Silas Marner

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Godfrey Cass Character Analysis

The eldest son of Squire Cass, the most prominent man in Raveloe. Despite Godfrey’s good family, he makes poor choices and marries a lowly woman named Molly Farren. Together they have a daughter, Eppie. While Godfrey keeps his wife and child a secret from his father and the village, Godfrey’s younger brother Dunstan uses his knowledge of the secret marriage to manipulate Godfrey. Molly also threatens to reveal the marriage in order to convince Godfrey to support her, and her opium addiction. Godfrey battles within himself about whether or not to reveal his secret. Naturally a good man, he is irresolute and indecisive. His fearful circumstances cause him to maintain silence and to keep appeasing Dunstan and Molly. After Molly’s death, Godfrey is free to marry his true love, the respectable Nancy Lammeter. He tries to provide for his daughter, Eppie, by supporting Silas Marner who has adopted her. Years later, after Dunstan’s drowned body is found alongside the gold Dunstan stole from Silas, Godfrey confesses all to Nancy and the two attempt to adopt Eppie. Nancy and Godfrey are unable to have children of their own, but Eppie prefers to stay with Silas Marner. Godfrey views this unhappy outcome as part of his punishment for past wrongs.

Godfrey Cass Quotes in Silas Marner

The Silas Marner quotes below are all either spoken by Godfrey Cass or refer to Godfrey 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 9 Quotes

He [Godfrey Cass] was not likely to be very penetrating in his judgments, but he had always had a sense that his father's indulgence had not been kindness, and had had a vague longing for some discipline that would have checked his own errant weakness and helped his better will.

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass, Squire Cass
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey Cass reflects on his father's indulgent treatment of him, and the fact that it's difficult for Godfrey to imagine confessing the truth about his marriage because of this upbringing. The Squire won’t hesitate to punish his son if he learns the truth, but his treatment of his older son has always been without regular discipline and according to the anger and whims of the father.

In this passage, Godfrey’s character, one of “weakness,” is attributed to the failings of his father in raising him without discipline. The narrator assigns blame to Squire Cass as a poor parent. A good parent understands that indulgence is not kindness, and that discipline is required for healthy development. This idea of parenting is considered and reworked later in the novel when Marner and Dolly Winthrop discuss Eppie’s upbringing. Notably, Godfrey is also blaming his father. Godfrey, because of his weak character, always looks outside himself for solutions to his problems. He blames his father, rather than taking responsibility for his actions. He wants to marry Nancy because she will keep him on the right track in life through her focus and goodness. His weakness of character is key in bringing about his unfortunate marriage, which continues to impact him for years.

Favourable Chance, I fancy, is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in. Let even a polished man of these days get into a position he is ashamed to avow, and his mind will be bent on all the possible issues that may deliver him from the calculable results of that position.

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage universalizes Godfrey’s experience as he hopes for a resolution to his terrible marriage to Molly. Because Godfrey is ashamed of his secret relationship, and he cannot resolve this situation through his own actions either by confessing or persuading Dunstan to keep the secret, he hopes for a chance occurrence that will rescue him. The voice of the narrator appears in this passage with an “I” voice and an opinion. Normally, Silas Marner focuses on the thoughts and actions of the characters, but occasionally it pauses to provide more universal reflections from the narrator.

In this universal reflection, the narrator points out that it naturally follows that if a person is in an undesirable situation, he will focus irrationally on events that could allow him to escape without consequences. This is notable because it presents a counterpoint to the idea highlighted in other parts of this novel that one’s character determines one’s fate. In much of this book, good characters bring happiness into their lives through their kindness, and weak characters make mistakes and poor choices that continue to haunt them. This passage acknowledges that even a “polished man”—one of wealth, good social standing, and (presumably) good character—would rely too much on chance if he were in a situation like Godfrey’s. Even good characters are inclined to look outside themselves for help, to rely on chance, when their poor circumstances seem beyond their control.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Molly knew that the cause of her dingy rags was not her husband's neglect, but the demon Opium to whom she was enslaved, body and soul, except in the lingering mother's tenderness that refused to give him her hungry child. She knew this well; and yet, in the moments of wretched unbenumbed consciousness, the sense of her want and degradation transformed itself continually into bitterness towards Godfrey. He was well off; and if she had her rights she would be well off too.

