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Examine Eliot's Presentation of Parenthood in Silas Marner

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Introduction

Examine Eliot's Presentation of Parenthood in Silas Marner "A child more than all other gifts That earth can offer to declining man Brings hope with it and forward looking thoughts." (Title page) One the title page of the first edition of Silas Marner, George Eliot quotes from Wordsworth's poem Michael. She immediately introduces the significance of parenthood and the powerful emotional effect a child can have on a parent. I feel Eliot uses the parents in Silas Marner to demonstrate the personal rewards that are gained from the efforts of good parenting, and the weak family ties created by indifferent, ineffective parenting. She questions what makes a good parent and also examines the nature versus nurture aspect of parenthood. I think that Eliot believes in the importance of a female influence in nurturing children and illustrates this in her presentation of the Cass family. Squire Cass is a widower of four children whose house "was without that presence of the wife and mother which is the fountain of wholesome love and fear in parlour and kitchen" (P32). I feel that this metaphor describes the significance Elliot places on the involvement of a woman's devotion in a family. She influences the reader to disapprove of the Squire as a parent since in Raveloe "it was thought a weakness in the Squire that he had kept all his sons at home in idleness" (P32) ...read more.

Middle

He also has Priscilla, who considers herself fortunate to "have a good father and a good home" (P115), who wants to stay at home with Mr Lammeter and run the family business. The concern that "the business needn't be broke up" (P115) is important to Priscilla and contrasts with the Cass family who lose the title Squire when their father dies and "his inheritance was divided" (P166). I think Elliot is showing the closer ties in the Lammeter family created by good parenting, which keep the family and the family business together. Elliot gives another example of a single male parent in the minor character of Mr Cliff. He is also another example of a bad parent as he forces his sixteen year old son to ride even though the boy is frightened. Cliff wants his son to ride to "make a gentleman on him" (P66) but like Squire Cass who loses Dunstan, Cliff loses his son as he becomes ill and dies. He is unrewarded for his parenting efforts. Elliot presents a female role model of a good parent in her character Dolly Winthrop who is "a woman of scrupulous conscience"(P98) and one of "the notable mothers" (P147). Elliot describes "notable mothers, who knew what it was to keep children whole and sweet" in contrast to "lazy mothers, who knew what it was to be interrupted" (P147). ...read more.

Conclusion

Godfrey feels that his duty as a father ends in providing financially for Eppie and does not consider that "Silas would rather part with his life than with Eppie" (P189) when he thinks about adopting her. Godfrey is punished for failing to be a father to Eppie as he tells Nancy "it's part of my punishment...for my daughter to dislike me" (P210). He is deeply unhappy in the end, as ironically when he wants to "take Eppie " (P197), she does not acknowledge him as her father. Elliot demonstrates the mistake Godfrey made in thinking "that the father would be much happier without owning the child" (P146). I think in her presentation of parenthood, Elliot is reinforcing her moral message that good actions result in good consequences, and bad actions result in bad consequences. The good parents in the novel are rewarded with loyal devoted children who turn out well. The bad parents are punished, they lose their children. She also shows the positive influence a child has on a person's life, through Silas and the forward-looking effect of a child. She describes this effect with the powerful imagery of a child guiding a person to a happier life. " Men are lead away from threatening destruction; a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's" (P160). KAREN BROADBENT 09/05/2007 Page 1 of 3 ...read more.

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