Part I, Chapters 13–15
Summary: Chapter 13
Back at the Red House, the men dance and Godfrey stands to the side of the parlor to admire Nancy. Godfrey suddenly notices Silas Marner enter carrying Godfrey’s child, and, shocked, he walks over with Mr. Lammeter and Mr. Crackenthorp to discover what has brought Silas here. The Squire angrily questions Silas, asking him why he has intruded. Silas says he is looking for the doctor because he has found a woman, apparently dead, lying near his door. Knowing that it is Molly, Godfrey is terrified that perhaps she is not in fact dead. Silas’s appearance causes a stir, and the guests are told simply that a woman has been found ill. When Mrs. Kimble suggests that Silas leave the girl at the Red House, Silas refuses, claiming that she came to him and is his to keep.
Godfrey insists on accompanying the doctor, Mr. Kimble, to Silas’s cottage, and they pick up Dolly along the way to serve as a nurse. Kimble’s title is “Mr.” rather than “Dr.” because he has no medical degree and inherited his position as village doctor. Godfrey waits outside the cottage in agony, realizing that if Molly is dead he is free to marry Nancy, but that if Molly lives he has to confess everything. When Kimble comes out, he declares that the woman has been dead for hours. Godfrey insists on seeing her, claiming to Kimble that he had seen a woman of a similar description the day before. As he verifies that the woman is in fact Molly, Godfrey sees Silas holding the child and asks him if he intends to take the child to the parish. Silas replies that he wants to keep her, since both he and she are alone, and without his gold he has nothing else to live for. He implies a connection between his lost money, “gone, I don’t know where,” and the baby, “come from I don’t know where.” Godfrey gives Silas money to buy clothes for the little girl, and then hurries to catch up with Mr. Kimble.
Godfrey tells Kimble that the dead woman is not the woman he saw before. The two talk about the oddness of Silas wanting to keep the child, and Kimble says that if he were younger he might want the child for himself. Godfrey’s thoughts turn to Nancy, and how he can now court her without dread of the consequences. He sees no reason to confess his previous marriage to her, and vows that he will see to it that his daughter is well cared for. Godfrey tells himself that the girl might be just as happy without knowing him as her father.
Summary: Chapter 14
Molly is given an anonymous pauper’s burial, but her death, the narrator notes, will have great consequences for the inhabitants of Raveloe. The villagers are surprised by Silas’s desire to keep the child, and once again they become more sympathetic toward him. Dolly is particularly helpful, offering advice, giving him clothing outgrown by her own children, and helping to bathe and care for the girl. Silas is grateful but makes clear that he wishes to learn to do everything himself, so that the little girl will be attached to him from the start. Silas remains amazed by the girl’s arrival and continues to think that in some way his gold has turned into the child.
Dolly persuades Silas to have the child baptized, though at first Silas does not really know what the ceremony means. Dolly tells him to come up with a name for her and he suggests Hephzibah, the name of his mother and sister. Dolly is skeptical, saying that it doesn’t sound like a “christened name” and is a little long. Silas surprises her by responding that it is in fact a name from the Bible. He adds that his little sister was called Eppie for short.
Eppie and Silas are baptized together, and Silas finds that the child brings him closer to the other villagers. Unlike his gold, which exacerbated his isolation and did not respond to his attentions, young Eppie is endlessly curious and demanding. Her desires are infectious, and as she hungrily explores the world around her, so does Silas. Whereas his gold had driven him to stay indoors and work endlessly, Eppie tempts Silas away from his work to play outside. In the spring and summer, when it is sunny, Silas takes Eppie to the fields of flowers beyond the stone-pit and sits and watches her play. Silas’s growth mirrors Eppie’s, and he begins to explore memories and thoughts he has kept locked away for many years.
By the time Eppie is three, she shows signs of mischievousness, and Dolly insists that Silas not spoil her: he should punish her either by spanking her or by putting her in the coal-hole to frighten her. Shortly after this conversation, Eppie escapes from the cottage and goes missing for a while, though she is soon found. Despite his relief at finding her, Silas decides that he must be stern with Eppie. His use of the coal-hole is ineffective, however, as Eppie takes a liking to the place.
