The motive of my essay is to bring to light noticeable Marxist ideas that present itself in the novel ‘Silas Marner’ by George Eliot.In the story,Silas Marner is a linen-weaver who is exiled from his home town called ‘Lantern Yard’ on the false charge of stealing.He then comes into this new town of Raveloe and starts his linen work which earns him money in gold and from here begins his obsession with money to the height of madness.
Having faced treachery from his closest friend William Dane he loses faith in people and religion :”he invited no-comer to step across his door sill and he never strolled into the village to drink a pint at the Rainbow or to gossip at the Wheelwrights.” It is therefore desertion and distrust which invokes his excessive addiction to his gold guinea’s.On his arrival at Raveloe,he spends all his time,solely working on his loom,day and night,he loses his appetite,his interest in happily interacting with people and going to church.Eliot describes the way Silas works on his loom as similar to Marx’s description of ‘a man becoming nothing more than a machine in the labour unit’,Eliot writes:”strangely Marner’s face and figure shrank and bent themselves into a constant mechanical relation to the objects of his life,so that he produced the same sort of impression as a handle or a crooked tube,which has no meaning standing apart.” this excerpt from the novel strives to establish Silas in a image which shows him as a result of a dehumanized product of commodification.Karl Marx’s ‘commodification of labour’ is clearly reflected when we see Silas’s blind devotion towards his money.Another marxist idea that our life circles around our work,Eliot writes that Silas’s life was reduced to only storing his money without any scrutinized view of and end to which the functions tended.
Silas serves as indicator for industrialization for Raveloe.According to Marx,industrialization creates a deprived labour . Silas is shown to be Identically detached , he is reduced to the position of a mere machine,he has aged too quickly, his body has shrunken and he resembles so much of himself to this loom “a handle or a crooked tube, which has no meaning standing apart.”
We absorb that Silas’s eyesight has been weakened by his persistent work.he is short-stighted and what really flickers in his eyes the most is the gold he has,which tells us how narrow and materialistic his life has become.We are told how he desperately counted his money every night “their form and color were like the satisfaction of a thirst to him”.Moreover he starts to consider his gold almost like a living thing,when his work was done he would draw the gold out and enjoy their companionship. Further,to keep his bags of gold intact forever,he drew less and less money from them for his own personal needs,trying to solve the problem of keeping himself strong enough to work sixteen hours a day on as a small as outlay as possible.
Eliot reflects industrialization when she brings in the symbol of spider in her novel,she writes”he seemed to weave,like the spider,from pure impulse,without reflection”.during that time almost all work was done on machines.this machine work was called “alienated” or “estranged” labor by Marx.Eliot considered this insect like labour as brutal and discouraging.
Eliot presents us with characters whose lives circle around their obsession with social class and a strong desire to maintain their hold on money and social standing no matter what. Godfrey Cass the son of Squire Cass is a good example of Marx’s notion that our social class prescribe how we view other people. Godfrey knows that he should confess to his father about his secret marriage to Molly Farren and also that he should claim his baby he has with Molly and raise it but he is afraid that the truth would mean his losing out on inheritance,he would have to lose Nancy Lammeter’s hand in marriage,a rich lady who he is in love with,the confession would mean breaking every tie but the one that degraded him,that is,his marriage with Molly. Godfrey could imagine no future for himself on the other side of confession moreover he would lose his respect in the eyes of respectable families. Godfrey would rather trust the casualties with the sword hanging over him and terror in his heart (that is,of his brother Dunstan blackmailing him into telling the truth about his secret marriage to their father).
another Marxist idea that class system contaminate our view and action on equality.Molly strives to tell the truth of her marriage to Godfrey to Godfrey’s father when he tells her that ‘he would rather die then accept her as his lawful wife.Molly is poverty-stricken and has an addiction to opium therefore she is seen as disreputable or unworthy of any good.moreover,Godfrey’s fear of losing out on inheritance and losing respect in aristocratic circles forces him to deny his child Eppie as his daughter.His inattentive and neglectful nature towards his child is shown when Silas Marner comes with Eppie his his arms to report the death of Molly and Godfrey recalls having not seen the child for months past.
another Marxist idea that showcases itself is at the end of the novel when Godfrey tries to claim his daughter away from Silas who has been like a father to Eppie for these sixteen years,Godfrey boasts about his economic wealth and high social status he says:”you’d like to see her taken care of by those who can leave her well-off and make a lady of her”.from this Godfrey is hinting on the fact that how Eppie could be happy if she was bought up with riches,basically in a life of luxury,which brings us back to the Marxist idea that our happiness revolves around materialistic things.
Silas Marner by George Eliot has been seen by many as a realist novel and containing elements of fairy-tale but another view from which this novel can be looked at is from a Marxist approach,since Marx’s writings came right before Eliot,his ideas must have influenced her.All the points mentioned above suggest strongly how Marx’s idea’s of money,economic status and social class are bought about in the novel through the main characters that is,Silas Marner and Godfrey Cass.
Eliot, George. ‘Silas Marner’. 1861
Marx, Karl. “Wage,Labor and Capital.” 1998
Submitted by:SANJANA YADAV