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Silas Marner by George Elliot

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Student Activities for Silas Marner Include:

In George Eliot’s British classic, Silas Marner, students follow the protagonist, Silas, through his life’s journey of despair and enlightenment. Forsaken and feeling the deepest despair of his life, Silas is forced to suppress his past when he finds a mysterious gift on his hearth. Silas, an old miser full of hate and mistrust, is given the most precious gift, a new life.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Silas Marner Summary

Silas Marner is a tale of love and overcoming setbacks. In the beginning of the novel, the protagonist, Silas, loses his friends, his faith, and his fiancé when he is framed for theft. Exiled, he moves from Lantern Yard to the idyllic English country side of Raveloe, a farming community. There, he replaces people and human interaction with money. He works at his trade, weaving, and isolates himself so that he can never be hurt like he was before.

Later in the story, plots converge when Silas has all his money stolen from him by Dunstan Cass, a conniving aristocrat from town. Dunstan, the Squire's son, had been in the business of blackmailing his older brother Godfrey. However, when money ran short, he offered to sell Godfrey’s horse, Wildfire. He ended up killing the horse before delivering it and receiving the money, leading him to steal from Silas.

On New Year’s Eve, leaving his door open, Silas gets an unlikely visitor. A small child, having left her dying mother's arms, toddles into his cottage. Silas, awaking from a trance, at first thinks the child is his gold returned to him. Seeing the tracks in the snow and then discovering the dead body, Silas goes to the Cass house to fetch the doctor. When he arrives, Godfrey recognizes the child as his from his secret marriage to a woman named Molly, a fact which Dunstan was using as blackmail. Godfrey, hoping the woman is dead, follows the doctor and Silas. His hopes are realized; Molly overdosed and died in the snow. Godfrey hated this marriage, and with his wife dead, he realizes he has the ability to marry his true love, Nancy Lammiter. However, there is still the issue of the child. Godfrey hopes it will remain a secret, and he is asured when Silas fights to keep her. Godfrey is relieved and secretly vows to always provide for Silas as a secret benefactor.

Many years pass and Eppie, the golden hair child, is now grown up. Silas and Eppie are inseparable. However, on the other side of Raveloe, Godfrey and Nancy Cass are unhappy and childless, an unspoken source of contention. One day, while Godfrey was draining the Stone Pits, a shocking discovery is made: the skeleton of Dunstan Cass is uncovered, and Silas’ missing money is next to him. This leads Godfrey to come clean about his past with his wife Nancy. Nancy becomes angry with Godfrey and suggests that they go and claim Eppie as their daughter so that he may have the child he has always wanted. This, again, could take everything Silas loves away from him! Eppie remains by Silas' side. She knows that Silas would never have forsaken her the way Godfrey did. In the end, Silas get his gold returned and gets to keep his daughter. Learning to trust and believe in others again, Silas and Eppie live happily ever after.


Essential Questions for Silas Marner

  1. What are the consequences of being a victim of lies, gossip, or rumors?
  2. How do people cope with extreme despair?
  3. How does social upbringing influence personal characteristics and behaviors?
  4. Does money bring happiness?

Silas Marner Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | Silas Marner Summary


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A common student activity while reading is to create a plot diagram of the events from a novel. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but also to reinforce major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard that captures the concept of the narrative arc in a novel by creating a six-cell storyboard that contains the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene from the novel in the sequence: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example Silas Marner Plot Diagram

Exposition

The novel starts in the present and flashes back to when Silas was a young man in Lantern Yard. In this religious community, Silas was revered, had friends, and a fiance. However, he was soon framed by his best friend and expelled from the town. He moved to Raveloe to begin a new life.


Major Inciting Conflict

Silas has been hurt badly, so he has become a reclusive miser, full of anger and despair. This makes him the subject of rumors and lies.


Rising Action

Readers are introduced to the Cass family: The Squire and his three sons, Godfrey, Dustan, and Bob. Godfrey, the eldest son, is hiding a scandalous secret, which his brother, Dustan, is aware of and uses as blackmail against Godfrey. Godfrey is secretly married to an opium-addicted woman from a neighboring town. After squandering all his money and unable to get more from Godfrey, Dunstan robs Silas Marner, leaving him with nothing for the second time in his life. But one night, Molly decides to get revenge on Godfrey by showing up with their child at the Squire's party. She never makes it. Instead, she dies in the snow, and her baby wanders to Silas’ house.


