Silas Marner

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Dunstan Cass Character Analysis

Squire Cass’s lewd younger son, Dunstan prioritizes drinking and gambling. He is unconcerned for others’ interests. He manipulates his brother, Godfrey, into giving him money to pursue his various pastimes. He sells Wildfire, Godfrey’s horse, only to later kill the horse while riding it through a difficult jumping course. He is unconcerned with the horse’s death, and Godfrey’s fate, and walks home, only to pass by Silas Marner’s cottage. He is struck by a memory of talk of the weaver’s wealth and decides to rob him. Years later, Dunstan’s body, along with the stolen gold, is found at the bottom of the stone pit by Silas Marner’s cottage.

Dunstan Cass Quotes in Silas Marner

The Silas Marner quotes below are all either spoken by Dunstan Cass or refer to Dunstan Cass. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Faith Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Silas Marner published in 1996.
Chapter 3 Quotes

“I might tell the Squire how his handsome son was married to that nice young woman, Molly Farren, and was very unhappy because he couldn't live with his drunken wife, and I should slip into your place as comfortable as could be.”

Related Characters: Dunstan Cass (speaker), Godfrey Cass, Squire Cass
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey’s younger brother Dunstan is aware of Godfrey’s secret: Godfrey is married to an unsuitable woman from a low social class, and the two have a little daughter. Dunstan holds this information over Godfrey’s head and repeatedly threatens to reveal his secret. In this way, he is able to blackmail Godfrey and control Godfrey’s actions. In this passage, Dunstan points out that if he were to reveal Godfrey’s secret, he would “slip into” Godfrey’s “place as comfortable as could be.” Dunstan, as the younger brother, is not the primary heir of his father’s estate and fortune. Social class and societal traditions have strongly influenced Dunstan and Godfrey’s relationship, because of the legal and cultural practice of making the firstborn child the primary heir. Dunstan’s power over Godfrey is not only social, but financial. Godfrey be shamed and embarrassed if Dunstan revealed his secret (and prevented from marrying Nancy, who he loves), and he would also lose his source of income and inheritance.

This power dynamic between the brothers shows how society impacts the lives of individuals. Losing the good opinion of society could change Godfrey’s life. One reason why Godfrey would lose the respect of others and his inheritance from his father if his secret were revealed is that he has married an "unsuitable" woman. Molly Farren’s unsuitability for Godfrey is defined by the expectations of society, who assumes Godfrey will marry a rich and fashionable woman of his class. Molly is unsuitable because of her low social class and “drunken” behavior.

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His [Godfrey’s] natural irresolution and moral cowardice were exaggerated by a position in which dreaded consequences seemed to press equally on all sides, and his irritation had no sooner provoked him to defy Dunstan and anticipate all possible betrayals, than the miseries he must bring on himself by such a step seemed more unendurable to him than the present evil.

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass, Dunstan Cass
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey’s character and his circumstances contribute to his problematic moral dilemma. He is torn between defying Dunstan (in which case Dunstan would reveal his secret marriage and child) and obeying Dunstan (because the consequences of that reveal would be “unendurable”). This passage characterizes Godfrey as having “natural irresolution,” meaning he is bad at making and sticking with decisions, and “moral cowardice,” meaning that he is afraid of doing what’s right if this will hurt him. His character is not solely to blame for this indecision. His situation is one in which “dreaded consequences seemed to press equally on all sides.” This means that Godfrey sees both his alternatives—defying Dunstan and obeying Dunstan—as horrible. He describes defiance as bringing about miseries and his current situation as “the present evil.” Therefore, he isn’t inclined to choose one way or the other.

This passage shows how Godfrey’s personality, which is one of irresolution, is exacerbated by his situation, which has no happy options. Throughout the novel, characters’ lives and situations are impact by their personalities and moral choices. Godfrey’s situation is made worse by his indecisive personality, which seems to have led him into such a predicament to begin with. He isn’t able to acknowledge Molly as his wife, and he isn’t able to cast her out of his life completely. This moral irresolution causes him to remain in a situation in which he lives in fear of his secret being discovered.

Chapter 4 Quotes

If the weaver was dead, who had a right to his money? Who would know where his money was hidden? Who would know that anybody had come to take it away? He [Dunstan] went no farther into the subtleties of evidence: the pressing question, "Where is the money?" now took such entire possession of him as to make him quite forget that the weaver's death was not a certainty. A dull mind, once arriving at an inference that flatters a desire, is rarely able to retain the impression that the notion from which the inference started was purely problematic. And Dunstan's mind was as dull as the mind of a possible felon usually is.

