The Theme of Duty in Silas Marner by George Eliot

The Theme of Duty in Silas Marner by George Eliot

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The Theme of Duty in Silas Marner by George Eliot

After careful analysis and examination of the novel Silas Marner, it
has come to my awareness that the theme of duty is very prominent
throughout the novel. The definition of duty is the obligation made to
others. There has to be duties between relationships not only in the
novel but also in realty to keep them alive. If duties were non
existent in relationships, they would not last and eventually would
fade away. There are various different types of duties that have to be
taken forward in the novel.

For instance, Silas has a duty towards Eppie as Eppie has a duty to
Silas. Their duty is to love one and other and to be grateful for what
they have got. Godfrey who is the oldest son of Squire Cass has to pay
his duties to many people in the book. He has to fulfil a duty to
Molly, Nancy, Squire Cass and Dunstan. He has to look after all of
these people and has to show them love. He has to support them through
all the bad times that they go through. Just because you should do
your duties in life, does not mean that the characters are all
honourable to their duties. Some characters honour their duties with
sincerity and some characters neglect their duties and wash them away.
There are different reasons for why the characters are honourable and
dishonourable to their duties. The people that do not want to perform
their duties try to make themselves believe that their priorities are
set backwards. By this, I mean that the characters seem to over power
their minds with less important duties in life and forget to do the
main duties.

As you will read on to see that the characters that honour their
duties are rewarded in some way or another the characters that honour
their duties are rewarded in some way or another. The characters that
are not faithful to their duties are some how punished. They may be

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punished a long time after but in the end, you will see that they are
always punished.

An example of a character that dishonoured his duty is Godfrey.
Godfrey's first wife was addicted to alcohol as well as drugs. This
addiction causes her to have many emotional problems and worries. She
needs comfort towards her depressed state of mind. However Godfrey
does not fulfil the duty that he has to his wife, to be a good husband
and to support her. However Godfrey does support her financial needs
but that's all the support that he gives her. He does not show any
love or devotion to her, and this made her feel even more isolated and
lonely. He also has a child with Molly. He did not help her to raise
their child. This action had its own consequence. We, as the reader
could also see that Godfrey is also suffering from depression further
on in the novel. It is very ironic that he brought depression on his
wife and was later in the same state of mind. After realising that
Eppie is one of his duties in life, he asked Silas for her back. Silas
has the right to refuse and so does Eppie. The reason for this is,
they had both lived and loved for one and other for the last sixteen
years, therefore Godfrey had lost his chance. The loss of Eppie in
Godfreys's life brought much hopelessness to him, as he was incapable
of having a child with Nancy. Now Godfrey has to live the rest of his
life in guilt for not doing his duties to Eppie. This is the
punishment that he received. Another punishment is that his current
marriage was failing miserably "Dunstan who saw in his brother's
degrading marriage…"

Although after, Godfrey did learn the lesson life had bought to him
and was not dishonest. When he marries again, to Nancy, Godfrey tries
his hardest to be honest to her and this marriage. They develop a lot
of trust for each other after Godfrey tells Nancy about all of the
sins that he committed. Even though Godfrey knows that he cannot have
Eppie now, he still finds it in his heart to give Silas money and new
furniture. The reason he does this is because of the guilt within, and
he feels that this is the least that he can do. After all, Eppie
really is his biological daughter. It is however Eppie's decision to
stay with Silas. When Silas assures her about the decision she is
making by saying she has made the choice to stay with "poor folks, and
with poor clothes and things, when you might ha' had everything o' the

There is a character that Godfrey likes to help out in collecting in
rent. This character is his father, Squire Cass. Although he collects
the money for his father, he still lets his irresponsible, gambling
brother borrow some money. He knows that this is not a good thing, yet
he still lets his brother use up the money on useless things. Trust is
an important obligation to have in a relationship with others. By
marrying Molly, Godfrey lost the faith that his father had for him.
The reason he had to get married to Molly was that he had a child with

