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MonkeyNotes-Silas Marner by George Eliot
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Chapter 13

Summary

At Red House, the party is in full swing. The Squire is in a boisterous mood, and Godfrey stands aloof to avoid his father's embarrassing jests. While Godfrey is admiring Nancy Lammeter from a distance, he spots Silas carrying his child. Godfrey trembles like a leaf, but tries to control himself as he makes his way towards Silas. Breathless from his walk through the snow, Silas informs the crowd that he has found a woman lying dead near his cottage. This declaration sets Godfrey's heart throbbing wildly, not because of concern that his wife may be dead but of the dread that she might not be dead. Godfrey hurries along with Dolly Winthrop to find the dead woman. He is so anxious to find out the truth about Molly that he rushes out into the snow without bothering about his thin shoes.

On the way to the death scene, Godfrey is overpowered by a deep sense of apprehension. A tiny voice within him urges him to confess his misdeeds and accept his miserable wife and his destitute child. His moral turpitude and self-absorption, however, do not allow him to sacrifice his new prospects for marriage to Nancy in order to satisfy duty. The prospect of his wife's death and the consequent deliverance from his unhappy marriage already gives a sense of solace to Godfrey.

Dr. Kimble examines Molly Farren and declares the woman to be dead. With relief, Godfrey takes one last look at his wife. Inwardly, he feels a bit jealous about his child sitting comfortably in Silas' arms. He inquires whether Silas plans to leave the child with the parish, but Silas tells him that the child has come to him and he will keep her. Without revealing his attachment, Godfrey gives some money to Silas to purchase some clothes for the child. Godfrey then departs to establish a new life for himself. Molly's death has now transformed two human beings.


Notes

Silas' dramatic entry at the New Year's Eve party shocks the people and serves as a flashback to the time he had entered the Rainbow Inn and stunned the crowd. As soon as Godfrey spies Silas holding his child, his mind begins to stir with conflict. He is "half- smothered by passionate desire and dread." A tiny voice pricks him to accept his "miserable wife and fulfill the claims of the helpless child," but he lacks the moral courage even to "contemplate the active renunciation of Nancy." Godfrey tries to sound as casual and detached as he can about the woman and the child, but he feels a sinful joy when Molly's death is confirmed. He had hoped to be released from the imprisonment of his marriage to Molly; ironically, her death doesn't settle Godfrey's real problems. The crisis that is to come to Godfrey is clearly foreshadowed in the chapter; "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."

Godfrey has always wanted to shirk his parental responsibility, but he is not entirely devoid of fatherly feelings. He is somewhat jealous that the child gives him no recognition or response, yet she seems quite complacent in the arms of Silas, a total stranger to her. Unwilling to claim the child himself, Godfrey inquires of Silas what his plans are for her. When Silas tells that he plans on keeping the child, whom he believes is sent from God, Godfrey gives the weaver some money to buy her clothes.

The theme of appearance vs. reality is strongly developed in this chapter. The young girl before the hearth appears to be a pile of gold coins to the myopic eyes of Silas; in reality, she becomes worth much more than gold to the old weaver. Godfrey's situation is also filled with appearances. To all the community, including his father, Godfrey appears to be an unmarried young man; in reality, he is a husband and a father. When he goes to the scene of the death, he appears to be calm and in control; in reality, he is shaking throughout his frame. He appears to be unaffected by the sight of his dead wife and his child; in reality, he is shaken to the bone.

It is important to note the instant change that takes place in Silas in this chapter. George Eliot has been preparing the reader to accept the change by showing how Silas has slowly begun to interact with the community beyond his door. On this New Year's Eve, he has no reservation about carrying the child and entering the New Year's Eve party at the Cass house. By the time that Godfrey asks him his plans for the little girl, Silas has instinctively decided to adopt her. He tells the child's real father that he plans to keep the child -- without consciously making any such decision.

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