Silas Marner


George Eliot

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Silas Marner: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Godfrey returns, but he is trembling and pale. He tells Nancy to sit down and that he’d had a great shock, but has come back to tell her what has happened 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 and at the bottom of the pit was Dunstan Cass’s body, with his watch and seals, Godfrey’s hunting crop, and, most horrifyingly, all of Silas Marner’s stolen money. Nancy is surprised and ashamed for herself and Godfrey, having been raised to consider any connection with crime a dishonor.
Dunstan’s body found with the gold is a tidy resolution—narratively and morally—to the mystery of Marner’s lost money and the disappearance of the younger Cass son. In Raveloe society any association with a crime of this nature is shameful and Nancy and Godfrey are embarrassed to be connected to Dunstan. Family connections last a lifetime in this novel, whether they are biological or chosen.
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Godfrey’s tale continues as he reflects aloud that all secrets come to light sooner or later, when God wills it. Nancy’s feeling of dread returns. Godfrey says that when he married her he kept his past a secret: the dead woman found by Silas Marner was his wife and Eppie is his child. Nancy is silent as Godfrey tells her that he couldn’t bear to give her up, that he couldn’t acknowledge the child as his own. Nancy wishes regretfully that they could have had Eppie all along, to ease their childless lives and the death of their little baby.
Godfrey’s admittance that everything comes to light when God wills it finally places his fate in God’s hands, rather than on chance, for the first time in the novel. Directly after this statement, Godfrey takes charge of his situation and tells Nancy everything. Nancy, selfless as always and eager to do what’s right, wishes that they could have adopted Eppie sooner.
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Godfrey reminds Nancy that if she had known the secret earlier she would never have married him. Nancy insists that she wasn’t worth Godfrey doing anything wrong for, as he pleads for her forgiveness. She’s more troubled by the wrong he has done Eppie for fifteen years. Godfrey says they can still adopt the girl, although it will be different, Nancy feels, to take her in when she’s already grown up. But she agrees that it is Godfrey’s duty to acknowledge her and provide for her, so they decide to go that very evening to see Marner and Eppie.
Nancy’s high moral principles are most troubled by the wrong Godfrey has done his daughter by not acknowledging her, and they seek to correct this wrong by finally adopting her. Nancy’s acceptance of Godfrey’s story is, Godfrey feels, different than how she would have responded sixteen years earlier, which demonstrates that even Nancy has changed over the years. Though Godfrey and Nancy’s sense that Eppie has been harmed by not being adopted by them betrays a lack of understanding on their part about everything Eppie has gained by having a father as loving and devoted as Silas Marner.
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