Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe

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In her third novel, reissued here in its first edition of 1861, George Eliot (1819-80) charts the life of the cataleptic, miserly weaver Silas Marner. Arriving in insular Raveloe after a wrongful expulsion from his Calvinist community in the north, Silas is a foreign and outcast figure, left alone to accumulate a useless fortune through his loom in the dawn of the new industrial age. His unhappy life is rendered unrecognisable when his fortune is stolen and he adopts a child. Eliot's first two novels, Adam Bede and Mill on the Floss, had dealt with tragedy and the injustices faced by fallen women. With its happy ending and suffusion of fairy-tale elements, Silas Marner marks a turning point in her career. Alongside this development, however, the novel continues to raise Eliot's characteristic questions about social inequalities, the effects of extreme religion, and the worth of human experience.