Literature Study GuidesSilas MarnerPart 1 Chapter 13 Summary

Silas Marner | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Silas Marner | Part 1, Chapter 13 | Summary



At the Red House, the party-goers have had their early supper, and the servants have come upstairs to watch the dancing. Bob Cass is dancing a hornpipe, and Godfrey Cass is standing where he can watch Nancy Lammeter without becoming the target of his father's pointed comments about marriage. Silas Marner suddenly appears in the room, carrying a child in his arms whom Godfrey recognizes as his own. Mr. Crackenthorp and Mr. Lammeter are talking to Silas, and Godfrey joins them. Silas tells the rector he needs to see Dr. Kimble because a woman is "dead in the snow at the Stone-pits." Godfrey is terrified that she might not be dead. The women, including Nancy, want to know whose child it is, and Godfrey says he doesn't know. Mrs. Kimble suggests Silas leave the child there with "one o' the girls," but Silas refuses, saying, "No—no—I can't part with it, I can't let it go ... It's come to me—I've a right to keep it." Kimble sends Godfrey for his boots and asks that someone go get Dolly Winthrop to help out. The child begins to cry for her "mammy" and clings to Silas. Returning with Kimble's boots, Godfrey "fe[els] the cry as if some fibre were drawn tight within him." He rushes to fetch Dolly without even changing his shoes.

At the cottage, Godfrey waits outside, aware that he should claim the woman and the child, but unable to make himself do so when Nancy is suddenly within reach. Kimble comes out and tells him the woman has been "dead for hours." Godfrey goes inside, takes a quick look to confirm that the dead woman is Molly Farren, and speaks with Silas, who is holding the child. He "fe[els] a strange mixture of feelings, a conflict of regret and joy, that the pulse of that little heart had no response for the half-jealous yearning in his own," and asks Silas if he'll "take the child to the parish" the next day. But Silas says he wants to keep her "till anybody shows they've a right to take her away from me ... The mother's dead, and I reckon it's got no father: it's a lone thing—and I'm a lone thing. My money's gone, I don't know where—and this is come from I don't know where." Godfrey gives him half a crown towards clothing for the child, then hurries to catch up with Kimble.

Godfrey changes to dry shoes and returns to the White Parlor, looking forward to courting Nancy. If Dunstan Cass comes back and threatens to tell, he thinks, he can buy his brother off. He decides he will always make sure the child is "cared for" and will "never forsake it." But he will not claim it. He thinks it may be just as happy without its father and that he will be much happier without the child.


Suddenly all the obstacles that separated Godfrey and Nancy seem to have cleared away. He is terrified that Silas might be wrong and that Molly might be alive, but Dr. Kimble lays that terror to rest. Godfrey is now left with a decision to make. He knows the child is his and feels a desire to claim her. He recognizes her immediately when he sees her in Silas's arms at the dance, but says nothing. At that moment, the threat of being found out is still too strong in him. At the cottage, though, with Molly's death confirmed, he has another opportunity to claim the girl. He feels "a strange mixture of feelings, a conflict of regret and joy, that the pulse of that little heart had no response for the half-jealous yearning in his own." Chance has offered him an opportunity, and his heart pulls him toward the child. However, to claim the child, he would have to reveal his secret, and he is sure that would destroy any chance of a future with Nancy. So he disguises his response to the child as neighborly concern rather than fatherly attraction and, as is so often the case, does nothing.

Silas, on the other hand, feels no indecision. He will keep the child unless someone "shows they've a right to take her." He has found in the little girl a repository for all the love he had entrusted to William, Sarah, and his Lantern Yard congregation—a love they betrayed and rejected. For 15 years, he invested it in his coins, which, as the narrator observed in Chapter 2, "made a loam that was deep enough for the seeds of desire." There it stagnated, but now he has the opportunity to love and be loved in return. He is very sure of what he wants and grabs this opportunity with both hands the instant it presents itself. Only Godfrey could make him give up the child, but Godfrey doesn't act on his fatherly impulse, which allows Silas his redemption.

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