We expect that the relationship between a parent and a child is affectionate and caring; however, George Elliot explores and shows the reader that this is not always the case and relationships between different families are all very different. In the book there are many examples of relationships between parents and children. These include the relationship between Silas and Eppie, Squire Cass, Godfry and Dunstan also Godfry and Eppie. The Case of Godfry and Nancy’s sadness over not being able to have children also arises in the novel. One of the relationships between mother and child is Molly and Eppie. Molly was married to Godfrey and the only person who knew about his ‘secret’ life was his brother Dunstan. Molly was addicted to drugs and she lived in poverty, her relationship with Eppie was destroyed by her addiction, the only love Molly had in her life was the love to drugs. Instead of devoting herself to bringing up Eppie she devoted herself to being drugs.
Perhaps this addiction was because Godfrey let her down and was ashamed of her so she had to rely on something and for her it was drugs. When Godfrey realises that his wife passed away, the expression ‘a weight was lifted of his shoulders’ is very relevant. Godfreys’ secret was kept and he was not prepared to claim Eppie even though she was motherless. As he was ‘free,’ he could now propose to Nancy without worrying about his wife. Godfrey entered this secret marriage as he was young and foolish, however he realised his mistakes when he realises he loves Nancy. He couldn’t get out of his marriage with Molly as Molly threatened to tell his father, so Godfrey would rather have a secret marriage than shame upon his name.
However, Dunstan knew about Godfrey’s ‘secret’ life and having a family of his own, he constantly manipulated Godfrey over this, Godfrey did most of what his brother said as he was afraid that his brother was going to tell his father. Godfreys’ upbringing could be reflected on how he treated his wife and daughter. Godfrey was basically abandoned by his father, and was mostly brought up by his brother Dunstan.
The Squire spent most of his hours in the local pub “the Rainbow” as he liked to drink and Dunstan became a lot like his father, he liked to drink and gamble; the villagers described him as “a spiteful jeering felloe”. If Godfrey and Dunstan had a mother raising them and a father setting a better example, Dunstan and Godfrey would have more interests and be able to talk to each other instead of being afraid of their own father; keeping secrets from him and being afraid of him finding out the truth.
The Squire’s household has no women to influence the upbringing of the two children, yet nor does Silas’, the upbringing of the children is very different because the Squire is harsh and Silas is very different in which he is very sympathetic towards others. Squire Cass is a man with authority and money who has to bring two children up. In Victorian England, child rearing and the development of good families were considered as a female role. The relationship between Silas and Eppie is one of the key parent-child relationships in the novel. A lonely man, feared by many villagers, is changed into a man who was admired by all of the villagers; he was changed by his adopted daughter Eppie. Throughout his life with Eppie, Silas regained his sense of faith and community. She changed his perspective of life, and taught him how to value human affection rather than gold.
Eppie came into his life through an open door (which which could symbolise new place and a new beginning) and lay asleep by the hearth- in Celtic traditions the hearth was the heart of the home. Silas mistakes her golden curls for his lost money, he is stunned by her appearance just as he was when his money disappeared “Gold!…brought back to him as mysteriously as it had been taken away!… He felt his heart begin to beat violently, and for a few moments he was unable to stretch out his hand and grasp the treasure.” The child has the same affect on Silas as the gold does; the most important thing in Silas’ life was his gold. – A metaphor; she becomes his new treasure. On first sight of Eppie, Silas associates her with gold and treasure.
After calling upon a doctor to examine Molly, who is pronounced dead, Godfrey asks Silas “You’ll take the child to the parish to-morrow?” Godfrey recognises his child but he does not want anyone to know he is the father and he is willing to give her away. Silas wants to keep the child because he sees them both as lone creatures “it’s a lone thing and I’m a lone thing”. There is affinity between them and he is determined to bring her up himself as the child fills a gap that Silas has been missing- Love. From the start, there was a strong bond between Silas and Eppie. It is very ironic how Silas, a stranger towards Eppie wants to be a father towards her, but her real father wants to offer her to a parish. Feeling sorry for his actions Godfrey gives money to Silas to buy clothes for Eppie so he feels he has given something towards her upbringing.
In a short while, Silas becomes extremely attached and very possessive over Eppie, this is because he wants to bring her up himself; he wants to act like a father towards her. “I want to do things for myself, else it may get fond o’ some-body else, and not fond o’ me.” Love is jealous, with Silas only wanting Eppie to love him and no one else. Silas has a big desire to be loved, with this true and pure bond between them , Eppie transforms Silas’ life in many ways, she forms a ‘bridge’ between him and the villagers, with this link with the other villagers, he receives advice on how to bring Eppie up and they think of him as a good person.
In Victorian England, to have a well brought up child, discipline and several beatings were the key. There was a strong belief that that children had to be ‘trained’ to be good, however Silas’ approach to disciplining Eppie was very different from how the other villagers punished their children. Silas tried to punish Eppie, after persuasion by Dolly, by putting Eppie in the coal hole but after “a little cry” he let her out again “she’s got no tricks but what she’ll grow out of.” In Victorian England the reader would be very surprised about his decision not to punish the child however a modern reader would think of his decision as being a typical loving parent.
Silas’s decision on bringing up Eppie discipline free worked, she grew up to be a polite young woman. In the end after sixteen years, Godfrey confesses to Eppie about being her biological father, though she declines the offer to live with him and his newly wedded wife, the reader feels the true and loving relationship between Silas and Eppie as she chooses to stay with him “I can’t feel as I’ve got any father but one” referring to Silas. At the end of the novel Silas and Eppie stay together, the reader sees that she chooses the poor man over the rich, as there is love and care between them.
The message seems to be that family affection can be found not in the well known richest families but in the poor families. The wealthiest family looses everything, for example, Dunstan dies and Nancy cannot produce a healthy child and it passes away (this could be a consequence as Godfrey rejects his own child instead of taking responsibility of it). He gains a wife, but not the family he wanted.