Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Silas Marner

If you are looking for a warm-hearted classic to challenge teen readers, Silas Marner would be an excellent choice. George Eliot (pen name used by Mary Anne Evans) uses skillful characterization and pastoral settings to produce the compelling tale of one man's transformation from reclusive miser to doting father.

When Silas is unjustly accused of theft and run out of his hometown, he begins a new life, without God or any human friendships. He is an expert weaver, and quickly gains wealth, but people still eye him suspiciously wherever he goes. Silas' days become a pattern of working, and admiring his gold coins. One day, he is robbed, and shortly thereafter he finds a golden-haired baby on his hearth. In his eccentric way, Silas thinks the baby is replacement for his gold, and remains determined to care for her. Through the baby, Eppie's, sweet disposition and his neighbor Dolly's motherly wisdom, Silas begins to trust people and find happiness again. His world is turned upside down for the better, and he even begins attending church again. Silas and Eppie's happiness is momentarily threatened when her biological father decides to reveal himself, but Eppie's sweet, loyal nature remains true to Silas to the end.

Despite Eliot's personal quarrels with the Anglican church, the novel is profoundly Christian, detailing Silas' disillusionment with faith and later, his deepened understanding of sin, forgiveness, grace and redemption. Church traditions and biblical passages are widely referenced, with some explanatory footnotes included.

What I Like: Eliot does an excellent job showing how small, seemingly insignificant events work to change Silas from a grumpy, old miser, into a loving, content father. The change happens little by little, and is not only believable, but wonderful to behold.

I also like the twists and turns the plot takes. We know who Eppie's natural father is, but Eppie and Silas do not, and we are never quite sure what will happen when the truth is revealed. Also, the mystery of Silas' stolen money is not solved until the end of the novel, so there is plenty to keep more adventurous readers turning the page.

What I Dislike: I wish Eliot spent a little more time with the characterization of Godfrey Cass. It was hard to believe someone could be so weak-minded and self-centered. Also, a couple aspects of the plot seemed a bit too convenient.

Overall Rating: Very good

Age Appeal: Young adult (14-21)

Publisher Info: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2005; ISBN: 978-1-59308-251-2; Paperback, $6.95

Buy it Now at for $5.99 (This link is for the 2003 Penguin Classic version. . .CBD does not stock the Barnes and Noble copy I read.)

OR Buy it at for $6.95.

Special Note: The Barnes and Noble version I read includes two of Eliot's short stories, but I haven't actually read them yet. :)

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Tanya said...

I remember reading this book in high school. LOVED IT!

There's a movie based on the story, too. The updated, contemporary tale stars Steve Martin and is called "A Simple Twist of Fate."

Thanks, Erin, for the review!

Erin said...

Thanks for your comments. I haven't seen the movie, but I will definitely put it on my list! Erin

Betty said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'm always looking for good books for my teen kids to read.

I have to share a really good book that I'm reading called "Ben's Big Bang Botheration" by David Millette. It's a Christian fiction book and a great conversation starter on both spiritually and the academic teachings in public schools. This is the first book in a new series called "Today in Science Class". For us, it's very relevant with the teachings in today’s public school classrooms. I'm not finished with the first book and am already looking forward to the second book.

Anonymous said...

It is a great story, but I don't think that Silas Marner comes to understand sin, grace or redemption. We are left with a man whose faith is in a child, not God. He doesn't come to trust God, but rather his life is worth living because of Eppie. There is a sense of peace with God, but a Christian can see that it is a false peace. There are a lot of good themes throughout the book, but keep in mind that George Eliot was an atheist, which will be reflected in her works.