Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gold Is In the Giving


Silas Marner
This is one of my favourite pieces of literature, written by George Eliot (pen name for Mary Anne Evans, 1819-1880).

A young man has been scandalized in the big city, accused of pilfering from church coffers and summarily stricken from the rolls of his Bible-believing, evangelical fellowship.

He arrives at a quaint village of simple, kind folk where he expects the safety of relative anonymity working as a cobbler. His workmanship is good and the business grows with a bewitching stash of gold coin building in the cottage.

Unfortunately Silas is given to periodic epileptic spells which render him unconscious. During one episode his cottage is visited by drunken young aristocrats, homeward-bound from the tavern, who find him blacked out and then proceed to pillage his cottage and take off with the golden stash.

The miserly Marner is devastated by his loss, but resolves to work even harder for the accumulation of unrighteous mammon.

On another winter's evening by the fire Silas succumbs to a seizure, and is visited by a tiny blonde-haired girl. She has wandered from a drunken and collapsed mother of shame who in her delirium took the child out into the snow headed for the home of its irresponsible father. He is one of the rogues who robbed Silas.

The scene of Silas awaking and discovering this beautiful golden treasure playing on the rug before the hearth is particularly delightful. But now Silas has a problem. He has no idea of the child's origin. Bring her to the attention of the townspeople? They might suspect foul play. Silas resolves to attempt to care for the child with literally no parenting skills.

Gradually some of the women in town learn of the strange development at the cottage and offer to help. A community collection of little girl's things is accomplished. Relationship slowly develops for this lonely, wounded man. It all comes from his discovery of the little golden-haired treasure. Love never fails.

The people who help Silas are largely uneducated. Not at all evangelical or conservative, they hold to the comforting mysteries in the liturgy of their quaint Anglican parish. But they are genuine warm-hearted neighbours with an indomitable trust in the care and mercy of their Good Lord. This proves to Silas to be the better part of religion.

Over the years Silas and "daughter" are closely knit. Challenges come in the form of a suitor and a claim from the "lawful" family of the lovely young woman. But rich and happy is the ending of this simple, short novel.

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