Non-African Prose George Eliot: Silas Marner
Examine the role of money and gold in the life of Silas in the novel.
Gold plays a very important role in Silas Marner’s personality development. Gold, in the novel, may be understood as a general term for money, The terms may therefore be used interchangeably. The theft of the bag of money by William Dane at the death of the deacon provides Dane with the opportunity to break up the engagement between Silas and Sarah.
The theft also leads to the casting of lots. The lots declare Silas as the culprit. This leads Marner to leave Lantern Yard and settle at Raveloe. His heart is full of bitterness, and his faith in man and God is shattered.
At Raveloe, he puts all his strength and mind into his weaving, and gold (money) starts trickling in. The gold accumulates and becomes his passion. He now finds a new companion in his gold. This contributes to his further alienation from society. Henceforth, his only contact with society is reduced to buying the few necessities he needs for his weaving and food. He thus becomes a complete hermit with his gold providing the only companionship he needs. He then becomes more mechanical and less human. This continues until he loses his gold.
The loss of his gold now provides the first occasion for him to interact with people. Many of the superstitions people attach to him disappear. He begins to attract the sympathy of others. -The process of his reintegration into society comes with the coming of Eppie who, in the mind of Silas Marner, has mme to replace his gold. In fact, the lost gold provides the strongest motive for keeping Eppie.
It is significant to note that Eppie has yellow or golden hair and Marner takes her as his gold that has returned. In Eppie, Marner now has a companion.
When the gold is rediscovered eighteen years later, it now has a better use. It seems like the gold goes away and returns when Marner has better use for it. The gold, from this perspective, takes on a mysterious outlook in conformity with Marner’s own mysterious life as it often does in fairy tales.
It can therefore be said that gold has multiple roles in the novel. It serves as an instrument of Marner’s separation to society and of his reintegration into society. It also provides an atmosphere of mystery.