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'How successfully does George Elliot balance sympathy and criticism in Godfrey Cass?'

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Introduction

H.Crawford Page 1 07/11/'04 English EW 'How successfully does George Elliot balance sympathy and criticism in Godfrey Cass?' Before I answer this question, I will first ask what we think of Godfrey Cass himself; is he unlucky? Or are his problems his own fault and he deserves what he gets? Well, I think that most readers feel both because whilst we can see they are his problems, at the same type Eliot helps evoke our pity for him and makes us think that they are not necessarily his fault. I think the main word to describe Godfrey is 'coward', for although he is not evil and has no desire to harm anyone, he is not willing to neither take responsibility for his own actions nor give up his desires when they conflict with duty. In fact, his general character seems to be summed up by Elliot's words on page 26 where she says he is full of 'irresolution and moral cowardice'. This idea continues throughout the book, where he will not admit the truth to Nancy, thereby making the situation worse, although Godfrey believes he is making it better because he is not hurting anyone and furthermore nothing is hurting him. ...read more.

Middle

Another contrast is between the two brothers, Dunstan and Godfrey; this contrast helps us feel sympathy for Godfrey, because although it is clear his love affair with Molly was a mistake that he seems to be paying for, his evil brother seems to be doing what he can to unveil his brother's secret; not because he thinks everyone should know his brother's wrongdoing, but because Dunstan merely wants to make some money out of it and to get Godfrey into trouble. As Godfrey says in their conversation about money, 'It's my belief you'd sell yourself, if it was only for the pleasure of making somebody feel he'd got a bad bargain.' (Page 24) On the other hand, a comparison can be drawn between the two brothers which brings out the readers criticism of Godfrey, for the two brothers could be said to be much the same; they are both extremely selfish, and only do things that either help themselves or hinder each other. This may not seem true but if we look at the quote on page 23, it seems that although Dunstan threatens to tell their father about Godfrey's secret marriage to Molly, Godfrey is just as harsh in his reply when he says, 'It's all one. ...read more.

Conclusion

I would therefore sum up his dilemma with this quote from chapter three of the book, 'The yoke a man creates for himself by wrong-doing will breed hate in the kindliest nature; and the good-humoured, affectionate-hearted Godfrey Cass, was fast becoming a bitter man, visited by cruel wishes, that seemed to enter and depart, and enter again, like demons who had found in him a ready-garnished home.' Therefore to conclude I would say that George Elliot successfully achieves a balanced mix of sympathy and criticism in Godfrey Cass, and furthermore leaves the reader to make up their own opinion about Godfrey's character; in my opinion I would say that he is not an evil man but is too much of a coward to ever end up with a guilt free, true life, and I would therefore say that the ending of the book is just because although he marries Nancy, he is not able to claim his child from Silas and therefore our main character gets a happy ending and we feel that Godfrey's punishment is just. ...read more.

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