... his life had shrunk away, like a rivulet that has sunk far down from the grassy fringe of its old breadth into a little shivering thread, that cuts a groove for itself in the barren sand.The money serves as a beloved object and safe, if very poor, substitute for a connection to other people. Regarding Marner's work as a weaver, Eliot writes:
Every man's work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life.Without love, you often see obsessive behaviors, addictions, and compulsions take root.
Marner's life and heart expand again after he adopts a child whose mother he has found dead near his home. (The immediate environs of Marner's home are a place where death is near, especially in the dark, underscoring his vulnerability but also making him reminiscent of a Hades-like figure with his horde of precious metal.)