Silas Marner

English Pre 1914 Prose Coursework

Examine chapter 12 of Silas Marner. How significant are the events of this chapter in the novel as a whole?

          Silas Marner, the novel written by George Eliot, takes place in rural England during the early 19th century. The events that take place in Chapter 12 make for a big turning point in the novel. It opens with Molly Farren on her way to the Red House with her child. She is determined to reveal Godfrey’s secret to his family but unfortunately is overcome by her need for her ‘demon drug’, opium, and collapses in the snow, surprisingly not far from Silas’ cottage. This is an example of one of the coincidences for which George Elliot is known for, as well as how Eppie manages to enter Silas’ cottage. However coincidental they are, both of these events are needed for the progression of the story. Silas finds the child lying before his fire like a heap of gold and, after taking care of the mysterious child’s needs, retraces her footsteps to discover the now dead Molly.

          Chapter 12 starts with Molly Farren and her child, who will later be christened as Eppie, stumbling through the snow on a cold New Year’s Eve towards the party at the Red House so she can reveal herself to the Squire as Godfrey’s wife and gain her revenge. By this, Eliot creates a very tense and suspenseful atmosphere and also a sense of urgency as Molly is very weak and a drug addict and we know that there’s only a short amount of time before she feels the need to take more of her drug. We see the theme of poverty explored through Molly; she had not always lived in the slums, it was her addiction to the drug, opium, “to who she was enslaved, body and soul” which has forced her into poverty. This is proven when she talks of her dingy rags and faded face, “once as handsome as the best”. The collapse of Molly so close to Silas’ cottage is the cause of a great deal of criticism for how coincidental it is, although it is a necessary advancement...