In George Eliot's novel 'Silas Marner' there is much evidence to justify the significant importance of duty. Duty has various meanings, but in the instance of George Eliot's novel it is an obligation. An example of this is portrayed by Silas and Eppie. Another example is Godfrey's obligation to Molly, Nancy and Eppie. In the novel the characters can be divided into two groups.
There are those who honour duty and those who neglect duty. There are two main outcomes, one positive and one negative. Those who honour duty are rewarded, and those who neglect it are punished.Throughout the entire novel there are characters who neglect duty.
The Cass family neglect duty quite a lot, as Godfrey, the Old Squire, and Dunsey all neglect duty. The community at Lantern Yard neglect their duty, especially William Dane. Godfrey neglects his duty towards other characters. He is obliged to Molly but fails to honour his duty, due to dishonesty and hypocrisy and stopped caring for her. Godfrey is unable to live up to his duty towards his second wife Nancy. He lies to her about his past for sixteen years.
He doesn't tell her about his child (Eppie) nor does he tell her bout his previous marriage. He says, 'When I married you, I hid something from you...
Eppie's mother - that wretched woman - was my wife: Eppie is my child. ' He also neglects his duty towards Eppie as he doesn't claim her when Molly dies. Old Squire Cass is another character who doesn't live up to his duties. There is a moral obligation between him and his two sons (Godfrey and Dunsey). As a father he neglects his duties, and doesn't treat them in a proper way. He refuses to listen to them and is a very obstinate man.
He is portrayed to be a heartless man, as he also doesn't fulfil any sort of moral obligations towards his employees or even any members of the society. This is shown when Godfrey asks Dunsey for the Squire's hundred pounds; 'I must hand over that rent of Fowler's to the Squire... for he's threatened to distrain for it' Dunsey is the main culprit for neglecting duties towards anyone. He portrays no sense of duty for his father, his brother, or the society.
He never helps his father in any way. He always threatens his brother (Godfrey) and used this as a mean of obtaining money.An example of this is, 'I might get you turned out of house and home... I might the Squire how his handsome son was married.
' He neglects duty towards society as he steals all of Silas's gold, which Silas spends fifteen years of his life working for, and hence has an emotional attachment to it. The Lantern Yard community neglects duty towards Silas, and the main culprit from the community is William Dane, who was Silas's 'best friend. ' What the community did to Silas was unjust, as they threw him out of the sect without any proof whatsoever.William Dane backstabs his 'best friend' and hence neglected his duty. He is the person who set Silas up, as he planted Silas's knife at the scene of the crime. He does this by taking advantage of Silas's epileptic fits, and says to Silas, 'How do I know what you may have done in the secret chambers of you heart, to give Satan an advantage over you? ' Another way Silas has been betrayed is that his best friend, William Dane marries his fianci?? e (Sarah), as she also believes Silas to be guilty.
All these characters who have neglected their duty towards others are punished in one way or another.Dunsey who is punished most severely, this is because he dies a ghastly death and is discovered sixteen years later, in the stone-pit, as he seems to have drowned. Old Squire Cass is also punished as he ends up dying a lonely man. Godfrey Cass is another character who is punished for his ill-deeds, and is unable to have any children with Nancy. William Dane and the Lantern Yard community are also punished as they all disappear. However, there are also those characters in this novel that honour duty, and on the contrary are rewarded.
Examples of these characters are the Lammeter family, Winthrop family, Silas himself and Eppie. Nancy and Pricilla are members of the Lammeter family and honour duty. From the Winthrop family Aaron and Dolly honour their duty towards others. The Lammeter family are persistently helping around in the community, and honour their duty.
Nancy is a responsible woman and stands by her obligations. She fulfils her duty towards Godfrey, and her sister. She manages to be a dedicated wife and supports her husband, hence is able to fulfil her duty of being a wife. An example of this is when Godfrey tells her about Eppie.She doesn't react but on the contrary cooperates and supports Godfrey as she says, 'Godfrey, if you had told me this six years ago, we could have done some of our duty by the child.
' Nancy is also obliged to Pricilla, as they are both sisters and treats her with respect. A prime example is shown during the preparation for the New Year's Eve party, as when the two sisters are getting dressed Nancy says, 'I must dress myself just like you. ' She does this so that she doesn't look better than her sister, but still ends up looking prettier than her sister.Pricilla is the other character from the Lammeter family who honours duty, and is a good-hearted woman. She plans to spend her life looking after her father and running his estate. In this way she is able live up to her duty as she doesn't want to get married, 'Father's a sober man and likely to live.
.. the business needn't be broke up' The Winthrop's are another family who honour duty, and probably are the most dutiful family in the novel. Aaron and Dolly are the two characters from this family who are of importance.
Like Nancy, Dolly is an excellent housewife, and honours duty towards the whole community and her family.Dolly being illiterate and unable to read still whole heartedly lives a simple religious life. Whenever there is a problem, and whatever the circumstances she'll always be there to lend a hand, 'Somebody..
. fetch Dolly she's the best woman to get. ' When Silas Marner is robbed of his money, Dolly comforts him and supports him. She bakes him lard cakes and makes Aaron sing a carol in the effort to try and cheer Silas up. Even though Dolly's husband is a drunkard, she stands by him and fulfils her duty as a wife.
Aaron who is Dolly's son is also a very dutiful young lad.He shows duty toward Eppie and Silas, as he helps them maintain their garden. Silas Marner is another character who honours duty in various ways. He is a 'skilled handloom line weaver, of exemplary life and ardent faith. ' He honours duty towards the community of Lantern Yard, as he shows responsibility and helps everyone. An example of this is when the Old Deacon is ill he sits by his bedside.
He is betrayed by his 'best friend' and is accused of stealing money. Silas is innocent and says, 'God will clear me' but 'the lots declared that Silas Marner was guilty. ' This caused Silas to lose faith in people.After being robbed, he receives condolences from the people of the community, and they all support him through this rough patch. Due to this he regains his faith in people, and later on comes across a little girl (Eppie) who is sat by her mother, and unfortunately her mother has died. Silas Marner decides to take her in, and honours duty by playing the role of a father and caring for her as his own.
He learns to love the child and brigs her up for sixteen years, until Godfrey Cass comes to his door step to claim his daughter (Eppie). He says, 'No - no I can't part with it, I can't let it go. He shows great sense of duty and honours it.Eppie is also another character who honours duty, especially to her father and never betrayed him. She changes Silas's life in many ways, and makes him a happy person. When Godfrey Cass comes along to claim her as he is her biological father, she refuses to leave Silas.
She honours her duty towards her 'father,' 'I can't leave my father, nor anybody nearer than him... And he's took care of me and loved me from the first, and I'll cleave to him as long as he lives. ' This is a great show of duty from Eppie. All these characters that have honoured duty are rewarded in various ways.
Silas is rewarded as he retrieves all his gold, and is blessed with a family. Dolly is also rewarded as she gains respect. Eppie and Aaron are both rewarded in a similar way, as their reward is getting married to each other. In the novel 'Silas Marner' there is plenty of evidence to suggest duty is a major theme, even though it isn't very consistent. This is because Nancy is not rewarded and on the contrary can't have any children.
Although the novel can be considered to be a 'fable' there are aspects of realism therefore it can be considered as a moral fairy tale.