View Full Version : Punishment of children in Silas Marner

12-08-2015, 02:06 PM
There was a bit in chapter 14 in which Dolly Winthrop advises Silas to punish Eppie when she is naughty, either by smacking her or locking her in the coal hole. I was bracing myself for something quite unpleasant. However, Silas cannot bring himself to smack the child, and when he closes her in the coal hole for 30 seconds, she seems to enjoy it. After that, he gives up on the idea of punishing her.

I suppose corporal punishment was going out of fashion when I was growing up. I was never caned at school. In fact, I can remember only being smacked once at school. Some of the bad boys were slippered, but I cannot remember anyone ever being caned. I was spanked a few times by my father, but by the time I reached my teens in the 80s, corporal punishment was generally disapproved of.

Putting a child in a coal hole sounds pretty horrible, but I suppose it is not that different from the naughty step, except for being colder and dirtier.

If Silas Marner did not approve of these sorts of punishment, surely that would have been rather unusual in the late C18th or early C19th. I suppose the popular opinion would have been "Spare the rod and spoil the child."