The theme of belonging is featured frequently, throughout the book, sometimes in more tenuous ways than others. There are many different things in Silas Marner that someone or something can belong to: both abstract and concrete. For example Godfrey belongs to the Cass family which, in turn, belongs to the community of the village.
However before one can begin to answer the question of how important belonging is in such situations, it is important to examine how a character or thing can belong to the novel and the outcome of certain belongings along with statements made in the narrative voice by Elliot expressing her opinion on it. Under this topic, the three most relevant sub-topics are belonging to a community and place (these are both heavily linked so can be examined together), belonging to a family or close relationship and also the belonging of possessions.
The most blatant example of belonging affecting a character is Silas’s changes of attitude to life when he is part of Lantern Yard and Raveloe in different ways. Elliot makes it quite clear when Silas truly belongs to a place and when he doesn’t. She shows that Silas is truly part of Lantern Yard by the fact he has close friends (including a girl-friend and William Dane), grew up there, has trust from the other villagers and is part of what makes the village as it is so far as tradition, superstition, religion and rituals.
Because of this he has a sufficiently happy life which seems too simplistic to cause him any trouble. However, when he is falsely accused of a theft, he is expelled from the village. As a result of this abrupt termination of his belonging to Lantern Yard, everything he had established there (such as friends and work) falls to pieces leaving him devastated and without direction in life showing great evidence in favour of the importance of this kind of belonging. ‘Poor Marner went out with despair in his soul’ (page 11)
When he finds Raveloe and resettles there he belongs to the village in the sense of location and having a role in its economic activity as a weaver but is not truly part of the social community and because he did not grow up there he is branded as an untrustworthy outsider by the others. He develops a compulsive habit of making money from weaving and then counting it at night. Elliot says that this makes him happy but not without some irony as she is suggesting that this is not true happiness.
This incompleteness in his life can be heavily blamed on the absence of any community or strong friendship in his life which is one of the few things that someone of the working class could take advantage of in their spare time and looking at life as a balance of work and play it makes Silas a half-life. Another reason why belonging to a community is so important, is the mutual benefit constituted by the ability to rely on others for things that one cannot handle on one’s own and the help one can give to others by using skills or guidance that the recipient could not handle by themselves.
For example, when Silas wants to get his stolen money back he turns to the men of the Rainbow Inn and because he starts to fit in with the villagers they help him with his case. This strangely novel situation of opening his trouble to his Raveloe neighbours, of sitting in the warmth of a hearth not his own and feeling the presence of faces and voices which were his nearest promise of help, had doubtless its influence on Marner’.