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass, Molly Farren
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

Molly Farren sets out one winter night to find Godfrey and reveal the truth of their connection. She is motivated by bitterness, because Godfrey is enjoying an extravagant lifestyle at his father’s house and she is living in poverty. This passage captures both Molly’s rational understanding of her situation and her emotional understanding of her situation. From a rational point of view, Molly knows that she is poor because of her opium addiction. Her money goes toward acquiring the drug. But when she is sober, when she feels wretched “unbenumbed consciousness,” she feels bitter toward Godfrey because she sees her poverty in contrast to his wealth.

Her bitterness is not without some foundation, however, as she points out that “if she had her rights” she would be wealthy like Godfrey. By this she means that if Godfrey were to acknowledge her as his wife, she would be entitled to his wealth. Although Godfrey provides for wife and daughter, Molly sees that this is different than how he would treat a different woman. Her bitterness is a rebellion against social classism. She wants to be treated the same way as any other woman married to Godfrey would be treated. Molly’s situation is partly in her control and partly beyond her control, but her choice to link herself to Godfrey leads to her perpetual unhappiness.

Chapter 18 Quotes

“Everything comes to light, Nancy, sooner or later. When God Almighty wills it, our secrets are found out.”

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass (speaker), Nancy Lammeter
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey finally finds the strength to confess the truth about Molly and Eppie to his wife Nancy. This strength is born of the shame he feels when Dunstan’s body is found at the bottom of the stone pits with Silas Marner’s stolen gold. As he begins to explain his secrets to Nancy, he starts with this proclamation: that everything hidden is at some point revealed. He sees the hand of God in what has happened to Dunstan. Despite the long time his brother was missing, the truth of his cruelty in robbing a lonely man is finally revealed. The chance events that led to this secret coming to light convince Godfrey that all secrets are eventually revealed, and he had better not tempt fate by continuing to lie.

This is a change for Godfrey, who once struggled to confess his secrets, but always failed. Godfrey has clearly grown as a person, although he has not entirely changed. His willful plan to adopt Eppie, regardless of Marner’s wishes, shows that he is still self-focused. But he has a new faith and understanding of God, and he sees events as the products of God’s will. Where once he relied on chance to save him, knowing no other way, now he actively engages with the idea of a God who controls events. Nancy has a very strong faith and seems to have influenced her husband’s thinking and character, as Godfrey once hoped that his father could have more positively shaped his character.

Chapter 19 Quotes

“…then, sir, why didn't you say so sixteen year ago, and claim her before I'd come to love her, i'stead o' coming to take her from me now, when you might as well take the heart out o' my body? God gave her to me because you turned your back upon her, and He looks upon her as mine: you've no right to her! When a man turns a blessing from his door, it falls to them as take it in.”

Related Characters: Silas Marner (speaker), Godfrey Cass
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Godfrey and Nancy explain the biological connection between Godfrey and Eppie to Silas Marner and the girl. They state their wish to adopt Eppie and to give her a better (that is, upper-class) than the life she has with Marner. Marner is very upset by this, because he loves Eppie as his own child. He speaks of losing Eppie as the same as taking his heart out of his body. His emotions show clearly how much he cares for the girl, especially in contrast to Godfrey’s measured arguments.

Marner is upset because he loves Eppie, but he also offers compelling arguments for why Godfrey doesn’t ethically deserve to take his child. Marner points out that Godfrey “turned his back upon her” with full knowledge of the identity and whereabouts of his daughter. This means that Godfrey has no right to her. In contrast, Marner has taken her in and cared for her, and, therefore, she is his in God’s eyes. Marner’s faith is an important part of his claim on Eppie, because he believes her to have come into his life through God’s will. Marner expands his point to say that any blessing a man turns from his door can be claimed by anyone who will take it in. This is a sort of “finders keepers” argument. The language of ownership in this passage may be startling to a modern reader, as each man claims Eppie is "his." Marner argues that belonging is defined by care, and Godfrey argues that belonging is defined by biological connection.

