Silas Marner

by: George Eliot

Part I, Chapters 13–15

Summary Part I, Chapters 13–15

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.