Curriculum Vital

The Education Umbrella Guide to Silas Marner
Chapter four summary and analysis

This page is part of the Education Umbrella Guide to Silas Marner. Free to download, our guide features a summary and analysis of every chapter, analysis of the novel's themes, and an introduction to George Eliot's life and work. 

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Summary

Dunstan goes to the hunt, where he is to sell Godfrey’s horse, Wildfire. On the way, at the outskirts of the village, he notices Silas Marner’s small house and wonders why his brother has never thought of asking Silas for a loan. He is close to asking himself when he realises that he would much rather his brother 'be vexed' than enjoy the satisfaction of an easier solution to his money problems. He rides on to the hunt.

Once there, Dunstan sells the horse for the price he had promised Godfrey. The buyer, a man named Bryce, will pay Dunstan once the horse has been delivered to his stable. Rather than leave immediately, though, Dunstan decides to join the hunt. He is keen to show off the abilities of the horse and earn the admiration of the villagers. At one point he takes a jump too carelessly. The horse suffers a bad injury and dies.

Dunstan decides to walk back to Raveloe in the gathering mist and gloom. By chance, he happens on Silas Marner’s cottage. With no other option, he decides to ask Silas for a loan. He knocks on the door. When no answer comes he goes inside. The fire is burning and a bit of pork is cooking in front of it. Dunstan looks around for Silas’s money. He eventually finds it and flees at once.

Analysis

Dunstan Cass, setting off in the raw morning, at the judiciously quiet pace of a man who is obliged to ride to cover on his hunter, had to take his way along the lane which, at its farther extremity, passed by the piece of unenclosed ground called the Stone-pit, where stood the cottage, once a stone-cutter’s shed, now for fifteen years inhabited by Silas Marner. The spot looked very dreary at this season, with the moist trodden clay about it, and the red, muddy water high up in the deserted quarry.

This vivid description of Silas Marner’s dwelling reinforces his position as an outcast. It is not only ‘dreary’, but dangerous; the ‘red, muddy water’ that sits in the quarry is a kind of quicksand. It complements the image of Silas Marner sinking ever deeper into an abyss of loneliness and greed.