Chapter 20 Quotes

“She thinks I did wrong by her mother as well as by her. She thinks me worse than I am. But she must think it: she can never know all. It's part of my punishment, Nancy, for my daughter to dislike me.”

Related Characters: Godfrey Cass (speaker), Godfrey Cass, Eppie, Nancy Lammeter, Molly Farren
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

After Godfrey and Nancy fail to convince Eppie to live with them, Godfrey reflects on Eppie’s dislike of him. He is troubled by Eppie’s refusal, which is the reason the couple agrees to leave the girl with her adoptive father. Godfrey says that he knows Eppie blames him for what he did to her, as well as to her mother. He thinks that Eppie’s opinion of him is too harsh, but resigns himself to this fact because it is part of his “punishment.” Godfrey’s odd opinion shows both his inherently selfish nature, as well as the ways he has begun to repent for his past actions. He is reluctant to think ill of himself, and, as usual, pushes the blame off onto another person. He thinks Eppie is too harsh because she “can never know all” of what he’s been through. But, at the same time, he is more willing to accept Eppie’s opinion than he once would have been. He sees her opinion as fate, or the will of God. It is inevitable that she dislike him because of his past actions.

At one point, Godfrey would have been happy to escape scot-free from any blame for his misdeeds. Now, he is more willing to bear the burden of living childless after having chosen to reject a biological child. Despite this new understanding of God’s will, Godfrey is as ready as ever to play the victim, rather than to take responsibility. His imperfect character ends the book in imperfect happiness, a prime example of the book’s "moral" lesson.

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Godfrey Cass Character Timeline in Silas Marner

