Heart Happy (cathy_edgett) wrote,
Heart Happy

Oh, the threat and fear -

I go to Wikipedia to try and refresh myself on the book Silas Marner by George Eliot and to understand why someone might have put it on a banned list.  Is there some secret heathenish message in the words Silas and Marner.  What might they stand for?

Here is a summary of the plot of the book from Wikipedia.

"The novel is set in the earlier years of the 19th century. Silas Marner is a weaver in a small religious community, Lantern Yard. He is also a well-regarded member of a dissenting chapel. Silas is engaged to a young servant-woman named Sarah and thinks that his future happiness is assured. However, due to the betrayal of a fellow parishioner, who blames him for a theft that he did not commit, Silas is expelled from the congregation. He finds out later that his former fiancée married the man who had betrayed him.

Later on, he settles near the village of Raveloe, where he lives as a recluse who exists only for work and his precious hoard of money until that money is stolen by Dunstan Cass, a dissolute son of Squire Cass, the town's leading landowner. The loss of his gold drives Silas into a deep gloom, although a number of the villagers endeavour to help him.

Soon, however, an orphaned child comes to Raveloe. She was not known by the people there, but she is really the child of Godfrey Cass, the eldest son of the local squire. Her mother, Molly, is secretly married to Godfrey, but is also of low birth and addicted to opium. On a winter's night, Molly tries to make her way into town with the child to prove that she is Godfrey's wife and ruin him. On the way she takes opium, becomes disoriented and sits down to rest amid the snow, child in arm. Her child wanders from her mother's still body into Silas's house. Upon discovering the child, Silas searches for its mother and finds Molly - a woman unfamiliar to him - dead. Silas decides to keep the child and names her Eppie, after his deceased sister Hephzibah. Eppie changes his life completely. Symbolically, Silas loses his material gold to theft only to have it replaced by the golden-haired Eppie. Godfrey Cass is now free to marry his new love, Nancy, concealing his first marriage from her. Eppie grows up to be the pride of the town and to have a very strong bond with Silas, who through her has found inclusion in the town. Later in the book, his gold is found and restored. Godfrey confesses to his wife, Nancy, that the dead woman was his first wife and that Eppie is his child. The couple, who are childless, go to Silas and reveal this to him, asking that Silas give Eppie up to their care. However, the decision falls to Eppie, who has no desire to be raised as a gentleman's daughter if it means forsaking Silas. At the end, Eppie marries a local boy, Aaron, son of Dolly Winthrop, and both of them move into Silas' newly enlarged house, courtesy of Godfrey.

Ultimately, Silas Marner is a tale of familial love and loyalty, reward and punishment, and humble friendships."

The following is a Wikipedia post without a citation, but I think it gives a clue to why this book is so dangerous to the free world. 

In Silas Marner, Eliot combines humour and rich symbolism with a historically precise setting to create an extraordinary tale of love and hope. This novel explores the issues of redemptive love, the notion of community, the role of religion, and the status of the gentry and family. While religion and religious devotion play a strong part in this text, Eliot concerns herself, as always, with matters of ethics, and it is clear that for her, ethics exist apart from religion. On the surface, the book has a strong moral tract; the bad characters like Dunstan Cass get their just deserts, while the good, pitiable characters like Silas Marner are richly rewarded.
Although it seems like a simple moral story with a happy ending, George Eliot's text includes several pointed criticisms on organized religion, the role of the gentry, and the impact of industrialization. It was written in the period during Industrial Revolution and may be a reaction against it.

Yes, clearly a book that criticizes organized religion, the role of the gentry, and the impact of industrialization, should be suspect.  It is rightly on the list of dangerous books to read.  Now, let's all run out and get a copy.  It's a great day to indulge in subterfuge.  


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