In Chapter 5 of George Eliot's Silas Marner we find the eponymous main character at his most comfortable, happy, and hopeful. This contrasts enormously from his state of mind when he first came to Raveloe from Lantern Yard. Then, he was a dejected and betrayed man who had lost all hopes for the human race, for love, or company.
Now, Eliot presents Silas as a man with a plan. Although it is clear that Silas's heart and soul are still tormented by the events that led him to seek refuge in Raveloe, we witness how he attempts to heal them completely by hoarding gold. Alone in his cottage, with his hearth in full brightness, and with a supper of pork courtesy of Priscilla Lammeter, Silas is able to heal body and mind only superficially. To him, however, this is a good enough cure: he is, in his opinion, truly happy.
The events that occur next constitute the method that George Eliot employs to provoke sympathy with Silas Marner's situation. This is because, right when Silas is finally resting his mind and finding an aim at life, Dustan Cass takes a hold of Silas's gold and steals it.
The way that Eliot prepares the situation instills sympathy because it reminds the reader that the mistake that Silas made is one who anybody else could make: feeling too comfortable, or too confident, to consider the possibility of something very bad from happening.
Eliot describes the situation the following way
He could not have locked his door without undoing his well-knotted string and retarding his supper; it was not worth his while to make that sacrifice. What thief would find his way to the Stone-pits on such a night as this? and why should he come on this particular night, when he had never come through all the fifteen years before?
And then, something bad DOES happen to a very naive and naturally-trusting Silas. Not only does this represent taking away the very foundation upon which Silas's happiness laid upon; it also meant leaving Silas hopeless of the human race yet again.
His gold, as he hung over it and saw it grow, gathered his power of loving together into a hard isolation like its own.
It is no wonder why he literally loses his mind momentarily and wanders off his cottage into the streets weak, vulnerable, and in total despair.
At last he shook so violently that he let fall the candle, and lifted his hands to his head, trying to steady himself, that he might think.
His situation dramatically contrasts with the beginning of the chapter where he was seemingly in control of his world. That is the tragic flaw of his character and the central pathos of the story: that Silas, who had already been wronged once with the effects of changing his life forever, has been wronged yet again and in a more negative way than ever. He, who had nearly healed from a horrid blow to his trust, has yet to start healing all over again.