Silas Marner

discuss the theme of betrayal in silas marner

chapters 1 to 9

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Marner's betrayal at the hand of his best friend recalls the Biblical story of David and Bathsheba. In II Samuel, King David is so enamored of Bathsheba that he causes her husband, Uriah, to fight on the front lines of battle in a hopeless cause. When Uriah is killed as expected, David takes Bathsheba as one of his wives. Similarly, William sets Marner up for his expulsion from the church in order to marry his friend's betrothed, Sarah. Eliot invites this comparison explicitly by comparing the friendship of Silas and William to that of "David and Jonathan." (In the first book of Samuel, Jonathan is an intensely, perhaps blindly devoted friend of David.)

The biblical story of Cain and Abel also parallels the betrayal in that the more righteous brother, Abel, is betrayed by Cain. Marner interprets William's first act of two-facedness toward him as merely an execution of William's "brotherly office." Brothers tend to fight for the patrimony. In the novel, however, Silas Marner (figured as Abel) survives and is the one who goes into exile, not the betrayer William. Marner is the one who becomes an outsider, one of the "remnants of a disinherited race." This upending of the traditional story suggests the injustice of Lantern Yard, where the innocent are banished and the guilty thrive.