On the other hand there was one character that satisfied the theme of
duty. The name of this character is Silas Marner. He is honourable to
all those that he has to pay duties to, especially Eppie. Eppie
entered Silas' life when he was vulnerable. He had just lost something
that he believed to be his most valuable possession, his money. So,
when he laid his eyes on Eppie he felt warmth within, which he had
never felt in his life. "It seemed as if there were gold on the floor
in front of the hearth." He took Eppie in as his own child and cared
for her. He fulfilled all of his duties and obligations to her. He
cared for her and disciplined her for her own good. An example of the
duty that Silas pays to Eppie is when Eppie has gone missing. Like any
human being with a heart, this made Silas nauseous and Silas is filled
with many different emotions. He is feeling very concerned and is
feeling anxious to find her. Eventually, Silas finds Eppie playing in
a puddle of water and he is filled with rejoice. He wants to punish
Eppie, however his love for her is too strong to hurt her. He decides
that it will be a better idea to bring up Eppie with love. This is an
indication that Silas took his duties seriously.

Eppie also has an obligation to Silas. She has to fill the emptiness
in his heart from the many losses that he had experienced previously.
She has to try and make Silas believe that he does belong on this
earth. She does precisely that and gives Silas someone to love for and
she cares for Silas as much as he does for her. An example for one of
the lovable actions towards Silas is when they go back to Lantern
Yard. Eppie wanted to look for a place for Silas to sit down in case "her
father's strange attacks should come on". Notice that Eppie also
refers to Silas as her "father". This is because of the love that they
show for each other they have bonded like father and daughter.

Eppie and Silas were rewarded for carrying out their duties. They both
could live a happy and prosperous life and had someone to care for and
look out for. This was all that Silas could ask for. Having a loving
father rewarded Eppie, because Godfrey, who was her biological father,
did not want her. Later on in the story it shows that Eppie achieved
another reward by marrying Aaron. This made Eppie ecstatic and
Euphoric with happiness. After the marriage, Aaron had another duty in
his life, which he had to attend to for the rest of his life. This is
to love and care for Eppie. Even though the book does not go on to say
how Eppie and Aaron get along, I feel that Aaron will fulfil his
duties to Eppie and he will give her the love that she deserves. I say
this as he has done his duties to her even before they got married.

The upbringing of Eppie and Aaron is completely different. Aaron was
brought up by his mother, Dolly Winthrop to be a gentleman and Silas
brought up Eppie in a lower class. Another perspective you could look
at this is, because Aaron was of class, he was disciplined and Eppie
was brought up with love.

Dolly Winthrop's husbands name is Ben. She also had an obligation to
him. She was also very honourable to her duty. She looks after her
husband well. He is a busy man with his job as a wheelwright, and he
needed someone to care for him. Dolly was this person that cared for

Dolly also had a duty to pay off to Silas. She is very considerate to
the fact the Silas had just been burgled for his life savings. She
wanted to make him happy again. She goes to Silas' house with cake and
they talk about religion. She did not have to do this, however she did
because she is truthful to her obligations and duties in life.
Although Silas is very upset about all of his money getting "robbed"
he showed Dolly some appreciation when he "thanked her kindly" for the
cakes she was holding for him. Even when Silas finds Eppie, Dolly is
beside him, aiding him to bring her up and she helps to feed Eppie.
She brings Aaron's old clothes for Eppie, knowing that Silas could not
afford to buy any clothes. This is another example of Dolly taking her
life's duties seriously. Dolly is not only just supportive to Silas
financially, but emotionally too. When she sees that Silas is feeling
left out because he was not bonding with Eppie, as he wanted to, Dolly
tells Silas that Eppie' love for him is far more than it is for her.
This makes Silas feel better. Dolly in my opinion is a role model. I
say this as she is one character that has shown in the novel that it
is possible to do all of our duties. One does not always have to
neglect their duties.

I think that it is fairly obvious and evident that the theme of duty
plays a very prominent role in the novel. It is also clear that the
people with money, power or strength are not the people that achieve
happiness in the end. It is the people that take their obligations to
others seriously.

It is also clear that the people that are neglecting their duties are
getting punished, whether the punishment comes a week or even years
later. Ironically the people that honoured their duties were rewarded
in the end. This moral is not only relevant in the novel but in
reality too.
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