The Profession of Silas Marner: Weaver or Nothing
Whether it be a businessman or a chef, writer or teacher, one’s profession often reveals insight into a person and immediately creates a stereotype for an individual. While some jobs hold prestigious standing in societal stereotypes, others may wrongly detract from someone’s image on a basis in no way connected to the real person. In George Eliot’s novel Silas Marner, the namesake character holds the profession of weaver, which holds a sort of mystery to others. The ideas of what a weaver is like and how weaving is intermixed throughout literature and one’s own life story are prevalent themes throughout the novel. Thus, the importance of Eliot’s choosing Silas to be a weaver instead of another profession reveals complex, hidden undertones. While much of Silas Marner’s life is mystery to the residents of Raveloe, he remains a common topic of discussion and lore due to his line of work as a weaver.
The life of a weaver, full of travel and isolation, was often accompanied by lore created by the people of the town said weaver was currently residing in. Such a reaction is detailed in describing that “the shepherd dog barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men appeared…the shepherd himself, though he had good reason to believe that the bag held nothing but flaxen thread, was not quite sure that this trade of weaving, indispensable though it was, could be carried on entirely without the help of the Evil One” (Eliot 1). Weavers were viewed as aliens no matter what town they were in. Despite near certainty that they were simply carrying material for their important job in society, men such as Silas Marner were still viewed as outcasts and friends of the Evil One. Silas was an outcast from the time he first wove, thus forcing him into isolation he would likely never escape from. Herein lies the importance of Eliot creating Silas as a weaver, he undoubtedly becomes an outcast no matter his character. Silas Marner isn’t Silas Marner and cannot fulfill his story without beginning in isolation, surrounded by skepticism.
Silas could hold any number of professions that incur stereotypes upon him, but the importance of weaving lies in the social undertones of isolation and societal rejection. However, Silas being a weaver is not an irrelevant fact, it becomes his entire life to the point that “He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. Every man’s work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of life” (Eliot 14). Silas is not a man who weaves, his entire existence is found in his job, thus allowing him to completely fulfill his occupational title and its stereotype and advance his life story. While Silas Marner’s weaving is necessary to his life, his occupation also reveals the undertones of classical literature woven in throughout the novel. The Fates of Greek mythology controlled the metaphorical thread of life for every human from birth until death, the cutting of the thread. Fate often holds a negative connotation due to the sense of futility and weakness it brings to one’s life. Silas acknowledges that his own life is not his to control when he acknowledges “a cruel power that no hands could reach, which had delighted in making him a second time desolate…” (Eliot 42). Silas recognizes the hand of fate in his life, and also in doing so attributes a negative connotation to the word in his description of fate as cruel, unrestricted, and delighted in his pain.
The Fates use of thread to represent life is a subtle connection to Silas as a weaver. Thus, a connection is created which will aid in shaping Silas’ life, as fate has a great part in his life despite his own animosity towards fate. Eliot makes another reference to fate when he states “When we are treated well, we naturally begin to think that we are not altogether unmeritorious, and that it is only just we should treat ourselves well, and not mar our own good fortune” (Eliot 121). This adds to the idea that nobody controls their own life and that good fortune wrongly encourages reward. This is another allusion to fate and the Greek Fates controlling life. Thus, Silas being a weaver creates the connection between the idea of a single thread uncontrollable by human hands representing life, and idea Silas initially despises. The final way in which Silas Marner’s job is important to the central idea of the story is in how his seemingly rough life is united by multiple events that are eventually woven together to not only create his own life story but to unite him with Raveloe. These events are all catalysts for some change that will eventually shape who Silas becomes, but the events are all connected in that they stem from Silas’ job as a weaver. The community from which he was long an outcast ends as his welcoming home, a development brought about by a series of principal events.
The drawing of lots sends Silas to Raveloe and the the stolen gold takes away any semblance of happiness Silas had, but the single most important event in his life is Eppie coming to him. When defending his right to keep Eppie, Silas states that “When a man turns a blessing from his door, it falls to them as take it in” (Eliot 171). This is an acknowledgment on the part of Silas that Eppie is a blessing that came to him, a blessing that will ultimately change his life for the better. Yet again, Silas’ isolation as a weaver and fate have a great impact on his life in the form of bringing Eppie into his life, the single most life changing event he experiences. The circumstance of Eppie’s adoption eventually unites Silas with the community he was long excluded from. The culmination of Silas’ life is “the garden fenced with stones on two sides, but in front there was an open fence, through which the flowers shone with answering gladness, as the four united people came within sight of them. ‘Oh Father’ said Eppie. ‘what a pretty home ours is! I think nobody could be happier than we are.’” (Eliot 183). Both the traumatic and the happy events, all caused by a profession, woven together create the life of Silas Marner. Silas may be a weaver accosted by fate, but he is truly a blessed man who fate rewards in the end despite his former adversity.
Silas Marner is a living stereotype who experiences intense joy eventually due to a combination of fate and intertwined catalytic events. Life is a series of events leading to a single culmination, but the life of Silas Marner is special in that none of it would be possible if he simply had a different job. Silas is a weaver, but his life story is a woven masterpiece. A simple weaver, outcast by society, endures numerous hardships for which fate is blamed. However, every event is woven together by Eliot to create a life story worthy of celebration. There is literary importance to Silas’ profession as without it Silas Marner is simply another citizen of Raveloe.
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