Literature Study GuidesSilas MarnerPart 1 Chapter 9 Summary

Silas Marner | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Silas Marner | Part 1, Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

When Squire Cass comes down—later than his sons—for breakfast in the morning, he finds Godfrey Cass waiting for him. Godfrey tells him "There's been a cursed piece of ill-luck with Wildfire," and, before he can say more, his father begins talking about his poor financial situation; he even mentions that he's going to evict Fowler for not paying his rent. Godfrey tells him that Bryce was to have bought Wildfire, but that Dunstan Cass rode him in the hunt and got him killed; he goes on to say that, as a result, he will not be able to pay him the £100 pounds Fowler had given him and which he had given Dunsey. This infuriates the older man, who reminds his son that he can leave his money to whomever he chooses. The squire demands to see Dunsey, and Godfrey explains his brother did not come back from the hunt. The squire wants to know why Godfrey gave his brother the money in the first place, and Godfrey says he doesn't know. His father sees through this and says, "You've been up to some trick, and you've been bribing him not to tell." Alarmed, Godfrey plays down the reason as a young man's "foolery."

The squire claims then that he's "been too good a father" and will stop doing so. Godfrey thinks he'd have preferred it if his father had been less indulgent and exerted a little discipline, but he says nothing. The squire says Godfrey has to "try and help [him] keep things together," to which Godfrey replies that he has "offered to take the management of things, but ... [his father has] taken it ill ... and seemed to think [Godfrey] wanted to push [the squire] out of [his] place." The squire changes the subject, asking why Godfrey hasn't proposed to Nancy Lammeter; he even offers to "make the offer" himself if his son doesn't have "the pluck to do it." Godfrey says he would prefer to do the asking, saying, "A man must manage these things for himself." Godfrey claims he wants to wait, suggesting this is because Nancy wouldn't want to live in the house with the four brothers. He asks his father not to say anything to her. The squire then instructs Godfrey to stop the legal proceedings against Fowler and to sell Dunstan's horse and bring him the money. He also tells Godfrey to tell Dunstan not to come home: "Let him turn ostler, and keep himself. He shan't hang on me any more."

Godfrey is glad he has not been disinherited, but worries that his father will say something to Mr. Lammeter, forcing Godfrey to refuse to marry Nancy Lammeter. He hopes again that "some favourable chance [will] save him from unpleasant consequences."

Analysis

This is the first time readers have met the squire, though he has been referred to several times already, especially in the preceding chapter, when Godfrey worried about his temper and rigidity. Despite his concerns, Godfrey navigates their conversation without losing his inheritance, though the squire's temper flares as expected. In Chapter 9 readers learn that Squire Cass considers himself the superior of everyone in and around Raveloe, yet he doesn't take good care of himself. The narrator has already mentioned that he spends his evenings in the Rainbow, and the description of him in this chapter is in keeping with a habitual drinker: His appetite is "rather feeble," his mouth is "slack and feeble," "his person show[s] signs of habitual neglect," and his clothes are "slovenly." He claims to be long past the "fooleries" of youth, but his "life [is] quite as idle as his sons.'" Still, he is not an unintelligent man—after all, he immediately suspects Dunstan was blackmailing Godfrey in some way in order to get Fowler's rent money; it's just that he doesn't make the effort to exert that intelligence in a productive way. But one thing that distinguishes him from many others in Raveloe is his understanding of the connection between their local economy and world events. Even if he knows this because it is his brother-in-law, Dr. Kimble, who told him, the squire is still aware that the Napoleonic Wars are almost over and that that will mean a significant reduction in his income.

Dunstan has now been missing for several days, and neither Godfrey nor Squire Cass is worried about him. Both assume that he has some money with him and is off somewhere squandering it while waiting for the uproar over Wildfire to settle down. This tells readers a lot about Dunstan. Clearly, this has been typical of his behavior up to now.

At the end of the chapter, just as at the end of the preceding one, Godfrey is left wondering what he can do to avoid disaster. This time, his concern is that his father will talk to Mr. Lammeter about Godfrey's interest in marrying Nancy. In the early 1800s it was perfectly normal for marriages between young people of the upper classes to be arranged by their parents, so Mr. Lammeter would not be surprised if the squire were to do so. But, of course, Godfrey is already married, so he would have to refuse to marry Nancy. Moreover, if he didn't want to appear to be uninterested, he would have to explain that he is already married, which would also end any hope of a future with her. Finally, just as in the preceding chapter, he decides not to act but to leave everything to chance. The narrator comments at length that this is a common response when people find themselves in a predicament of their own making. But, she warns, "the seed brings forth a crop after its kind"; in other words, playing a game of chance means taking a risk. Things can go badly as easily as they can go well. And in fact, chance does well by Godfrey but at great cost: No one will ever have to hear about his marriage to Molly Farren, but the price will be two deaths and a childless future.

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