Silas Marner Summary and Analysis
by George Eliot
Part Two, Chapter 21 and Conclusion
The next morning, having dodged Godfrey's challenge to Eppie, Marner tells his daughter about a plan he has been hatching for some time: to return to Lantern Yard for a visit with Mr. Paston, the minister of his old faith. Marner wants to know whether anything turned up in the years since he left Lantern Yard to prove his innocence in the theft of the deacon's money. He also wants to discuss with Mr. Paston, whom he still holds to be a wise and learned man, the differences between the religion of his native land and that of Raveloe.
They leave the next morning. Four days later they arrive at a manufacturing town to the north in which Lantern Yard must be located. Marner navigates his way through the sooty, unfamiliar streets from the prison, which is recognizable. When Marner finds the spot where Lantern Yard once stood he is horrified: a massive factory building stands in his old community's stead. Marner turns to Eppie and says, "It's gone, child." He and Eppie spend the rest of their visit asking around town whether anyone remembers the days before the factory went up, but no one can tell him of Mr. Paston or any of the old congregation at Lantern Yard.
Back in Raveloe, Marner tells Dolly that he will never get at the truth about the robbery and the drawing of the lots that found him guilty. Dolly says that though he will never know the "rights" of what befell him at Lantern Yard, there still may be a right explanation. Marner agrees that though he will never know the truth, he has been given enough hope through his relationship with Eppie to accept his ignorance about the fate of Lantern Yard.
Summer is in the air at Raveloe, and Eppie is getting married at the Red House. She wears a pure white dress of light cotton with a tiny pink sprig provided by Nancy Cass. Most of Raveloe is in attendance, including Miss Priscilla and the old Mr. Cass, who have come to keep Nancy company. Godfrey, however, was called to Lytherly on business and became unable attend the wedding or the feast (which he had paid for) to be held afterwards at the Rainbow.
After the wedding, the guests make their way into the humbler part of the village. As the procession passes, old Mr. Macey says, "I've lived to see my words come true." He explains that he was the first to say that there was no harm in Marner, and that he was the first to say Marner would get his money back someday. Indeed, Mr. Macey has proved a sage.
During the party in front of the Rainbow, the guests discuss Marner's strange history, the good turn he did for a lone motherless child, and the blessing that he was given because of his goodness. They all wish him joy and good luck, which they know he well deserves.
Marner, Eppie, Aaron and Mrs. Winthrop, meanwhile, have decided to visit the cottage at the stone-pits before continuing on to the feast. They admire the new garden-now much larger than Eppie had hoped, and installed at the expense of Mr. Cass, their new landlord. Eppie says the last words of the book: "Oh father, what a pretty home ours is! I think nobody could be happier than we are."
The very complicated final chapter of the book, the last numbered chapter, puts into play some of the most ambiguous themes in Eliot's novel. It is almost a short fable of its own, describing the journey of a man and his daughter to the land of his birth, only to find that his history has vanished, having been swallowed into the greater history of his country. The fable memorializes the turn from rural England to industrialized England.
Marner's journey is a religious pilgrimage. He, like Eliot, realizes that there is still a loose thread in this otherwise tight and completed tapestry; what has happened to Lantern Yard? Poetic justice requires that we know how the Puritan society turned out. Marner needs to know whether his innocence, just as Dunstan's crime and Godfrey's marriage, also have come to light. His decision, coming directly after those major revelations, places the journey within the work's ending pattern of closure.
The unnamed "manufacturing town" that has arisen around Lantern Yard is truly unlike anything else in the novel. Even the earlier depictions of "darkness"-including the stone-pits, Molly Farren's opium bottle, and so on-are always rural, befitting the fairy-tale tone of the story. The factory town, on the other hand, is the antithesis of the setting so far. It shows us human life gone wrong-of people mechanized instead of nurtured. Eliot gleaned much of her aesthetic philosophy from the poet William Wordsworth (whose verse appears as the novel's epigraph and is alluded to throughout the work). Like him, she sees the coming of factories to England as an indication of the death of the old, beautiful rhythms of life-of sadness and redemption, of hope and despair, and of the cultural patterns that follow the seasons.
Eppie, naturally, finds the factory town horrific. It reminds her, first of all, of the future she nearly missed of being raised in the workhouse. And the factory town in general is the opposite of Eppie, being dark and bleak whereas she is light and joyful. It is bereft of natural growth, while she is the embodiment of natural humanity.
Thus, this chapter tends to evoke the mystery of the unknown in the form of the manufacturing town. It encourages the faithful to trust by the natural light they are given. Lantern Yard, despite its name, is not Marner's light. Nor are the city lights his. Eppie is his lamp. That means that Marner will reckon the questions of his past by means of the love and meaning he has developed with Eppie. Their lives are woven together, and their happiness fortifies Marner's trust in an unknown but ultimately just power that is greater than himself.
Eliot manages the tone of the conclusion to portray the outcome of the strange events at Raveloe. Eppie's "very light" wedding dress accentuates her role as a bringer of hope-not just for Marner but for the community at large. The Lammeters and the Casses, though they play host to the happy occasion, do not partake in it themselves except as witnesses. Their day has come and gone, at least in terms of regeneration.
This final section shows us, at last, the garden that Eppie requested at the beginning of Part Two. The garden certainly represents the life, regeneration and spirit of nature that seems to be affirmed in the novel despite the ills of the world it also presents. Gardens express people's organic nature and development, and this garden underlines Eppie's own association with generation and growth. This connection is noted again with the tiny pink sprig on her wedding dress.
The only one not in attendance in the conclusion is Godfrey Cass, though it is through his generosity that the feast has been provided, that the wedding has taken place at the Red House, and that Marner's cottage has been fitted with such a charming garden. There can be no doubt that Cass's absence was scheduled intentionally, and his choice to be absent bespeaks his many remaining regrets. Money and property are his only legacy, whereas Marner's legacy involves these kinds of things and much more: a daughter associated with growth, youth and hope.
Silas Marner Essays and Related Content
- Silas Marner: Major Themes
- Silas Marner: Essays
- Silas Marner: E-Text
- Silas Marner: Questions
- Silas Marner: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- George Eliot: Biography
- Silas Marner Summary
- About Silas Marner
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 1-2
- Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 3-5
- Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 6-8
- Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 9-11
- Summary and Analysis of Part One, Chapters 12-15
- Summary and Analysis of Part Two, Chapters 16-17
- Summary and Analysis of Part Two, Chapters 18-20
- Summary and Analysis of Part Two, Chapter 21 and Conclusion
- Places in Silas Marner
- Related Links on Silas Marner
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources