This much revered classic was written by George Eliot (Marian Evans) (1819-1880), a Brit, joins Dickens, Flaubert, Hardy, among the most respected Victorian novelists. Like Emily Bronte (nee Ellis Bill) and many others, she used a male nom de plum to get her work published. Her books, from the immensely popular Adam Bede to Looking Backwards to Marner, exposed the plight of social outsiders and small-town persecution. No author since Jane Austin and Thomas Hardy spoke so masterfully about social causes of the day. She was raised on a farm in a devoutly religious (Anglican Church) family, but her studies of philosophy and later associations with Herbert Spencer, Emerson and others, led her to view the Bible as allegorical and instructive mythology.
Silas Marner had been exiled from a religious community and, after moving to a new area, Ravaloe, was socially persecuted for a crime that he did not commit – which leads Marner/Eliot to proclaim that “There is no just God that governs the earth righteously, but a God of lies, who bears witness against the innocent.” Marner lived alone, a veritable outcast, who worked night and day, amassing a fortune in gold, which was stolen. While bordering on suicide, a beautiful blond orphan, Eppie, falls into his care. His love for Eppie supplants his loss of gold; indeed, her golden hair becomes the living symbol of his real fortune and the value of the human relationship outweighing that of the gold.
While the prose doesn’t rise to the level of Dickens, or even Hardy, it is well done; the characters are palpably real, the plot intriguing, the anti-class theme meritorious, all more than justifying its place among the classics and must-reads for adventurous readers.