Related Characters: Dunstan Cass (speaker), Silas Marner
Related Symbols: Gold
Page Number: 30-31
Explanation and Analysis:

Dunstan arrives at Silas Marner’s cottage with a plan to ask the weaver for a loan because he has heard tell of the man’s wealth. When he arrives, however, the door is unlatched. Dunstan wonders if Marner could have slipped into the stone pits outside his hut, as the weather is so foggy. Immediately, his mind jumps from speculation about Marner’s death to questions about his money. This progression of thinking is here attributed to Dunstan’s “dull mind.” The narrator argues that a dull mind is inclined to latch onto an inference if this inference “flatters a desire.” In other words, if an inference, or guess, is made that seems favorable, the dull-minded thinker doesn’t stop to question the guess, but runs with that hypothetical situation. It is easy for Dunstan to forget that he only “guessed” Marner might be dead. The questions that follow from this guess help Dunstan justify taking the money.

This is an interesting moral dilemma. Dunstan is not acting in full awareness, as he doesn't take the money while certain that Marner is alive. Instead, he convinces himself of the reasonableness of taking the money, forgetting that Marner might not be dead. This is attributed to his “dull mind” which is “as dull as the mind of a possible felon usually is.” This shows a consistency among a type of person—a possible felon—someone who might be capable of small scale crime and cruelty, but isn’t always a criminal. In other words, Dunstan’s weakness inclines him to criminal activity, if the opportunity presents itself.

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Dunstan Cass Character Timeline in Silas Marner

The timeline below shows where the character Dunstan Cass appears in Silas Marner. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...gone astray from the properness of the Squire’s family. In particular, Squire Cass’s second son, Dunstan Cass, spends his time betting and drinking, having been kept at home in leisure all... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Godfrey and Dunstan confront each other in the parlor of the Red House one November afternoon. Dunstan is... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...he has no money to offer in place of the loaned rent money he gave Dunstan, Dunstan suggest that he sells his horse, Wildfire. The horse could be sold the next... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
...everything. He argues to himself that while telling the Squire would have a certain outcome, Dunstan’s betrayal of his secret is not certain and, if he keeps silent, he may be... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
After Dunstan’s departure, Godfrey curses both his brother’s careful manipulation and his own folly for having gotten... (full context)
Chapter 4
Morality Theme Icon
Dunstan Cass rides Wildfire to the hunt the next morning, and, on his way, he passes... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Dunstan meets two men—Bryce and Keating—at the hunt and tells them that he has swapped his... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Despite a fleeting thought that he should deliver the horse and return home, Dunstan decides to ride Wildfire on the hunting course. He pushes the horse too hard and... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Dunstan is unconcerned by Wildfire’s death as he plans to suggest his earlier idea to Godfrey:... (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Dunstan sees light gleaming through the mist as he nears the Stone Pits and realizes it... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Dunstan knocks loudly at Marner’s door only to be met with silence. He intends to shake... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Dunstan wonders, where is the money? He does not stop to consider that Marner might not,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Faith Theme Icon
Just as Dunstan is leaving the cottage, Silas Marner is about to return. While he had left his... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Godfrey Cass returns home from Mrs. Osgood’s party to find Dunstan has not returned. His thoughts are too occupied with having seen Miss Nancy Lammeter, and... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
By afternoon, Godfrey’s concern about Dunstan’s absence has grown and he leaves for Batherley. He worries that perhaps Dunstan has vanished... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey is convinced that he must now tell his father the whole story of loaning Dunstan the money and why he did so, or else face Dunstan’s anger if he returns... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
...would be wisest, he decides, would to be try and soften his father’s anger at Dunstan and to try to keep everything as it had been before the loss of Wildfire... (full context)
Chapter 9
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey tells his father that Wildfire has been killed when Dunstan rode him to the hunt. The result of this is that he doesn’t have the... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...Squire replies that he’ll do as he chooses and then sends Godfrey away to sell Dunstan’s horse and to tell his brother that he need not bother returning home. Godfrey says... (full context)
Chapter 10
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...the next few weeks, the villagers of Raveloe slowly lose interest in Silas Marner’s robbery. Dunstan’s disappearance on the same day as the robbery is not seen as remarkable. Even if... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
...on Christmas and the villagers celebrate. At Squire Cass’s family party, no one remarks on Dunstan’s absence. The affair is quiet with only the doctor and his wife, uncle and aunt... (full context)
Chapter 13
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...to say tender things to Nancy and to make promises to her. He realizes that Dunstan may still return and betray his secret, but he hopes to persuade Dunstan to be... (full context)
Chapter 15
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...does not want to do too much and raise suspicion. Godfrey seems determined and firm. Dunstan has not returned and Godfrey no longer feels the threat of his brother’s presence. Everyone,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...in order to avoid her hearing it from anyone but himself. Godfrey tells her that Dunstan’s body, his skeleton, has been found. The Stone Pit has dried up from the draining... (full context)