Silas Marner Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

This Storyboard That activity is part of the lesson plans for Silas Marner

Silas Marner Symbols


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Activity Overview

Valuable aspects of any work of literature are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to internalize without much assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts and master deep analysis of these literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities for themes, symbols, and motifs.

An example of this in the classroom could be to track the themes and symbols George Eliot uses in Silas Marner to communicate with the reader.

Silas Marner Themes, Motifs, and Symbols to Look For and Discuss

Loneliness and Despair

A common theme in literature is "loneliness". Throughout this novel, many characters experience their own type of loneliness or isolation. It is very interesting to track this theme and its implications as the story progresses. Some characters have physical isolation or loneliness, such as Silas. Other characters exhibit mental loneliness, like Godfrey. He experiences loneliness when he cannot tell the ones he loves the truth about his lies.

Betrayal, Blackmail, and Lies

Many characters will are lied to, blackmailed, or betrayed. Silas is betrayed by William in Lantern Yard, as well as by those who cast him out of town. He was also betrayed when Dunstan stole his money. The theme of lies is most evident with Godfrey. By concealing his secret marriage, hiding the fact that Eppie was his child, and lying to Nancy, it inevitably costs Godfrey what was truly important to him. Overall, these themes are important to the story, demonstrating corrupt deeds are never rewarded.


Silas has a very hard time learning to trust people. Having been framed and then stolen from, Silas does not find trusting people to be an easy task. It is only in the end when Eppie proves her love to Silas that he believes in love and the people he loves.


Silas’ money becomes a symbol of his own demise. He begins to worship his gold coins and believes that the faces on each are his friends. His attachment to inanimate object shows his lack of trust in others. He fixates on the gold coins because, unlike people, they cannot betray him, leave him, or forsake him.

The Loom

Silas’ loom is a major symbol in his life. Despite being his means of income, the loom also symbolizes Silas’ solitude and his industrious nature. It also aids in portraying Silas’ desolate life and adds to the metaphor of Silas as a spider: hunched over his loom, with his rather large, protruding eyes, weaving constantly.

The Hearth

As a universal symbol, hearths typically represent the warmth and happiness of a home. For Silas, it symbolizes much more. It represents the gift that came to him, his child Eppie, and the love that he found after he had been forsaken and stolen from.

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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Silas Marner. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Silas Marner you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

Template: Theme


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(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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