The book, Silas Marner, written by George Eliott, was set in 1860. Therefore it is very different to what we are used to and is full of superstition and tradition. The community of Raveloe responds to Silas differently at separate key moments in the novel. The community, into which Silas entered, evolved form centuries of interdependence. The village people depend upon each other. The lower class villagers gather in the Rainbow Inn to have friendly gossip. They live in a close community and are wary of any newcomers.
Most of the villagers believe in doing the right thing, so when Silas explains about his gold being stolen they agree to help, even though he has not been the friendliest of people towards them. They generally try to keep the peace, and their distance from the unexplainable unless they show signs of goodness and kindness. The village community is proven to be dependent upon each other because the writer mentions that punishment for committing a crime in a village was to be “suspended from church-membership”.
This meant that he was cut off from the community. When someone is cut off from all the other villagers they were lonely and had to become independent. The Squire is portrayed as a greedy and idle character. He is idle; as he is “always the latest” at getting up to have breakfast. He is shown as lazy because his dress is “slovenly” and he showed marks of “habitual neglect”. The Squire is also portrayed as idle when he says to his son, “ring the bell for my ale” which suggests he is too lazy to fetch the ale himself or even to ring a bell.
The author describes the Squire’s life as “idle as his sons’,” The Squire thinks of himself as “the best” and never associates with gentry higher than himself, and so his opinion has remained undisturbed from when he was a young a boy. Between the upper and lower class villagers there is a small divide. They do not tend to mix with each other but all are invited to special events such as the New Years Eve Dance.
Some members of the upper class see themselves as superior, because others who were “every whit as refined as he,” but had “slouched” their way through life with a consciousness of being in the vanity of their “betters”, wanted that authoritiveness, which the squire had. Miss Gun also classifies herself as superior because she thinks of people from villages who with their hands as “ignorant” and “vulgar”. This shows that Miss Gun thinks she is more important than those who are not as well off as she is, because she does not work with her hands and because she comes from a town.
The villagers at Raveloe are superstitious and because of this the children because of his looks view Silas, as evil. He is thought to have an “evil eye” which could harm them if Silas looked at them. People in Raveloe are wary of the unexplainable for the very reason that they do not know about it. If it does not show goodness/kindness towards them, they fear it. For example, when Silas first arrived and no one knew him he was believed to be in league with the “devil”. They also thought of him as being a “dead man come to life again” when he went into one of his trances.
They thought it was his soul leaving his body for a while. Silas’s medical condition made the villagers even more wary of him; his knowledge of herbs and charms did not help either. When Silas “cured” a woman by the name of Sally Oates, from a heart condition the villagers thought it was worth “speaking fair” to him. They spoke politely to Silas to keep him from cursing them. Silas drove “one after another” of the villagers away when they asked him to cure them of their imperfections or colds.
Because of this the villagers who had an accident after applying to him “set the misfortune down to Master Marner’s ill-will and irritated glances”. This heightened the “repulsion” between Silas and his neighbours, which made him even more, isolated than before. The village community of Raveloe responds to the robbery by helping Silas. When he appeared in the Rainbow Inn, the villagers shared the “general alarm”. Silas accused Jem Rodney of the theft and was soon proven wrong when the villagers agree that Jem had been with them in the pub since before Silas left his house.
When the villagers agree to help Silas it shows that they believe in doing the right thing. By helping Silas, even though he refused to help them when they asked, they proved that they were kind. All the villagers try to find the culprit and Mr Snell remembers the visit of a pedlar who becomes the prime suspect. After the robbery Silas’s neighbours no longer think that he is evil and visit him with gifts while trying to cheer him up. People’s views of Silas begin to change because before the robbery they chose to avoid associating with him but now visit Silas, bearing gifts.
This is suggested in the sentence, “this change to a kindlier feeling was shown in various ways” people feel more sympathy for Silas now that they know he hasn’t even the wit to protect his own possessions. Mr Macey speaks to Silas in a jokey and abrasive way, which he uses when he speaks to his other neighbours in the Rainbow Inn. This shows that the villagers have now accepted Silas as one of them and therefore treat him in the same way as they would their friends. Mr Macey and Dolly Winthrop think Silas should join the community by attending church.
Mr Macey suggests this when he says, “you can come to church, and be a bit neighbourly”. Dolly then tries to persuade him to go to church on Sunday aswell. This proves that the villagers’s views have obviously changed because some of the villagers invite him to join in, in a community event such as going to church. The views of Silas Marner have changed from him being in league with the devil, before the robbery, to being just an average person who can be a little odd occasionally.
The villagers believe if he had been in league with the devil then he would have managed to keep hold of his money. When Silas finds Eppie and insists on keeping her, at the New Year’s Eve Dance, Silas is treated a little like a child himself at first. This is shown when the doctor and his wife, Mrs Kimble, question his decision to keep her. He could be considered being treated like a child in a way that he would be incapable to care for Eppie himself. Like a child is unable to care for a pet all by itself.
Silas, otherwise known as Master Marner, is gradually integrated into the community from this time, having spent 15 years being seen as an outsider, because the other villagers try to help him look after Eppie. Dolly lends him Aaron’s baby clothes, and Godfrey helps by giving some money to Silas, for Eppie. The villagers’ feelings are influenced in his favour by the fact Silas insists on keeping the child. Everyone’s experience of child rearing gives him or her links with Silas, so he is welcomed into the community through Eppie.
Silas begins to take part in the community by making conversation with the villagers and by taking their advice and getting Eppie christened. The village is so isolated from the rest of the World because in the 19th century very few people travelled or communicated with people outside of their community. Most people were not very well educated at this time and therefore knew little about health problems. They tried to explain things that they knew nothing about by saying it was something to do with the supernatural. Many people were superstitious and thought that this was the only reasonable explanation in the 19th century.