Having to read Silas Marner in eleventh grade almost ruined it for me. I didn’t recognize what a gem it is. Actually, I may not have finished it. Fortunately, I decided to give it a second chance and it is now one of my very favorite books. If you are looking for a classic book, which is very readable, and on the short side, and is one of the most endearing stories imaginable, look no further.
Silas Marner is the quintessence of the miser. Betrayed by his best friend, unjustly cast out from his religious community, set adrift in a world he could no longer love or trust, he now earns his meager existence by weaving in a small Midlands village, and, alienated from any human relationship, he hoards the gold sovereigns with which he is paid, counting them nightly. In Marner’s sad and lonely life, gold has substituted for love, for companionship, for the belief in the goodness of humanity.
Then, all his considerable amount of gold is stolen; almost twenty years of hoarding and the light of his life, all gone. Though his neighbors try to console him, his pain is bottomless. About a week later, through a series of synchronicities, a small, abandoned child, with golden curls, wanders into his cottage as the bells are tolling in the New Year, and, to the astonishment of the village, he welcomes the child as the substitute for his gold. The floodgates of Silas’s love and warmth open to the little girl, and thus begins the relationship which completely redeems his life. He is saved and transformed by the trust and love of the child, and his great love for her, and, in the process, is restored to the human community. Beautiful. When, sixteen years later, he is reunited with his stolen gold, he is indifferent to its allure.
One of the best book-to-movie adaptations I have ever seen is the film of Silas Marner, with Ben Kingsley performing brilliantly in the title role. Completely true to the story, getting all the details and characters right, creating the ambiance of the time and place perfectly, with a haunting score, this is the finest of English period drama.