What effect does religion have on the character Dolly Winthrop in Silas Marner?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dolly Winthrop is one of the few genuinely decent people in Raveloe. She's certainly one of the only people in the village to accept Silas Marner for who and what he is. At the same time, unlike Silas, she is possessed of a conventional Christian piety, one that manifests itself in kindness, care, and concern. Her faith is simple and unreflective, largely conditioned by her environment and upbringing. For instance, it's telling that when Dolly brings Silas some lardy cakes, she doesn't understand that the special letters on them—I.H.S—are the first three letters of Jesus in Greek. Dolly's Christianity is the kind common to unlettered country folk in her neck of the woods, simple and unaffected.

Dolly is no fanatical proselytizer, but she does gently insist on Silas attending church and giving up weaving on Sundays. She also strongly advises him that little Eppie should be baptized and given Christian instruction. The formalities of Christianity are clearly very important to Dolly, and due proprieties must be maintained lest Silas feel guilty if the child ever goes off the rails. Religion is of the utmost importance to Dolly, influencing everything she does. It's what enables her to be such a kind, patient advisor and confidante to Silas, and what eventually makes him realize that he can start to trust people at long last.

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Silas Marner

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