This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at language in Silas Marner by George Eliot. Silas Marner resembles a fairy tale in many ways. This resemblance is often most apparent in its language. Eliot’s language choices often emphasise semi-magical aspects to the story, especially in its opening and also around Eppie’s appearance on Silas's hearth. Language is also used here to create an air of timelessness in a way that implies that the lessons of this tale can be suspended from particular times and locations in order to be applied more universally. Dialogue, rather than description, seems to root the tale into its particular setting in Raveloe. Pay close attention, therefore, to distinctions between the language the narrator uses and that employed by the characters.
While layout, font and any illustrations, as well as any other visual elements, certainly have an effect on our understanding and interpretation of a text, language is the primary medium through which its meaning is conveyed. Without language, written texts, by definition, could not exist.
Authors choose the language that they use with great care. Each word has its literal meaning; beyond that lies a weight of symbolic meanings and other associations. Literary effects are conveyed through the use of imagery, such as metaphor, simile and personification. All of these effects are accomplished through words alone. An author’s skilful use of language creates dialogue, setting and characterisation.
Paying close attention to language choices in a text is never a waste of time; your effort will be rewarded with deeper understanding. Linger over words in order to go beyond the surface meaning. Ask yourself what the language might be suggesting subliminally. Remember that the author has put great care into choosing the language and that you should also consider it with care. This practice will help you to decipher the text’s deeper meanings.
Answer the questions on George Eliot's Silas Marner below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect our interpretation of a text.