Silas Marner

I have a list on my computer of all of the books I’ve read this year.

Aside from giving me the satisfaction of reading through the titles, (it’s weird, I know) it has also made me realize what an odd mixture of books I read. Everything from children’s fiction to adult novels, biographies to classics, and YA to Greek myth can be found on that list, some of them obscure, some more well known.

One of those titles is Silas Marner.

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I liked this book straight from the beginning. I’ve read quite a few classics in the last few years, some as large as Les Miserables, some quite a bit smaller. (Beowulf, for example.) However many I’ve read, I think Silas Marner would be among my favorites.

(Fun fact: how many of you knew that George Elliot was actually a women? Be honest.)

Anyway, something in this story struck a chord in me. Silas Marner, a stingy, lonely old man, is viewed as something of an oddity in the small village where he lives. He’s a weaver by trade, and, as the book explains, weavers are all a little odd. The only ray of light in his dull existence is his gold, which he obsesses over. Every night, when his work is finished, his candle lit, and his door closed to the darkness gathering in the hamlet outside, he takes it out of its hiding place, sits at the table, and counts it. Over and over again. Admiring the way the coins catch the light, the color of the gold, the weight in his hands. It becomes his whole life, consumes his existence.

Until one day, the gold disappears.

After an initial panic, and a search for a thief who has left no trace, Silas is forced to resign himself to the fact that his gold—and the only happiness he had in his lonely life—is gone. He retreats into himself, mourning the loss of his treasure, until, one snowy night, a child appears on his doorstep.

A child with a dead mother and an absent father. A girl with hair as gold as the coins he lost.

Little Eppie.

To the surprise of the villagers and the local squire, Silas instantly volunteers to take Eppie in and raise her. What follows is a complete transformation, as a man who had cut himself off from the world and sworn off of friendship discovers the joy of loving another human being. The pale, self-consuming light he thought he lost when his gold was stolen is engulfed by the very real pleasure that only a child can bring into a home. Eppie’s presence in his home brings him out of his shell, away from his loom, and into the company of those people he so avidly avoided for twenty years. And, it eventually leads him back to a faith he was sure he’d lost.

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This book painted a beautiful picture of the need of the human heart for love and companionship, and the joy of simply sharing a moment with another soul. I found it to be a profoundly moving, brilliantly written book with a message that all of us need to hear from time to time.

To put it plainly, we need each other.

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