Warning: major spoilers follow for the plot of Silas Marner.

In George Eliot (Marian Evans)'s novel Silas Marner, the eponymous weaver's life goes through several significant stages:

  • his years-long period of living alone and hoarding gold;
  • the miserable period immediately after his gold is stolen;
  • his time of happiness after Eppie comes into his life.

The two most major life-changing events which happen to him during his time in Raveloe are of course the theft of his gold and the arrival of Eppie. Each of these has a huge effect not only on his way of living but even on his personality.

Towards the end of the novel, he gets some closure on the first of these events, when his gold is returned to him and the thief identified. But wouldn't his life would have gone on in pretty much the same way if this had never happened? Or is the recovery of the money and Dunstan's body somehow more momentous than just to make Silas realise how little the gold matters to him now?

How does the revelation in chapter 18 make the story different from what it would have been if the theft had remained a mystery?

  • I'm not sure if the title of this question could be considered too spoilery. Feel free to edit.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 1:46

1 Answer 1


In part, yes, the return of his gold does serve to make him realise how meaningless it is to him now. But there are two things that come of it.

  1. It allows him to return to his old home town. And he realises that the church is gone. And that there is now no chance of him being acquitted of the theft. But that he doesn't mind. Compare "There is no just God that governs the earth righteously, but a God of lies, that bears witness against the innocent!" with "I think I shall trust Him till I die"

  2. Godfrey begins his preamble about adopting Eppie (before the reveal that he is her biological father) by claiming that he feels guilty because it was Dunsey, his brother, who committed the theft of the gold. And that he wants to make it up to Marner

  • 1
    1) Oh, was it the recovered gold which allowed him to return to the city? I'd forgotten that. 2) Good point about Godfrey. In fact, IIRC, there was even more to that connection than just his BS to Silas: it was the discovery of Dunsey's deed that spurred him to confess to Nancy that Eppie was his daughter, which led in turn to the pair of them trying to adopt her.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 16:06
  • I've already upvoted your answer for some good insight, but if you add the point from my comment above (Dunsey's discovery caused Godfrey to confess to Nancy), then I'd consider this complete enough to accept.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 14:29
  • I'd wanna add, though, that it gives the novel a very pleasing symmetry. Silas accused of theft; Silas the victim of theft; Silas regains his gold, but the accusation against him remains. It underscores @Randal'Thor's point that the gold itself doesn't even make that much difference. The point isn't the money—it's the attitudes toward money and the effects of that attitude on folks' actions.
    – verbose
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 6:21
  • or maybe i should write my own answer elaborating that instead of asking OA to! someday
    – verbose
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 6:22

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