In the novel Silas Marner George Eliot teaches us through the character Silas Marner that people should not be judged by their outward appearance, but by their true actions and real motives. When Silas is judged by what seems to be true, he is falsely accused by the people of Lantern Yard, misinterpreted after he helps Sally Oates, and unfoundedly characterized as both selfish and pagan.
During the story Silas is falsely accused of being a thief when the people of Lantern Yard judge him by what appears to be true. The men in Lantern Yard assumed that he had taken the money from the drawer. They did not look at all of the evidence. Silas tries to explain to them that he didn’t have his knife when he tells them, “’I remember now the knife wasn’t in my pocket’” (Eliot 9). This shows that they disregarded the truths that were at hand and jumped to a conclusion. This conclusion eventually leads to Silas, an innocent man, leaving Lantern Yard and being lonely for a long time. Silas had lost a lot of his faith after he was found guilty. They also place too much trust in William Dane. They assume that what is obvious has to be true, like when the bag, which held the money, is found, “The search was made, and it ended in William Dane’s finding the well known bag, empty, tucked behind the chest of drawers in Silas’s Chamber!” (Eliot 9). This proves the point that Silas was unfairly accused. This is so because they jumped past a crucial piece of evidence. Silas not having the knife, which would have discredited William, hence his finding the bag would have been unqualified. Most of all Silas is “convicted” or determined to be guilty when “They resolved on praying and drawing lots” (Eliot 10). This was not a fair method of prosecution. It was by chance that he was accused. They did not look into what was truly going on or look fully at the evidence. Therefore Silas was falsely accused. This mistake in their accusation affected Silas’ life forever. The situation caused him to lose his fiancé, become an outcast in his own town, and be forced to move to another far away place.
When Silas was still new to the area of Raveloe he helped Sally Oates by making a mixture to help her ailment. After Silas tries to help Sally the people of Raveloe look past his genuine motives and misinterpret what he is trying to do. First they see him as someone who can help them with their sicknesses, like a medicine man. Then they think of him as being of the devil. They feel he is somehow supernatural. This idea is apparent when the author says: “The occult character of the process was evident” (Eliot 15). The people of Raveloe also felt he was lying to them when he said he did not know a lot about herbs and other mixtures that they were looking for. He couldn’t conjure up remedies for ailments. “He had never known an impulse toward falsity” (Eliot 16), this clearly shows they misinterpreted him when he was not a liar and still they did not believe him. They then viewed him as being vengeful, which was a complete misreckoning of his character. “…every man and woman who had an accident of a new attack after applying to him, set down to Master Marner’s ill-will and irritated glances” (Eliot 16), this proves they judged him to be something he was not. These ideas affected him in this society. People avoided him, and this caused him to avoid them. Ideas formed in people’s mind about him, which affected him later, for instance when he entered the bar he was thought to be a ghost, and at first some of the women were reluctant to allow him to keep Eppie.
During Silas’ life he was characterized on more than one occasion as something he was not; he is said to be a person of the devil and also as being a selfish person. After Silas comes to Raveloe he is witnessed by Jem to have been in a trance. This happened but was twisted to portray Silas