Silas Marner

Enhance reading comprehension with a with a guide that contains an overview, discussion questions, follow-up activities and suggestions to be used before, during, and after reading the novel, Silas Marner.
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Updated on: December 6, 2000
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Listing Activities
George Eliot's Silas Marner

Have students compile lists as they read the novel. The making of these lists serves to help focus attention on specific aspects of the novel, and the lists themselves provide a basis for some follow-up activities after the novel has been read. Each student can compile an individual list, or groups of students can work together. However, once these lists are done, students will share them.

• List each mention of (1) Molly Farren and (2) Godfrey's actions regarding her.

• Make a list of the evidence of class distinction throughout the novel.

• From time to time, George Eliot includes statements of general truths about life. Make a list of these statements.

• Especially for lower-level classes: List and identify characters as they are introduced.

Questions by Chapter

The study of this novel should be guided by the questions that follow. They should be made available to students before they read the chapters, to focus attention on significant points. In addition to providing reading guidance, the questions may serve as a basis for class discussions, small-group work, panel presentations, writing assignments, or test reviews. They are especially useful for helping average and low-level students follow the plot. Further suggestions for their use and for classroom activities follow this list.

Chapter I

  • What is Silas Marner's vocation?
  • From what physical handicap does Silas Marner suffer?
  • How is Silas regarded by the people of Raveloe? What prompted this reaction?
  • What special talent do people believe Silas has?
  • How would you describe Silas?
  • Contrast Silas' life in Lantern Yard with that in Raveloe.
  • Recount the incident in Lantern Yard that changed Silas' life.
  • Who is William Dane? What kind of person is he? Describe his relationship with Silas.

Chapter II

  • Why did Silas move to Raveloe?
  • How does Silas spend his time? Why?
  • In what ways do people cope with severe setbacks?
  • What did Silas do for Sally Oates? How do people respond to this act? What is the end result of Silas' helping Sally Oates?
  • Describe Silas' financial situation.
  • What is revealed about Silas' nature by the brown pot incident?
  • Up to this time, how long has Silas lived in Raveloe?

Chapter III

  • Describe the social structure of the community.
  • What means does Eliot employ to inform us about the various characters?
  • Describe each member of the Cass family. In particular, what weakness does Godfrey display?
  • Explain Godfrey's social situation.

Chapter IV

  • What characteristics of Dunstan are brought out through the incidents in this chapter?
  • How does Dunstan justify to himself stealing Silas' gold?
  • Silas' story began in Chapter I, and the story of the Cass brothers was introduced in Chapter III. How are the two plots starting to be brought together?

Chapter V

  • What were Silas's actions and thoughts after finding his gold missing?
  • Compare Silas's actions and thoughts with any you have known when something terrible or dreaded has happened.
  • To what does Silas turn for comfort? When had he sought comfort before from this same source?
  • What hope does Silas have?
  • What action does this hope lead him to take?

Chapter VI

  • What kind of place is the Rainbow Inn?
  • What role does Mr. Snell, the landlord, take in discussions?
  • Identify and describe each person at the Rainbow Inn that evening.
  • What kinds of personalities are evident?
  • How is Raveloe like our neighborhood/community/town? Are there similar people? What place is like the Rainbow Inn?

Chapter VIII

  • Describe how the story about the peddler grew.
  • What does the growth of this story reveal about the people of Raveloe?
  • Explain Godfrey's thinking as he contemplated telling his father about his situation.
  • To what extent were his thoughts and fears perfectly natural?

Chapter IX

  • Characterize Squire Cass' relationship with his sons.
  • How different is the Squire from his sons?
  • To what extent might the state of the Cass home have been an influence on Godfrey and Dunstan's lives? In particular, on their current difficulties?
  • What hope does Godfrey have?
  • How has Godfrey's position changed?

Chapter X

  • How is Dunstan's absence regarded?
  • What two theories about the robbery are generally held?
  • Describe the change in the villagers' perception of Silas. How might you account for this change?
  • In what ways has Silas changed?
  • How is Christmas spent by the Cass family? By Silas?
  • What event is being anticipated? What are Godfrey's feelings about this event?

Chapter XI

  • Describe Nancy Lammeter's feelings toward Godfrey.
  • Characterize the thoughts and opinions held by the various ladies about each other.
  • Compare the two Miss Lammeters, both in appearance and in personality.
  • What are the respective roles of the upper and the lower social levels at the party?
  • Describe the talk among the men.
  • During the evening's festivities, how much progress does Godfrey make in winning Nancy's approval?
  • Does he have any right to try to win her approval?

