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

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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. It is this theme that Elliot bases her sympathy and criticism around, because on the one hand we can see he isn’t really doing the right thing by trying to hide his marriage to Molly, but on the other we can see that he is trying to avoid trouble and hurting people’s feelings.

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The first way in which Elliot balances sympathy with criticism, is by the use of comparisons; the first main comparison is between the two halves of Godfrey, for on the one side he is good natured, caring and generally a ‘good’ man, as shown in the quote describing the view of the village on Godfrey, ‘But it would be a thousand pities if Mr.Godfrey, the eldest, a fine, good-natured, open-faced young man, went the same way as his wicked brother Dunstan.’ (Page 20). But on the other side we can see that he is selfish and will do anything ...

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