'Silas Marner' was published in 1861, when the whole of England had been undergoing many changes. In Eliot's opinion, these changes were definitely for the worse. Eliot herself was raised on a large country estate in Warwickshire.
She had also, however, visited a number of towns and industrialised areas as she travelled. This gave her a great personal experience that she could draw upon in her writing. As she herself had at one point shared the narrow-minded views of the people in Lantern Yard and North'ard, Eliot could understand their thoughts and perspectives perhaps better than someone who had never experienced their way of life.Eliot first introduces Raveloe, which lies in the 'rich central plain of Merry England,' on the very first page of the novel. She describes it as 'rich,' in reference to the wholesomeness of Raveloe, and to the prosperous, healthy lives the people there live. The village is untouched by industrialisation; 'old echoes lingered undrowned by new voices,' showing how traditional, old and established this place is.
Eliot describes the village as full of 'pink-faced, brawny men' indicating how strong, hard-working and healthy they are. The people in Raveloe are homely, simple and unassuming but are a very close knit community.They are wary of newcomers, and tend to exclude them from their daily life. They rely on each other frequently, as is demonstrated after the theft of Silas' money. Even though Silas is not a particularly active or indeed popular member of the community, when he loses all his money, although at...
first they don't believe him, the people of Raveloe are willing to try to help rectify the situation.
They calm Silas down; 'Come, come Master Marner,' and 'Let's have no more shouting and screaming,' so he is reassured he will get help in reclaiming his money. Raveloe villagers live in a clear order and social hierarchy, based on their backgrounds.There are many descendants of very old, long established families there, who are often the wealthier villagers. The people in Raveloe also judge others on who their family members are/were. George Eliot uses many colours when describing Raveloe, e. g.
the Rainbow Pub, the Red House. The name of the pub may be related to how different people mix together there whilst socialising and drinking. It is very vibrant and animated, with a lively atmosphere. The Rainbow is also, however, divided : signifying that people are still treated as though they are superior to others if they have wealth.The parlour on the left being reserved for more select society' i.
e. people such as Squire Cass. The church in Raveloe is very much viewed as the centre of the village. The people are not dogmatically religious : they visit church only on special occasions, but still see the church as a very important and prominent part of their community.
The church itself is described as a 'fine old church with a large graveyard in the heart of it. ' The word 'heart' represents how people see the church in Raveloe as a whole: very important, it keeps the village alive, gives it character.Overall, Raveloe appears t
be 'snug' and cosy, an idyllic place with no flaws everyone would like to live. However, Raveloe and it's villagers are not idealised by Eliot. She understands it is not perfect, and portrays this in her writing.
Families like the Casses of Raveloe may seem like they have everything, but they have deep, dark secrets we learn more about through the course of the novel. This adds realism to Raveloe, so we can empathise with the people and not feel it is a fairytale place that doesn't exist.The family lives in the Red House, which is significant as whilst it is a rich colour showing their opulent and affluent lifestyle, it could also be seen as a colour of danger, a warning. In Chapter 6 we learn more about the villagers, their superstitions and weaknesses, so they too are seen as real, which makes the story more interesting and makes us take Raveloe seriously. However, despite these clear flaws, Eliot still shows an obvious preference for the 'snug, well-wooded hollow' of traditional Raveloe, to the grim industrialisation of Lantern Yard and North'ard.Before his move to Raveloe, we learn Silas Marner lived in a place called Lantern Yard.
He could not have picked another two places that were so different. Lantern Yard was very isolated and introverted, even in their so called 'community' there was still betrayal of trust and lies. Although in their 'brethren' they refer to each other as 'brother' and 'sister' there is no real sense of concern or care for each other. The focus is very much on individuality in Lantern Yard, you are on your own, although you are still not seen as an individual person in your own right.Whereas the people of Raveloe pulled together to help each other in a crisis, in Lantern Yard you would be abandoned. The people there are antagonistic, competitive and unwilling to come to the aid if others.
This is evident in William Dane's framing of Silas Marner. The people in Lantern Yard reflect the town as a whole; 'narrow, slanting eyes' refer to the narrow-mindedness and feeling of restraint, containment we as the reader receive from Lantern Yard. The church in Lantern Yard is very different to that of the church in Raveloe.In Raveloe we imagine it to be warm and welcoming, colourful, yet in Lantern Yard it is remote and spiritless. It has no character, with 'narrow pews' and 'white washed walls' that give the place a cold, sterile atmosphere and is a reinforcement of enclosure.
The key phrase perhaps in the whole novel is when Silas turns to Eppie and states 'Things will change... things won't go on for a long while just as they are and no difference.
' This is George Eliot's acknowledgement that industrialisation is taking place all over England and that it will eventually reach places like Raveloe and change them too.Marner's return to Lantern Yard much later in the novel (thirty years later in Silas' life) shows how much things have changed. On their way to Lantern Yard, Silas and his adopted daughter, Eppie, pass through North'ard - an industrialised town.
Eppie makes several negative comments about North'ard such as 'oh, what a dark, ugly place! ' She is probably referring to the unsightly factories that she was completely unaware existed.
Eppie grew up in Raveloe, so North'ard would seem very odd and probably very confining.Silas himself makes disparaging comments about North'ard, for example stating it 'smells bad,' as if he is wondering why he used to live there. The people in North'ard have no time for each other. They are all seemingly in a great hurry, they can't stop for anyone.
Names like 'Prison Street' are significant as they enhance the feeling of containment and limitations. Eppie says how 'stifling' she finds this place, she is already sensing the confinement and restrictions of North'ard although she hadn't been there long at all.Eliot is showing that once you have lived in a place like Raveloe, with it's 'orchards looking lazy' and 'beautiful plains' you start to realise how grim places like Lantern Yard and North'ard are. Personal experience could also have helped Eliot here as she grew up on a farm in the countryside and then visited many towns, so she could understand Eppie's point of view. After traipsing through North'ard, Silas and Eppie find Lantern Yard no longer exists - it has been replaced by a factory.
This is significant as it shows how much has changed and what will eventually happen to all of England.It shows that if Lantern Yard has been destroyed, how long will Raveloe stay like it is? As you read Silas Marner you can see how, throughout the novel, Eliot portrays her disapproval of industrialisation. She uses the contrast between the two places Silas has lived in to help us understand, appreciate and develop this dislike of the overpowering sense of darkness and ugliness that comes with the destruction of villages like Raveloe. Eliot sees these changes as inevitable, but would like to preserve the individuality they have in the countryside.
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