Silas Marner Ending Analysis Essay

Summary: Chapter 19

Eppie and Silas sit in their cottage later that evening. Silas has sent Dolly and Aaron Winthrop away, desiring solitude with his daughter after the excitement of the afternoon’s discovery. Silas muses about the return of his money and reconsiders the events that have passed since he lost it. He tells Eppie how he initially hoped she might somehow turn back into the gold, but later grew fearful of that that prospect because he loved her more than the money. Silas tells Eppie how much he loves her, and says the money has simply been “kept till it was wanted for you.” She responds that if not for Silas, she would have been sent to the workhouse.

Someone knocks at the door, and Eppie opens it to find Godfrey and Nancy Cass. Godfrey tells Silas that he wants to make up to Silas not only for what Dunsey did, but also for another debt he owes to the weaver. Godfrey tells Silas that the money is not enough for him to live on without continuing to work. Silas, however, argues that though it might seem like a very small sum to a gentleman, it is more money than many other working people have. Godfrey says that Eppie does not look like she was born for a working life and that she would do better living in a place like his home. Silas becomes uneasy.

Godfrey explains that since they have no children, they would like Eppie to come live with them as their daughter. He assumes that Silas would like to see Eppie in such an advantageous position, and promises that Silas will be provided for himself. Eppie sees that Silas is distressed, though Silas tells her to do as she chooses. Eppie tells Godfrey and Nancy that she does not want to leave her father, nor does she want to become a lady.

Godfrey insists that he has a claim on Eppie and confesses that he is her father. Silas angrily retorts that, if this is the case, Godfrey should have claimed Eppie when she was a baby instead of waiting until Silas and Eppie had grown to love each other. Not expecting this resistance, Godfrey tells Silas that he is standing in the way of Eppie’s welfare. Silas says that he will not argue anymore and leaves the decision up to Eppie. As she listens, Nancy cannot help but sympathize with Silas and Eppie, but feels that it is only right that Eppie claim her birthright. Nancy feels that Eppie’s new life would be an unquestionably better one. Eppie, however, says that she would rather stay with Silas. Nancy tells her that it is her duty to go to her real father’s house, but Eppie responds that Silas is her real father. Godfrey, greatly discouraged, turns to leave, and Nancy says they will return another day.

Summary: Chapter 20

Godfrey and Nancy return home and realize that Eppie’s decision is final. Godfrey concedes that what Silas has said is right, and he resigns himself simply to helping Eppie from afar. Godfrey and Nancy surmise that Eppie will marry Aaron, and Godfrey wistfully comments on how pretty and nice Eppie seemed. He says he noticed that Eppie took a dislike to him when he confessed that he was her father, and he decides that it must be his punishment in life to be disliked by his daughter. Godfrey tells Nancy that he is grateful, despite everything, to have been able to marry her, and vows to be satisfied with their marriage.

Summary: Chapter 21

The next morning Silas tells Eppie that he wants to make a trip to his old home, Lantern Yard, to clear up his lingering questions about the theft and the drawing of the lots. After a few days’ journey, they find the old manufacturing town much changed and walk through it looking for the old chapel. The town is frightening and alien to them, with high buildings and narrow, dirty alleys. They finally reach the spot where the chapel used to be, and it is gone, having been replaced by a large factory. No one in the area knows what happened to the former residents of Lantern Yard. Silas realizes that Raveloe is his only home now, and upon his return tells Dolly that he will never know the answers to his questions. Dolly responds that it does not matter if his questions remain unanswered because that does not change the fact that he was in the right all along. Silas agrees, saying that he does not mind because he has Eppie now, and that gives him faith.

Take the Part II, Chapters 19–21, Conclusion Quick Quiz


Silas Marner ends with a wedding, a curiously optimistic send-off for a novel that has led its protagonist Silas (and its secondary protagonist Godfrey) through one misfortune after another. The pat ending—Eppie sighing delightedly that "nobody could be happier than we are"—should satisfy even the pickiest romantic.

But—just before the wedding, Eppie and Silas head off to the big city to discover what's become of Silas's old community and to try to ferret out the truth of what went on when Silas was accused of theft. But Lantern-Yard is gone, and in its place is a factory. Nothing remains of Silas's old community, no one has any information, and Silas never does get closure. That dull spot on the otherwise shiny ending is just one clue that Eliot drops for us to follow to a darker conclusion.

As Godfrey reminds Silas, he's not able to make as much money as he used to, because the same kind of factories that have replaced Lantern-Yard are going to start replacing the Silases of England. Industrialization is coming, and the pastoral idyll that Eliot depicts will become nothing more than a story—one that sounds very similar to the Merry (or "Merrie") England myth that depicts pre-Industrial England as a pastoral utopia that existed before industrialization.

So, you could just accept the pretty cottage at face value as a happy ending. There's definitely evidence in the text to support that reading. But we can't shake the feeling that Eliot wouldn't end a book that way. Literary critics (and mathematicians) say that something is "overdetermined" when you get the same result from doing something in more than one way. In less precise terms, something is "overdetermined" when it's just a little too obvious. What we're suggesting is that this ending is overdetermined: it's just a little too obvious to be believed.

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