5. I can’t say what I should have done about that, Godfrey. I should never have married anybody else. But I wasn’t worth doing wrong for—nothing is in this world. Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand—not even our marrying wasn’t, you see.
Nancy gently upbraids Godfrey with these lines in Chapter 18, after he confesses that he is Eppie’s father and has hidden that fact from Nancy for eighteen years. Nancy’s reaction is not one of anger, but instead one of deep regret that Godfrey had not claimed Eppie long ago, so they could have raised her themselves. When Godfrey responds that Nancy would never have married him had she known of his secret child, she responds with these lines, a gentle condemnation of Godfrey’s act and the thinking that justified it.
The quote brings Nancy’s “unalterable little code” of behavior into confrontation with Godfrey’s slippery, self-justifying equivocation. While Nancy and her code are portrayed as occasionally arbitrary and even illogical, Eliot leaves no doubt that Nancy is a deeply moral person. In taking Godfrey to task for simply molding his actions to contingency, Nancy is passing Eliot’s judgment, as well. Here, as elsewhere, Eliot’s narrative punishes those who, by allowing ends to justify means, ignore basic questions of right and wrong.