Climax

Relieved that Molly is dead, Godfrey marries his true love, Nancy, a woman he was courting during his marriage. Silas ends up raising the child as his own, and it changes his life for the better; he gains friends, respect, and a replacement for his robbed gold: true love. Godfrey, however, vows that he will never forget the child, Eppie, and promises to keep an eye on her. After 16 years, Godfrey and Nancy, who were unable to have children of their own, try to take Eppie from Silas. For the third time, Silas is faced with despair.


Falling Action

Unable to leave Silas, her true father, and the life she has known, Eppiem, now 18, passes on the Cass’ offer to be their child. This makes Silas the happiest he’s ever been, and he knows now that he will trust her for the rest of his life. Silas also has his gold returned to him after the Cass family finds Dunstan’s dead body at the bottom of a dried-up quarry near Silas’ cottage, with Silas' gold next to him.


Resolution

With all things having been restored to him, Silas decides to go back to Lantern Yard to see if any light was shed on his innocence. However, when he and Eppie get there, the town is gone. After they return to Raveloe, Eppie marries Aaron Winthrop. Silas, Eppie, and Aaron live happily in Silas’ cottage for years to come.


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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Silas Marner.


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



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





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Silas Marner Themes, Symbols, and Motifs


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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.


Trust

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.


Money

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.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


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 "Use this Template" from the 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.



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





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Silas Marner Characters


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As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information and details about important characters. With character mapping, it’s easy for students to follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

Silas Marner Characters

Silas MarnerThe main protagonist, he is expelled from the Town of Lantern Yard after being falsely accused of theft. He moves to Raveloe and starts a new life where his only friends are the faces of the gold coins he hoards from his job as a weaver. He lives as a reclusive hermit and has no friends, until one day Dunstan Cass steals his money and the town rallies around Silas. After the second largest tragedy in his life, he soon adopts a small child, whom he names Eppie.
Godfrey CassSon of the wealthy Squire Cass and oldest brother in the Cass family. He is blackmailed by his younger brother and has a secret marriage to Molly Farren (a drug addict). However, he is in love with Nancy Lammeter.
Dunstan CassThe middle child of the Cass family. Dunsty, as he is called, is a conniving, gambling, blackmailer who swindles and lies his way through life. He steals Silas’s money and is later found dead.
Squire CassThe richest man in Raveloe, known for having lavish house parties.
MollyGodfrey’s secret wife, whom he hides in a nearby town. She has a child who is neglected, mostly because of Molly’s addiction to opium.
Nancy LammeterA well-to-do lady in the town of Raveloe who marries Godfrey after Molly’s death. She is unable to have children.
Dolly WinthropA hardworking woman in Raveloe who eventually becomes Silas’ best friend and godmother to Eppie.
Aaron WinthropDolly’s son and Eppie’s future husband. He works as a gardener for the Cass family.
SarahSilas’ fiancée in Lantern Yard.
William DaneSilas' best friend in Lantern Yard, who frames Silas for theft and steals Sarah from him.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in Silas Marner and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "1600s to 1800s" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Physical Description, Characteristics, and Major Events.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


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





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Silas Marner Vocabulary


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A great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from the book. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the novel and an example of a visual vocabulary board

.

Example Silas Marner Vocabulary Words

  • quarry
  • eccentric
  • repugnance
  • penitent
  • candor
  • condescending
  • revere
  • irascible
  • sober
  • jovial
  • conciliatory
  • remonstrate
  • pauper
  • pious
  • indolent
  • fallible
  • divine
  • aberration
  • subterfuge

In the vocabulary board, students can choose between coming up with their use of the vocabulary word, finding a specific example from the text, or depicting it without words.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in Silas Marner by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



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





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Silas Marner Chapter Recap

An engaging activity to do while reading, or after a few chapters, is a chapter recap. To help students grasp deeper meanings from novel, it is helpful for them to create a storyboard which depicts a scene or, more importantly, a symbol, theme, or motif from each chapter. The finished product is much like a picture book, with one cell depicting each chapter of Silas Marner. For classes with daily computer access, students can create their board after each Silas Marner chapter. For classes with limited access, consider having students do their chapters at the end of each week!

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Check Out These Other Silas Marner Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Use Storyboard That to show specific causes and effects of events in the novel.
  2. Create a storyboard showing how Silas changes every five chapters.
  3. Create a storyboard that depicts what life was like in the Eliot’s time.
  4. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

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