The timeline below shows where the character Godfrey 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
...time betting and drinking, having been kept at home in leisure all his life. Recently, Godfrey Cass, the elder son, has appeared troubled and perhaps is taking after his younger brother’s... (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.... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
When Godfrey argues that he has no money to offer in place of the loaned rent money... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey’s naturally irresolute personality and his fear of losing Nancy Lammeter’s affections, should his secret become... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
After Dunstan’s departure, Godfrey curses both his brother’s careful manipulation and his own folly for having gotten himself into... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Godfrey can only imagine one situation worse than his present one: the one he will be... (full context)
Chapter 4
Morality Theme Icon
Dunstan is unconcerned by Wildfire’s death as he plans to suggest his earlier idea to Godfrey: taking a loan from Silas Marner. Dunstan walks toward Raveloe through the misty evening, all... (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... (full context)
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
...the peddler didn’t murder Marner because earring-wearing individuals have been known to resort to murder. Godfrey Cass treats the matter lightly. He recalls that the peddler was rather a merry fellow,... (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... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey is convinced that he must now tell his father the whole story of loaning Dunstan... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Despite Godfrey’s conviction, he awakes the next morning unable to persuade himself that he should tell the... (full context)
Chapter 9
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Godfrey rises early the next morning, and, after eating breakfast, waits for the Squire’s appearance in... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey tells his father that Wildfire has been killed when Dunstan rode him to the hunt.... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Squire Cass declares that it’s time Godfrey outgrew any foolishness. He has been a good father, he feels, and his sons have... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...ask for Mr. Lammeter’s daughter’s hand for his son himself, if only cowardice is holding Godfrey back. Godfrey pleads with his father to let the matter alone, to let him speak... (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Favorable Chance takes over the minds of any men in unfavorable circumstances, and Godfrey’s hopes all depend on some chance outcome that will settle everything for him. Rather than... (full context)
Chapter 10
Morality Theme Icon
Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
...large party where all the society of Raveloe and the neighboring village of Tarley gather. Godfrey is looking forward to this party, half anxious that Dunstan will return and reveal his... (full context)
Chapter 11
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...Lammeter arrives at the Red House with her father on New Year’s Eve. She sees Godfrey standing at the door, and wishes she could have her sister Priscilla at her side... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
...one old maid among two sisters is enough. The sisters descend to the parlor and Godfrey guides Nancy to a seat near himself. Surrounded by the Squire’s family’s wealth, Nancy is... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...at the thought of a union between his daughter and the Squire’s son. He feels Godfrey would have to make some changes before he would consent to such a marriage. Dr.... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...and Ben Winthrop comment upon the figures of the dancers, and, while Mr. Macey criticizes Godfrey’s shoulders and coat, Mr. Winthrop can find no fault in him. (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
...under the Squire’s foot and stitches are torn out at the waist of her dress. Godfrey leads her into the adjoining parlor until Priscilla can come help her fix her dress.... (full context)
Chapter 12
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
While Godfrey is caught up in spending his precious moment with Nancy, his wife, unknown to him,... (full context)
Chapter 13
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...the white parlor to look on the dancing. Nancy is seated with her father, as Godfrey stands a little ways off, attempting to avoid his father’s jokes about his and Nancy's... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
...Silas Marner to leave the child there, but he finds he cannot part with it. Godfrey offers to get Mrs. Winthrop for assistance, as Dr. Kimble heads toward the Stone Pits... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Godfrey enters the cottage to see his secret wife’s body, but casts her only one glance.... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Godfrey feels strongly the opportunity he has from this point onward to say tender things to... (full context)
Chapter 15
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
From a distance, Godfrey watches Eppie grow up in Silas Marner’s care. Occasionally he does what he can to... (full context)
Chapter 16
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...asleep on his hearth. The villagers of Raveloe are leaving their Sunday morning church service. Godfrey Cass and his wife Nancy depart first, as their humbler neighbors watch them pass. The... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
...volunteers to dig the garden and to bring some soil and plants from his employer, Godfrey Cass’s, garden. Eppie makes her father promise he won’t work too hard when he and... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...many ways, from the presence of these lively pets to the new furniture given by Godfrey Cass. No one in the village is jealous of Mr. Cass’s generosity to the poor... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
...level. Marner says this must be because of the draining in Mr. Osgood’s fields that Godfrey Cass has directed. (full context)
Chapter 17
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...alone in the garden and Nancy tells Priscilla that she is contented, but worried about Godfrey and his low spirits. (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Priscilla is frustrated by men like Godfrey who, she believes, always want what they don’t have, but Nancy defends her husband. It’s... (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Nancy had resisted over the years Godfrey’s few attempts to suggest that they adopt a child. Nancy holds strongly to her opinions... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
From the first suggestion of adoption, Godfrey had specifically spoken of Eppie as a child whom they could adopt. Surely the weaver... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
...was right to discourage any consideration of adoption. Nancy labors to make her life with Godfrey perfect in every way except the one that in unchangeable, consoling herself that a different... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey’s conscience is never easy about Eppie and his lack of children with Nancy feels like... (full context)
Chapter 18
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Godfrey returns, but he is trembling and pale. He tells Nancy to sit down and that... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey’s tale continues as he reflects aloud that all secrets come to light sooner or later,... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey reminds Nancy that if she had known the secret earlier she would never have married... (full context)
Chapter 19
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...door and Eppie blushes when she opens the door to admit Mr. and Mrs. Cass. Godfrey first apologizes to Marner for the loss of his money, hoping that he can make... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey points out that he and Mrs. Cass have no children and, therefore, they would like... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
Godfrey, irritated, exclaims that he has a claim on Eppie because she is his child and... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey urges rationality. Such a change wouldn’t tear Marner and Eppie apart forever, he argues. He... (full context)
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey is frustrated that his attempt to atone for his past wrongs has been thwarted. He... (full context)
Chapter 20
Morality Theme Icon
Nancy and Godfrey walk home in silence and stand together in the parlor. They look at each other... (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Nancy is relieved that Priscilla and her father won’t be troubled with the truth. Godfrey realizes that Eppie didn’t like the idea of him being her father, and that she... (full context)
Part 2, Conclusion
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
...Priscilla wishes Nancy could have had a child like Eppie, someone to occupy her and Godfrey’s minds above and beyond the lambs and calves. (full context)
Faith Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
...now has a larger garden than Eppie ever dreamed of. Other alterations were made by Godfrey Cass to accommodate Silas Marner’s growing family in the home where they preferred to stay.... (full context)