Silas Marner, the eponymous hero of George Eliot’s novel, is too good for the ordinary human society. He has a childlike trust in both man and God. He loses that trust, both in man and God, when he is falsely accused of theft. He leaves the place and settles down in a richer place where he lives a very lonely life. People view him with fear and suspicion; fear because they believe that he has some magical powers since he cured someone’s illness that was considered incurable. They do not believe him when he says he has no magical powers.
Marner is a good weaver and the profession brings him a lot of money. His single obsession and source of joy becomes the gold and silver coins he amasses over the years. But one day his fabulous wealth is stolen. Marner is faced with a terrible sense of emptiness within. His present situation elicits some sympathy from the people.
Marner’s life undergoes a radical change when a three year-old child walks into his house one day. The child’s mother had died in the snow outside. The child becomes Marner’s new wealth. He gives his entire love to her whom he christens Eppie after his own mother. She grows up into a very loving human being. She is a personification of goodness. And she marries another personification of goodness, Aaron. The three personifications of goodness – Silas, Eppie and Aaron– live together happily ever after.
Yes, Silas Marner is a fable more than a novel. It is a fable about goodness and innocence. Such goodness and innocence is too fragile for the world of real human beings. Hence Marner is destined to live apart from the world of real human beings. He may have gained some human company in the form of his daughter and later his son-in-law. But such angelic existence is possible only in fables and fairy tales.
Marner’s loneliness is the loneliness of any human being who refuses to accept the inevitable evil in human nature. When Marner finds solace in his increasing heap of gold coins, he is merely escaping from human wickedness even as certain drug addicts and alcoholics do. Marner’s love for gold is merely the addiction of an escapist. When that addiction is stolen from him, he is a desolate man. But all the goodness he wanted comes back to him in the form of the little, charming Eppie who grows up as the epitome of human goodness.