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MonkeyNotes-Silas Marner by George Eliot
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Chapter 18

Summary

Godfrey enters the room pale and trembling. He tells Nancy that he has some shocking news. Dunstan's skeleton has been found in Stone Pits. Nancy wonders why her husband is so shaken by what happened sixteen years ago to a brother he didn't much care for. Godfrey informs her that Dunstan was the man who robbed Silas, for his gold has been discovered with the skeleton. Nancy is mortified. As a result of this new knowledge, Godfrey feels he must now confess his own past. He tells Nancy that Eppie is his child. Nancy is not angry with her husband, but regrets that he didn't tell her earlier, for they could have done the right thing by Eppie. Godfrey asks Nancy to pardon him, but Nancy says that it is the child he has wronged. Nancy and Godfrey agree that they must compensate Eppie for the past lies and neglect, even though it is long overdue. They decide to visit Silas and bring Eppie home with them.


Notes

The novel reaches the climactic moment in this chapter when the body of Dunstan is discovered in the Stone Pits. The shock of this news from the past brings Godfrey to give Nancy a full confession about his own past. Godfrey has always been hesitant to come out with the truth because he feared Nancy's reaction; "it seemed to him impossible that he should ever confess to her about Eppie, she would never recover from the repulsion." Nancy's true goodness is seen in her reaction to the news. Ironically, she tells her husband that she is sad that he had not told her earlier so that they could have done the right thing. Godfrey should have trusted his wife more. If Nancy had known about Eppie's parentage, it would have changed her mind about adoption. Sadly, Godfrey now understands "the futility of his miscalculation which had defeated his own end." Nancy seems to have greatly matured through their sixteen years of married life. She still holds strong to her principles, but she is softer and more sympathetic. She does not criticize her husband for his past, only for keeping it from her. In addition, her heart goes out to Eppie. She knows that the child has been truly wronged, and says "I wasn't worth doing wrong for--nothing is in this world." In her goodness and strength, she wants Godfrey to now accept his paternal duty towards the girl. If Nancy had known the truth years earlier, she would not have married him; but now she can forgive him. Her soul has ripened with the passage of years.

There is, however, a naiveté about the couple. They plan to immediately go out to Silas' house and bring Eppie home with them. They never consider whether Silas will let her go or whether Eppie may refuse to come. This same naiveté was seen earlier in the novel when Godfrey assumed that Silas would be willing to let him and Nancy adopt Eppie, simply because they wanted to.

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