This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at understanding the text in Silas Marner by George Eliot. It is not always easy to understand a text. After all, if authors had a simple message to convey, it would not take them hundreds of pages and thousands of words in which to do so! Difficulty can be compounded when you are reading a text written a long time ago, as in the case of Silas Marner. The English language changes quickly and sometimes it takes a bit of practise to get used to how authors wrote in the past.
Authors convey meaning through using a variety of methods. They very rarely state what they mean directly. Instead, character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue offer authors a means to communicate with the reader.
Pay close attention to each of these elements and try to understand the text as you read. Sometimes you might realise that certain sections will benefit from re-reading, especially if a later turn of events shows that you might have missed something. Don’t worry! This happens to everyone and just proves that you are paying attention!
Comprehension works on several levels simultaneously. Consider how context and setting relate to events. Ponder the way in which events relate to each other. Creating a timeline of events can be one very useful method for understanding a text. Don’t forget that events are not always revealed in the order in which they occur chronologically. Creating chapter summaries can be helpful in order to visualise the structure of the text, especially when that differs from the chronological timeline.
Think about the way in which characters’ motivations are revealed by their actions. Are there any clues in the text to explain their behaviour? Should readers understand their words at face value, or should the subtext of those words be examined more closely? Does the speech of a character always match his or her actions and beliefs? Try to answer why or why not, justifying your views by referring in detail to the text.
One extremely useful activity is to analyse beginnings and endings. Can you think of any reason the text begins as it does? How do you come to find out about the past? Is there any distance between the narrator and the time when reported events took place? Any foreshadowing of future events? How? Analyse individual chapters in the same way, by considering the significance of their beginnings and endings. By undertaking detailed analysis of this sort, you will really improve your comprehension of the text!
Read the questions below on George Eliot's Silas Marner and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.