Silas Marner: The Cass Family and the Seven Deadly Sins

Silas Marner Paper Andrew Purcell

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The Cass Family and the Seven Deadly Sins


Through the deeds of Squire Cass, Dunstan Cass, and Godfrey Cass, the family, as a whole, serves as the embodiment of the seven deadly sins.


. Squire Cass

. Anger

. Sloth

. Dunstan Cass

. Envy

. Gluttony

. Covetousness

. Godfrey Cass

. Pride

. Lust

In literature, both the positive and the negative aspects of humanity are brought into play for the purpose of creating character interaction which the reader can perceive as being sincere, and hopefully interesting at some level. In the novel Silas Marner, the decadent Cass family presents itself as one such example of the negative faction of mankind. Through the deeds of Squire Cass, Dunstan Cass, and Godfrey Cass, the family, as a whole, serves as the embodiment of the seven deadly sins.

Although a man of high renown in Raveloe, Squire Cass is respected for his money and influence, rather than for his character. He is given to fits of anger, one of the deadly sins. Eliot mentions, "The Squire was purple with anger before his son had done speaking, and found utterance difficult" (69). Further along in this same conversation, Squire Cass speaks to Godfrey while "frowning and casting an angry glance at his son" (70). Such outbursts and glowering betray the Squire's lack of self-control and easy loss of composure.

For the most part, however, Squire Cass is not one to be vigorously involved in much of anything. Aside from his ranting and raving at his son Godfrey, he is rather inclined to simply spend his days in easy luxury. And while he puts on a pretense of being somehow occupied, at least in his mind, Eliot reveals, "The Squire's life was quite as idle as his sons" (68). As for the Squire having to labor as a young man, this is highly unlikely due to the reference of his grandfather keeping a stable full of horses in addition to a good house (71). It is difficult to imagine that much was required of the Squire in his early years, and it is clear that little was required in his latter years; therefore, the accusation of sloth on his part is certainly reasonable.

Dunstan, Squire Cass' second eldest son and possibly the most abominable character in the entire book, commits a number of deadly sins, seemingly damning himself many times over, never having the opportunity to repent or reform himself. In the scene where Godfrey asks Dunstan for the hundred pounds that Dunstan owes him, Dunstan immediately sins gravely. Dunstan mocks his brother, calling Godfrey one of his "elders and betters" (23). Here Dunstan is clearly envious of Godfrey's superior station in life as the eldest son, heir to the majority of any inheritance. One is sure that if Dunstan could change the situation somehow, he would place himself in his brother's position, and even admits himself that "I should slip into your [Godfrey's] place as comfortable as could be" (24).

However, even before Dunstan responds to his brother's call, he is drinking to excess, the sin of gluttony. This becomes apparent when Godfrey, in frustration, says "just shake yourself sober and listen, will you?" (23). Some time later, having sold the horse Wildfire to Bryce, Dunstan takes a drink of brandy from a container concealed in his pocket, inspiring him with a false sense of confidence, and in all likelihood causing him to stake Wildfire (33). After getting up and walking away from the dead horse, Dunstan again has a drink of brandy from his flask before he sets off in search of another means of procuring the hundred and twenty pounds that he has promised Godfrey (34).

This leads directly towards Dunstan's next mortal sin, covetousness. While considering how he might repay Godfrey, Dunstan begins focusing on the presumed

hoards of the village weaver, Silas Marner. His mind is set in stone - he will obtain the weaver's money, if not by reasoning and the explanation of the benefits of interest, then

by intimidation and frightening (35-36). At this point, the rational idea for a method of paying off his debt is replaced by downright cupidity, and hence the sin of covetousness comes to pass.

Godfrey Cass, eldest son and presupposed heir to the Red House and its possessions, exemplifies the final two deadly sins. The first of these sins is that of pride. Godfrey attacks Dunstan saying, "And if you'd got a spark of pride in you, you'd be ashamed to see the stables emptied" (26). Godfrey is also too proud to confess his secret marriage to a woman of a lower class than himself and to perform his duty as a father to their child (29). His pride causes him to keep an important part of his life a secret for eighteen years, never allowing a meaningful relationship to develop between himself and his daughter Eppie.

Rivaling Dunstan's theft as the most scandalous event in the story, Godfrey's secret marriage to Molly Farren serves as the basis for the risque theme of lust. Upon investigation one finds that Godfrey has an apparently genuine love for Nancy Lammeter:

For four years he had thought of Nancy Lammeter, and wooed her with tacit patient worship, as the woman who made him think of the future with joy: she would be his wife and make home lovely for him, as his father's home had never been. (29)

Yet, in spite of this devotion to Nancy, he is pulled by "low passion" (29). Keeping in mind that Eppie is two when she enters into Silas' life, and the fact that Godfrey has been

eagerly seeking the hand of Nancy for four years, a discrepancy is made obvious. Because a child results from Godfrey's relationship with Molly, it is known that as much as one year and three months (possibly more) into his more respectable

relationship with Nancy Lammeter, Godfrey is still involved with Molly. Since Eliot clearly indicates that Godfrey has a true affection and love for Nancy, the only

conclusion appears to be that Godfrey is weak of will and quickly overcome by lust during encounters with Molly Farren.

Overall, the Cass family displays itself as scandal and sin-ridden throughout the book. They are the epitome of the stereotypical rich who have nothing better to do with their time and money than to become mired in vice and corruption. The once great Casses now hinge precariously on the edge of self-destruction, showing the terrible consequences of God's vengeance upon sinners.

Works Cited:

Eliot, George. Silas Marner. USA: Penguin Group, 1999.

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