This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at character in Silas Marner by George Eliot.
George Eliot’s novel, Silas Marner, is populated by a handful of key characters and an entire village of minor characters. The main characters are Silas, the weaver, land-owners Godfrey and Dunstan Cass, Nancy Lammeter, Eppie, Dolly and Aaron Winthrop. Other characters appear only briefly, but are highly significant to the plot. These include Eppie’s mother, Molly Farren, Squire Cass, and William Dane, Silas’s best friend before his relocation to Raveloe. Local characters include the doctor, farrier and inn-keeper, among others.
Silas Marner, bewildered by his unexpected ill-treatment by his non-conformist religious community, uproots himself from town and moves to Raveloe. There his solitary habits prevent the neighbours from becoming close to him until further misfortune and the seemingly-miraculous arrival of Eppie inspire their natural kindness. Unlearning his mistrust of others, Silas moves from his life of solitude to become fully part of village life.
Paying attention to speech and action, in addition to narratorial description, helps the reader to develop an understanding of character. In Silas Marner, the omniscient third-person narrator often tells the reader exactly what to think of a character and these observations tend to align with that character’s speech and action. We are told directly how characters feel, what they think and what they plan to do. In many ways this technique makes many of the characters less knowable and more capable of being representative types. Does Eppie merely represent a type, the innocent and dutiful daughter, in the same way that Squire Cass is a typical gruff local landowner? Is Dolly just a recognisable kindly village gossip? These qualities in the novel lend it the air of a fairy tale, marking it at the same time as a didactic tale which aims above all to teach an important moral lesson.
Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in Silas Marner.