Thus, Eppie is reared without punishment. Silas is even reluctant to leave her with anyone else and so takes her with him on his rounds to gather yarn. Eppie becomes an object of fascination and affection, and, as a result, so does Silas. Instead of looking at him with repulsion, the townspeople now offer advice and encouragement. Even children who had formerly found Silas frightening take a liking to him. Silas, in turn, takes an active interest in the town, wanting to give Eppie all that is good in the village. Moreover, Silas no longer hoards his money. Since his gold was stolen, he has lost the sense of pleasure he once felt at counting and touching his savings. Now, with Eppie, he realizes he has found something greater.
Summary: Chapter 15
Godfrey keeps a distant eye on Eppie. He gives her the occasional present but is careful not to betray too strong an interest. He does not feel particularly guilty about failing to claim her because he is confident that she is being taken care of well. Dunsey still has not returned, and Godfrey, released from his marriage and doubtful that he will ever hear from his brother again, can devote himself to freely wooing Nancy. He begins to spend more time at Nancy’s home, and people say that he has changed for the better. Godfrey promises himself that his daughter will always be well cared for, even though she is in the hands of the poor weaver.
Analysis: Part I, Chapters 13–15
The parallels between the novel’s two pivotal events are further developed in this section. Like the theft, Eppie’s arrival again drives Silas to interrupt a public gathering in a dramatic fashion, this time at the Red House rather than the Rainbow. Both appearances cause quite a commotion, and both times Silas arrives with an otherworldly aura. At the Rainbow, the assembled men all take Silas for a ghost. Similarly, when Silas appears with Eppie at the dance, Godfrey is as shocked as if he is seeing an “apparition from the dead.” Both scenes emphasize Silas’s outsider status. Both the tavern and the Squire’s dance are governed by rules of hierarchy and habit in which everyone relies on “safe, well-tested personalities.” In these comfortable, ritualized spaces, Silas’s entrances are as disruptive and disorienting as visits from a ghost.
Silas, too, is understandably disoriented by the appearance of Eppie. He continues to associate her with his gold and believes, in a vague way, that his gold has somehow turned into her. In a way, of course, Silas’s connection is correct, as both the gold’s disappearance and Eppie’s appearance can be indirectly traced to Godfrey and his secret marriage. More important, the fact that Silas equates Eppie with the gold indicates that she has effectively replaced his gold as the object of his affections.
However, whereas the gold isolated Silas, Eppie becomes a bridge between him and the rest of the world. Not only does she return his affection in a way that his guineas never could, but her desire and curiosity about the world ignite similar feelings in Silas. Eliot uses the weather as a signal of this change. Whereas Dunsey stole the gold on a rainy night and Eppie appeared in a blizzard, the afternoons that Silas and Eppie spend together at play are sunny and warm. Also, Eliot once again uses a metaphor from the natural world to describe Silas’s growth. As he begins to come out of his -isolation and self-denial, Silas’s soul is likened to a metamorphosing butterfly or budding flower, unfolding and “trembling gradually into full consciousness.”
Godfrey is at his worst in these chapters. While it is clear that he is not directly responsible for Molly’s death, Godfrey’s desperate desire that Molly not survive is horrifyingly cruel and selfish. Eliot, always uncompromising in her moral judgments, presents Godfrey’s cruelty as the natural result of his dishonesty and cowardice. This selfishness is simply the result of Godfrey being “a man whose happiness hangs on duplicity,” who repeatedly shirks the demands of his conscience. Strangely enough, however, Godfrey seems to be rewarded for his duplicity, as he receives exactly the miracle for which he has hoped. It is not difficult for us to surmise, though, that Godfrey will not get off quite so easily.
As mentioned earlier, both of the novel’s main characters, Silas and Godfrey, are remarkable for their passivity. Neither man acts—instead, both are by and large acted upon. However, Silas is acted upon primarily because of bad luck, whereas Godfrey is acted upon because of his own naïveté and cowardice. Here, both characters are presented with an opportunity for action. Silas takes action, while Godfrey does not. Silas’s decision to keep Eppie has great positive consequences for him, bringing him companionship and redemption. Godfrey could have made the same decision—as Eppie’s natural father, with greater justification—but he does not. As we will see, when Godfrey eventually tries to make up for this inaction, it will be too late.
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