Goodness And Happiness In Silas Marner

1600 words - 7 pages

In Silas Marner, George Eliot addresses the timeless matter of the correlation between a person’s wealth and his or her overall happiness. In the novel, the working class of Raveloe is presented in a positive light in comparison to the fairly negative representation of the squirearchy. Because of Eliot’s portrayal of the characters in the two classes, it is evident that all people have the potential to live a good and happy life - regardless of their social status.
Eliot suggests how members of the upperclass do not have an advantage in achieving a good and happy life, although they may be regarded as the highest level of society. Brought up in the most prestigious family of Raveloe, the ...view middle of the document...

Dunsey and Godfrey’s indecent behavior remains with them throughout the novel. Virginia Brackett, literary critic, offers a “spot on” representation of the Cass family and sums up their decisions in Silas Marner - none of which indicate a respectable life. She writes, “Godfrey proves driven by base passion, secretly marrying and impregnating the opium-addicted Molly Farren, while also pursuing the lovely Nancy Lammeter. The evil Dunstan discovers his brother’s secret and blackmails him. He then steals Marner’s fortune.” Dunsey and Godfrey’s consistently bad lifestyles override the belief that high society breeds good people.
Not only do Dunstan and Godfrey lead corrupt and evil lives, but these “high society” citizens are miserable as well. In chapter 3, Godfrey is first introduced to the readers and Eliot does not portray him favorably. She implies that Godfrey is making bad decisions that are leading him down a path of self destruction. Eliot describes Godfrey’s current demeanor, writing “the yoke a man creates for himself by wrong-doing will breed hate in the kindliest nature; and the good-humoured, affectionate-hearted Godfrey Cass was fast becoming a bitter man” (Chapter 3). Throughout the novel Godfrey is constantly searching to add substance to his life, like a daughter or a perfect wife, but he tries to attain these by lying and manipulation. Early in Silas Marner, it is revealed that Godfrey is in love with Nancy Lammeter. He eventually marries her, but it is irrational to think that they can live happy lives since the marriage is based upon Godfrey’s lies. He also tries to win back his estranged daughter, thinking her presence in his life will seal his happiness. Godfrey attempts to entice Eppie by bribing her and taking advantage of the kind hearted Silas. However, Godfrey’s spirits are crushed when his own daughter refuses him as she decides “I can’t leave my father [Silas], nor own anybody nearer than him. And I don’t want to be a lady” (Chapter 19). Godfrey’s introduction as an empty and misled character follows him throughout the story to the end as he continues to feel the pain as an unwanted father. Literary critic Jerome Thale maintains, “all through the Godfrey story the atmosphere is dull and oppressive. Even the minor figures in Godfrey’s story are unhappy. [The members of the squirearchy] are people who seem to sense that they are never to have much joy, that their usual happiness is the absence of pain.” The example of Godfrey in Silas Marner further illustrates Eliot’s argument that high society members are not simply granted happiness due to their prestige, and can even be more susceptible to misery and pain.
Similarly, the working class also has the same opportunities to experience a good and happy life, but is presented by Eliot as being better off in various ways than the squirearchy. The common people of Raveloe help transform Silas into a good and happy man, and he too passes on this goodness and happiness to...

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