Silas Marner
George Eliot
Contributed by Harvey Landy
Character Analysis
Silas Marner 

Silas is a young man when we get our first glimpse of him in the town of his birth, Lantern Yard. He is renowned there for his great piety, which is evidenced in a notorious fit that he falls into while at church one day. After fainting, the townspeople revere him for what must have been his religious visions. But his close friend, William Dane, suspects the faint to have been caused by satanic -- not divine -- forces. William accuses Silas of stealing money from a dying deacon that the two had volunteered to look after, and the town finds Silas guilty. He leaves in disgrace for Raveloe. He spends his first fifteen years in this new town living a hermit-like existence, weaving day and night, and stockpiling the gold he gets in return for his wares. Silas’s life revolves around his gold, and he takes it out each evening to admire. One evening while he’s out on an errand, however, a young man named Dunstan Cass, who is the son of Squire Cass -- one of the best-respected and most seemingly well-off men in the community -- stumbles by and steals Silas’s money in the hopes of paying off a debt to his father and brother. When Silas discovers his money gone, he’s thrown into a deep depression that isn’t lifted until an unusual event happens. In his fifteenth year at Raveloe, Silas finds a young child sitting in front of his fire one evening. She is the daughter of Godfrey Cass (Dunstan’s brother), who wed a woman named Molly, fathered her child, and has kept these two secret from the rest of the community. The child has wandered away from Molly, an opium addict who died in the snow outside Silas’s house. Silas names the girl Eppie, and his life is instantly changed. He becomes well-liked by the townspeople, who respect him for taking in an orphan (no one knows that Eppie is actually Godfrey’s daughter, of course). The novel jumps sixteen years, and Silas is a man of fifty-five, living a delightful existence with Eppie. The two remain devoted to each other until the end of the novel, living together in Silas’s small cottage.

Eppie Marner

She’s only a small child when she makes her entrance in the novel. She’s a toddler in her mother’s arms one night, being carried to the Cass’s New Year’s Eve party, where the two are most emphatically not expected. When her mother, Molly, passes out in an opium-induced haze, she wanders off into Silas’s house. She lives with him after that, and she grows up to be a boisterous, vibrant girl with flowing brown curls. She is absolutely grateful to Silas and deeply attached to him. She marries Aaron Winthrop.

Godfrey Cass

Godfrey is the eldest son of the Cass family. He doesn’t get along well with his younger brother Dunstan, and this may be partially to do with the fact that Dunstan knows a secret about Godfrey that no one else knows, and that he constantly threatens to bring to light. Godfrey has married a woman named Molly and fathered her child. He does not associate with either of them, and wishes to keep it that way, since he is in love with Nancy Lammeter. He eventually marries Nancy, however, once it becomes clear that Molly has died.

Dunstan Cass

The bad seed of the Cass family, Dunstan is a hard-drinking, money-blowing, irresponsible young man. He borrows money from Godfrey early in the novel, and in order to pay it back, steals Godfrey’s favorite horse, Wildfire, and sells him. Before making the trade, however, Dunstan gets Wildfire killed in a hunting accident. On his way home from the accident, Dunstan passes by Silas’s house, finds his gold, and steals it. He isn’t heard from again in the novel, and it later turns out that he fell (or threw himself -- no one’s quite sure) into the stone-pits near Silas’s house and died there.

Squire Cass

Dunstan and Godfrey’s father. He lives in a mansion in the center of town referred to as the Red House. He hosts parties and keeps a bountiful kitchen, perhaps as a way of overcompensating for the absence of his wife, who has left him widowed. Red House appears to be a quite prosperous place, but all is not as it seems. The Cass’s are less well-off than the townspeople think, and it is for this reason that Squire Cass is eager to see Godfrey married to Nancy Lammeter, whose family is quite rich.

Nancy Lammeter

Godfrey’s love interest is capable of being quite cold to him. She’s turned down his marriage proposal once before, and when the novel opens they’re only capable of the most awkward interactions. She marries Godfrey eventually, and they have a marriage that she’s quite happy with, although she worries that he’s frustrated with their lack of children. 

Priscilla Lammeter

The most relevant thing we learn about Nancy’s sister is that she never marries and instead takes the place of her deceased mother, tending to the Lammeter farm and household. 

Dolly Winthrop

Dolly is one of Silas’s closest friends in Raveloe. They become close after Silas’s money is stolen, and she comes over at Christmastime to bring him lardcakes. The two are fond of discussing and debating religion, and Dolly is somewhat forceful with Silas that he accept her version of faith. 

Aaron Winthrop

Dolly’s son grows up to court Eppie and ask for her hand in marriage, which she accepts. He is devoted to her and dedicates himself to building her a garden.

Molly, Godfrey’s first wife

We don’t know much about Molly. She only has one scene, and in it she is carrying her daughter through the evening streets of Raveloe, determined to crash the Cass New Year’s Eve party and force Godfrey to own up to his relationship with her. After imbibing some opium, however, she lies down in the snow outside Silas’s house and dies.

William Dane

Silas’s first and closest friend betrays him early on in the novel, when Silas lived in Lantern Yard. He steals money from a dying deacon and frames Silas, then steals his fiancee, Sarah, and marries her.

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