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Silas Marner - Extract 2

This GCSE English Literature quiz is the second of two extract questions for Silas Marner by George Eliot. It takes place towards the end of the first part of the novel, after the death of Molly Farren and the arrival of Eppie. Silas has surprised those gathered at the Red House by wishing to keep the young child. Godfrey and his uncle accompany Silas to his cottage to see if anything can be done for the woman found in the snow, although each man has his own reasons for doing so. This passage marks a significant turning point and also sets up themes which will be revisited in the second part of the novel.

How to answer an extract question in an exam:

Always ensure that you read a passage through carefully more than once when answering an extract question in an exam.

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This is never a waste of time. On your first reading, you can aim for a broad understanding of the passage and consider how you might use it to answer the question. The second reading is the time to make detailed notes and annotations and to begin to gather your thoughts. It is a good idea to ask yourself why the specific passage has been chosen. How does it fit with the rest of the text? Are any significant characters or significant themes introduced? What events follow? Are later events foreshadowed in the chosen passage? Does it mark a turning point? Also consider the ending of the extract: why do you think it ends where it does instead of somewhere else? Is there anything significant about the final line?

Remember to pay close attention to the question you have chosen to answer. You might be asked to write about mood and atmosphere, or a particular character, or even about your personal response to the passage or to a character. You might be asked to discuss dialogue, behaviour or feelings. Always explain the passage’s immediate context: acknowledge the events which precede the extract. Pay close attention to the detail, to setting and characterisation. Analyse and discuss the relationship between the excerpt and the themes of the text. Structure your response by grouping related ideas together in your writing. Remember to leave enough time to discuss the entire passage rather than analysing one section in detail and then neglecting the remainder of the extract! And remember, it’s a good idea to practise several extract questions, so be sure to try the Extract 1 quiz, as well!

Read the extract from George Eliot's Silas Marner below carefully before answering the questions.

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Godfrey never knew how long it was before the door of the cottage opened and Mr Kimble came out. He went forward to meet his uncle, prepared to suppress the agitation he must feel, whatever news he was to hear.

“I waited for you, as I’d come so far,” he said, speaking first.

“Pooh, it was nonsense for you to come out: why didn’t you send one of the men? There’s nothing to be done. She’s dead — has been dead for hours, I should say.”

“What sort of woman is she?” said Godfrey, feeling the blood rush to his face.

“A young woman, but emaciated, with long black hair. Some vagrant — quite in rags. She’s got a wedding-ring on, however. They must fetch her away to the workhouse tomorrow. Come, come along.”

“I want to look at her,” said Godfrey. “I think I saw such a woman yesterday. I’ll overtake you in a minute or two.”

Mr Kimble went on, and Godfrey turned back to the cottage. He cast only one glance at the dead face on the pillow, which Dolly had smoothed with decent care; but he remembered that last look at his unhappy hated wife so well, that at the end of sixteen years every line in the worn face was present to him when he told the full story of this night.

He turned immediately towards the hearth, where Silas Marner sat lulling the child. She was perfectly quiet now — but not asleep, only soothed by sweet porridge and warmth into that wide-gazing calm which makes us older human beings, with our inward turmoil, feel a certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel before some quiet majesty or beauty in the earth or sky — before a steady-glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending trees over a silent pathway. The wide-open blue eyes looked up at Godfrey’s without any uneasiness or sign of recognition: the child could make no visible audible claim on its father; and the father felt a strange mixture of feelings, a conflict of regret and joy, that the pulse of that little heart had no response for the half-jealous yearning in his own, when the blue eyes turned away from him slowly, and fixed themselves on the weaver’s queer face, which was bent low down to look at them, while the small hand began to pull Marner’s withered cheek with loving disfiguration.

George Eliot, Silas Marner (Penguin, 1967)
  1. What is the immediate context to this passage?
    The Squire's family are irritated at the interruption when Silas comes seeking the doctor for the woman found in the snow near his cottage
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    Godfrey relieves his guilty conscience a little by giving Silas some money to purchase clothes for the child
  3. Why does Godfrey wish to see the dead woman?
    Godfrey longs to be free of his wife. His emotion when first hearing that she might be dead is fear that she will be found to be alive and able to betray his secrets
  4. The use of the phrase "loving disfiguration" in the final line of this passage is an example of which of the following?
    Although Eppie's hand makes Silas's face appear physically misshapen at this moment, her love will make him more human (less metaphorically disfigured) over time
  5. The narrator compares the awe one might feel in the presence of a child to that caused by contemplating a planet, a flowering vine or the arched branches of trees. What effect does this comparison have?
    Eliot implies that all people, when faced with a small child, would feel this sense of mystery and wonder at both the grand and the tiny and intricate in nature, if only the correct condition of stillness were allowed for a moment
  6. Which one of the following does NOT describe the mood created in the final paragraph of this passage?
    While the mood does not sink into despair, Godfrey's decision not to acknowledge his dead wife and living daughter lend a sombre feel to this passage
  7. Godfrey feels shame during the conversation with his uncle. How does the reader become aware of this?
    His rising colour accompanies his question to his uncle about what "sort" of woman has been found. The implication is that she is disreputable and that he, by being secretly involved with her, has become disreputable as well
  8. When Eppie shifts her gaze from Godfrey to Silas, the action causes a "half-jealous yearning" in her father. Which of the following is true of this episode?
    Eppie later chooses the father who raised and loved her over Godfrey, who expects ties of blood to override those of affection. Godfrey's contradictory feelings of relief and longing here will be amplified when she rejects his offer later
  9. The narrator makes which of the following clear to the reader in this passage?
    Eliot explicitly tells the reader that Godfrey will recall every detail of his dead wife's face when he recounts the story sixteen years later
  10. Which of the following is true of Mr Kimble's description of the mysterious, dead woman?
    Mr Kimble struggles to make sense of the contradictions: the dead woman is young and married, yet had wandered alone, utterly impoverished and starved. Can you think of any reason why he might have mentioned her "long black hair"? His words, "some vagrant", dismiss her as ultimately unimportant

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