2007 WAEC Literature in English Theory NON-AFRICAN PROSE GEORGE ELIOT: Silas Marner   Examine the use of superstition in the novel.


GEORGE ELIOT: Silas Marner


Examine the use of superstition in the novel.


Both Lantern Yard and Raveloe provide the appropriate setting for the examination of superstition. The casting of lots by the church in Lantern Yard to determine the culprit In the theft of the church money from the Deacon's house is rooted in superstition. The lot falls on Silas who is compelled by circumstances to leave. At Raveloe, when Silas heals Sally Oates' heart disease and dropsy with herbs the fame it initially brings him is overshadowed by rumours of his 'magic powers". As people flock to his cottage for healing Silas withdraws for fear of attracting too much attention to himself.

The night Silas money gets stolen, he wonders whether a thief or a 'cruel hand' has taken the money. This belief in a 'cruel hand' is superstitious and creates a kind of doubt in his mind which compounds his situation. This same belief by others in unseen powers' affects the investigation. The general belief in ghosts heightens the suspicion of the people at the Rainbow Inn as Silas appears looking pale and nonplussed to report his missing money.

Silas believes that his money would somehow reappear or that some trace of it may mysteriously be on the way. This belief is linked up with another which is that the New Year brings luck. When the child Eppie strays into Silas' cottage with her 'little golden head' her appearance is as mysterious as the disappearance of his gold. Eliot's use of superstition sheds light on the simplicity of life in Raveloe. It shows the cultural beliefs of the people which affect the way they relate to outsiders.

For example, Silas' arrival is heralded by so much suspicion because of his pale nature, cataleptic condition and shortsightedness as well as his vocation (weaving). His true identity is there-fore shrouded in the mystery of superstition which is compounded by a secluded life supposedly linked to the devil. 

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