Silas Marner

Silas Marner Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The most prominent family in Raveloe is that of Squire Cass. Squire Cass is one of several occupants of Raveloe who own land, but he alone possesses the title of a squire and keeps tenants on his land who work for him. During the winter months, the richer inhabitants of Raveloe have time and leisure to feast and celebrate freely and are invited to the Red House (Squire Cass’s home) for long periods of time before moving to Mr. Osgood’s home for further celebration.
The Cass family, the Osgoods, and the Lammeters are wealthier families with a different lifestyle than those of the lowly villagers. Their extravagance is often contrasted to Silas Marner’s humble existence. Their lifestyle is not more inclined to happiness, however, as Eppie’s choice at the end of the novel demonstrates.
Themes
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Squire Cass’s wife died years earlier, and the Red House has lacked a woman’s touch. Likewise, Squire Cass’s two sons appear to the people of the village to have 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 his life. Recently, Godfrey Cass, the elder son, has appeared troubled and perhaps is taking after his younger brother’s bad ways. The village folk feel that such behavior on Godfrey’s part will cost him the heart of a young woman, Nancy Lammeter, who has looked favorably upon him for the past year.
At this time period, and especially in a small village like Raveloe, one’s reputation was of the utmost importance. One’s social class determined whom one could marry. Godfrey Cass, as the son of the Squire, is an excellent match for Miss Lammeter, however, a bad reputation could cause Nancy to refuse any offer of marriage from him. As the second son, Dunstan will not inherit as much as Godfrey (if anything at all) and his reputation is less important to maintain.
Themes
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
Godfrey and Dunstan confront each other in the parlor of the Red House one November afternoon. Dunstan is drunk, but has appeared at his older brother’s summons. One of Squire Cass’s tenants, Fowler, paid his rent to Godfrey, and Godfrey loaned this money to Dunstan. Now their father is short of cash and demands that the tenant pay him. Godfrey insists that Dunstan should pay him back, so he can deliver the rent money to the Squire. Dunstan tells Godfrey to get the money himself or, he threatens, he’ll reveal Godfrey’s secret marriage to a drunken, low-class woman named Molly Farren.
Dunstan’s power over Godfrey is significant in several of Godfrey’s decisions and actions. Godfrey is willing to go to long lengths to keep his secret, rather than confessing the truth, and this often means appeasing Dunstan. Godfrey’s inability to be honest shows his weak character. While the consequences of honesty would be great, he prefers to rely on chance and hope rather than taking responsibility for his actions. Godfrey isn't bad; he's just weak.
Themes
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 he gave Dunstan, Dunstan suggest that he sells his horse, Wildfire. The horse could be sold the next day at the hunt, but Godfrey protests that he is supposed to attend Mrs. Osgood’s birthday dance the next day. Dunstan teases him about Nancy Lammeter who will be at the dance and who doesn’t know of Godfrey’s secret marriage. Godfrey desperately claims he could tell the Squire himself of his secret marriage, so that Dunstan could no longer hold the secret as bargaining power.
Godfrey’s horse Wildfire is well cared for and a far nicer horse than Dunstan’s own. Selling Wildfire and entrusting him to Dunstan is evidence of Godfrey’s fear of his brother’s knowledge of his secret. Wildfire demonstrates the difference between the brothers: Dunstan is careless and Godfrey is anxious, as their treatment of Wildfire reveals.
Themes
Morality Theme Icon
The Individual and Society Theme Icon
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Godfrey’s naturally irresolute personality and his fear of losing Nancy Lammeter’s affections, should his secret become known, have stopped him from telling Squire Cass 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 able to avoid losing Nancy, his claim to Squire Cass’s inheritance, and the village’s respect for a while longer. Godfrey agrees, therefore, to let Dunstan take Wildfire and sell the horse at the hunt the next day.
In numerous scenes and passages, Godfrey Cass debates the pros and cons of revealing the truth himself. Godfrey is irresolute and unable to commit to a strong course of action. The nature of Godfrey’s mind is revealed through these internal debates, which give insight into his inner character, a unique technique in 19th century literature.
Themes
Morality Theme Icon
After Dunstan’s departure, Godfrey curses both his brother’s careful manipulation and his own folly for having gotten himself into this situation. For four years, he has wooed and dreamt of Nancy Lammeter. He longs for the comfort of a domestic life with her, having grown up in a home without the comfort and orderliness he desired. He longs for the presence of Nancy Lammeter in his life to make the good and happy things he prefers, rather than the sporting, drinking, and card playing that tempt him currently.
Nancy Lammeter holds a powerful position in Godfrey’s heart and mind. He perceives her to be entirely good and without fault. He thinks she is his only hope for changing his life and becoming a better person. Such idolization of Nancy places all his hope on her such that he doesn’t realize the need to change himself through his individual choices.
Themes
Morality Theme Icon
Godfrey can only imagine one situation worse than his present one: the one he will be in when his secret marriage comes to light. By keeping the secret, and prolonging the time until the secret is revealed, Godfrey hopes that the chance he will be rescued by some outside event is increased. Despite his natural good humor and affection, Godfrey begins to hope for terrible chance outcomes that could change his situation. As Godfrey leaves the room to go to the Rainbow, he pushes aside Snuff, the patient spaniel, who waits for attention from her master. Despite his disinterest, the dog loyally follows him from the room.
Godfrey’s reliance on chance is frequently referred to throughout the events of the novel. Despite many events occurring as if by fate or a divine power, Godfrey’s hesitancy and indecision is always referred to as him preferring to rely on chance rather than his own actions. Godfrey’s relationship with his dog demonstrates his dismissive attitude toward those he does not care for, including his secret wife and child.
Themes
Morality Theme Icon
The Limits of Human Knowledge Theme Icon