop. What is her function in the novel?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The description of Mrs. Winthrop shows that the role of her character is that of being "supple." She provides Silas with everything that he lacks, from a listening ear to nourishment to advice. She is the perfect complement for Silas because his overly straight and "cut and dry" way of living life led him to miss out on the important aspects of humanity, such as trusting people, loving altruistically, and believing in something greater than himself.

Mrs. Winthrop was [...] a woman of scrupulous conscience. [...] She was a very mild, patient woman, whose nature it was to seek out all the sadder and more serious elements of life, and pasture her mind upon them.

Therefore, this excerpt shows that Dolly epitomizes the true "Christian" by conducting herself in a way that makes her a true, good Samaritan. She is pious and scrupulous, friendly, calm, and collected. She is matronly, motherly, and caring. Moreover, she is a beacon of light that guides many people, including Silas, toward leading a better life. She was a go-to source for personal and collective support, which shows that people trusted her strength and sense of judgement.

She was the person always first thought of in Raveloe when there was illness or death in a family, [...] She was a "comfortable woman" [...]

We could argue that Eliot's presentation reflects the provincial and bucolic environment. The author infuses the primary aspects of rural life into one character that displays them all without fail: the parochial penchant to worry about other people's lives, the initiative to help "thy neighbor," the altruistic tendency to bring food and nourishment to people, and the personal idealization that she is an anchor of support to others because she knows the community that much from within. She is a leader of the people, without expecting accolades or prizes. She is the embodiment of Raveloe.