Silas Marner: Novel Summary: Chapter 1

Eliot begins chapter one with an overview of the society in which her story takes place. She describes the hermit-like lifestyle of those like Silas Marner, who she jokes, “looked like remnants of a disinherited race.” Eliot also addresses the suspicion surrounding these solitary weavers and collectors of herbs, saying, “all cleverness…was in itself suspicious.” Silas, too, a linen-weaver who had emigrated to Raveloe fifteen years ago, is similarly thought to possess quasi-demonic powers due to his solitary nature and ability to cure others with herbs. To further support the townspeople’s claims that Silas is possessed, the author describes sudden times when the weaver would have “cataleptic fits,” in which it seemed his soul had left his body.
Yet Marner’s whole life hasn’t been spent in this manner. Before he fled to Raveloe, he was a quite normal person, active in his church in Lantern Yard and eagerly awaiting his wedding day. Soon, however, Silas is suspected of having the devil’s influence when he has his cataleptic fits during the church service prayers. Eventually he is set up by William Dane (who he thought was his best friend) and is said to have stolen money from the dying deacon whom he was suppose to watch. Soon his wife-to-be is married to William and Silas is found guilty by the church council following a drawing of lots. Silas decides to isolate himself from his inner pain, taking up weaving as a means of escape.