Student Question

What life lessons does the novel Silas Marner teach us?

Quick answer:

The primary message Silas Marner conveys about life and human nature is that human love and community are gifts far more valuable than money.

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When making text-to-self and text-to-world connections, it is almost inevitable to experience the life of the main character vicariously, and connect our lives to the myriad of life lessons that could be learned from the story.

In Silas Marner we witness the life of a man who goes through some very sad vicissitudes and still manages to exist within the shambles. Silas does not realize that he is able to survive against adversity, but he learns it toward the end.

This being said, several life lessons can be learned from the novel.

1. Nothing lasts forever- Like most of us, Silas manages to create comfort zones in which he feels not just safe, but also trusting that he "had it made." One of these life periods was lived at Lantern Yard, where he was a community leader, a friend, a religious man, and was engaged to be married. He was reasonably happy there, feeling that this would be his life forever. Little did he know that he would be framed for robbery by his so-called best friend, that this friend would also take Silas's future bride for himself, and that he would lastly tarnish Silas's reputation to the point of, literally, running him out of town.

2. Money cannot buy happiness- While the general consensus is that money does not buy happiness, in reality, it enables it. In Silas's case, however, this idea is convoluted. He took to collecting gold pieces, paid to him for his work as a weaver in Raveloe, because he was an outsider who ended up there after the debacle at Lantern Yard. As a result, he felt grieved, lonely, and hurt. Collecting gold, silver, and money in general became a habit for him and helped him feel better. Yet, he had nothing really concrete in mind to do with all these riches, other than to gather them. He felt the power of money, but he did not really have any plans for it. What would it be for, then? The answer is: nothing.

...at night came his revelry: [...] he closed his shutters, and made fast his doors, and drew forth his gold. Long ago the heap of coins had become too large for the iron pot to hold them, [...] How the guineas shone as they came pouring out of the dark leather mouths!

However, once his gold was stolen, Silas returned to a similar state to the one he was in when he went to Raveloe. He was again grieved, felt alone in the world, and was at a loss for words. Still, it was thanks to the loss of the money that he was able to humanize himself in front of the community. It was then that he was embraced by those who felt empathy toward him, and who commiserated in his pain. This is something money could have never given Silas. What life did give him, in the end, was Eppie.

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What is the primary message or lesson Silas Marner conveys about life or human nature?

Silas Marner conveys the message that human love and community are far more valuable than money. Silas mourns and withdraws from life when he is falsely accused of theft. He begins to value the gold he earns far more than human companionship or human love. He loves the glint of the gold and the feel of holding his gold coins in his fingers. After his gold is stolen, he perceives its loss as a tragedy. In fact, its theft is a great blessing to him.

Little Eppie replaces his money to become the true gold in Silas's life. When she wanders into his cottage on New Year's Eve, she symbolically looks like his lost gold to him when her golden hair shines in the firelight. But she gives him far more than money ever could.

By taking her in, giving her a home, loving her, and receiving her love, Silas receives a gift more satisfying than money. Not only does he receive love from her, Eppie helps weave Silas back into the web of community. This reintegration had begun when Silas reached out to others after his money was stolen. His admission of the need of community help was that start of his healing. The "sap" of life began to flow in him again.

However, his reentry into community comes to fruition when Silas raises Eppie. The community respects him for this act, and he receives its support. He learns that the love, the companionship of a human being, and the support of a community are far more satisfying than any amount of money.

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