Chapter XII

  • What is Molly's plan? How does it end?
  • What is Silas' reaction upon finding the child?
  • What is the significance of Silas' mistaking the yellow curls for his gold?
  • What immediate change does the child bring about in Silas?
  • What discovery does Silas make at the end of the chapter?

Chapter XIII

  • What effect does Silas have on the gathering at the party? On Godfrey?
  • What is Silas' reaction to suggestions that the child should be taken from his care?
  • What justification does Silas offer for wanting to keep the child?
  • What is Godfrey's reaction when he recognizes Molly?
  • With what feelings does Godfrey return to the party?
  • What is your opinion of Godfrey at this time?

Chapter XIV

  • How does Silas come to learn how to care for the child?
  • What does Silas name the child? How does he arrive at that name?
  • What effect does Eppie have on Silas' life? (Consider how he spent his time and what he valued.)
  • Describe Silas' efforts to discipline Eppie.

Chapter XV

  • In what ways is Godfrey a changed person?
  • What are Godfrey's main interests now? What are his hopes?
  • What had been decided about Dunstan?

Chapter XVI

  • Describe Eppie and the other major characters now that 16 years have passed.
  • What changes are there in Silas' home?
  • What kind of person has Eppie grown to be? Cite evidence from the novel.
  • What are Eppie's plans for the future?

Chapter XVII

  • Describe the changes that have taken place in the Red House.
  • What is Godfrey's great unfulfilled desire? To what does he attribute this condition?
  • What is Nancy's reason for not agreeing to adopt a child?
  • Describe Nancy's personality and approach to life.
  • Overall, how successful do you believe Nancy and Godfrey's marriage has been?

Chapter XVIII

  • What discovery is made?
  • Why does Godfrey now confess all to Nancy?
  • How does Nancy handle Godfrey's news? What does this reveal about her character?
  • How might such a confession be accepted today?
  • With what certainty can a reaction to such a confession be foretold?
  • What do Godfrey and Nancy decide to do?

Chapter XIX

  • What are Godfrey's arguments for adopting Eppie? Compare these arguments with those of Silas and Eppie.
  • What is it that Godfrey cannot understand?
  • Explain the mixture of feelings that Silas must have experienced.
  • How fully does Eppie comprehend the significance of her decision?
  • To what extent is Eppie's decision influenced by the social structure of Raveloe?

Chapter XX

  • What decisions are made by Godfrey?
  • What reasons might he have for these decisions?
  • Describe the state of Nancy and Godfrey's relationship. To what extent has Eppie's stand affected their relationship?
  • What changes are evident in Godfrey's character? What has he learned?

Chapter XXI

  • What do Silas and Eppie find when they return to Lantern Yard?
  • What significance does this chapter have to the novel as a whole?
  • What statement does Silas make that clearly shows the change he has undergone?


  • What contributions do Godfrey and Nancy make to Eppie's wedding?
  • Why don't they attend the festivities?
  • What sort of day do you suppose Eppie's wedding day is for Godfrey?

Activities by Chapter

These questions should not always be dealt with in the same way. Certainly on some days they may be discussed by the entire class; however, this procedure soon would become tiring. The questions to some chapters may best be discussed in small groups of five or six students each. Usually these groups will have a reporter, who will relate the group's conclusions to the entire class. Sometimes these reports may be written. At other times individual students may write answers to questions calling for opinions. A few students may be selected to conduct a panel discussion before the class. Other activities may include the oral reading of character parts in particular scenes. Of course, this necessitates student preparation for a successful performance. Here is one possible plan for the incorporation of these activities into the study of specific chapters:

Chapter Activity

I Oral reading by teacher; teacher-led discussion
II Teacher-led class discussion
III Small-group discussion
IV Mime presentation of Dunstan from his approach to Silas' cottage through his departure; small-group discussions.
V Journal writing (Individual responses to the questions are written during and after the reading of this chapter.)
VI Readers' theater presentation of Rainbow Inn scene (Selected students, after a brief practice session, read aloud the various characters' parts to the class; teacher-led class discussion.)
VII Readers' theater presentation of Rainbow Inn scene; teacher-led class discussion.
VIII Panel discussion
IX Panel discussion
X Teacher-led class discussion
XI Oral reading of parts by students; teacher-led class discussion
XII Teacher-led class discussion
XIII Teacher-led class discussion
XIV Small-group discussion
XV Small-group discussion
XVI Teacher-led class discussion
XVII Small-group discussion
XVIII Small-group discussion
XIX Teacher-led class discussion
XX Written answers by individual students
XXI Teacher-led class discussion
Conclusion Teacher-led class discussion

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