20. Why is Godfrey Cass unable to marry the beautiful Nancy Lammeter?
From Quiz Silas Marner
Answer: he is secretly married to another woman
This guilty secret of Godfrey Cass's is known only to his disreputable brother Dunsie, and is in fact the main reason why the latter is able to manipulate him so easily, since were their father, Squire Cass, to learn of it Godfrey would almost certainly be disinherited - and so banished forever from the company of the lovely Nancy, his delightful and eligible neighbour. Even apart from that all-important consideration, though, a disinherited Godfrey would be "almost as helpless as an uprooted tree, which, by the favour of earth and sky, has grown to a handsome bulk on the spot where it first shot upward". Like his scapegrace brother Dunsie, he has been brought up carelessly by his distinctly irresponsible father, and appears noticeably lacking in backbone as a result. Although privileged, his upbringing has not been very happy: "Godfrey's was an essentially domestic nature, bred up in a home where the hearth had no smiles and where the daily habits were not chastised by the presence of household order."
Godfrey's clandestine wife is a working-class girl called Molly Farren, with an addiction to laudanum: as readers we are spared the details of how this ill-matched pair first came together, but we are left in no doubt that the husband bitterly regrets a liaison which appears to have condemned him to a life of dissimulation and deceit as well as frustration and bitterness. The village cannot understand why Godfrey perpetually holds back from proposing marriage to Nancy Lammeter, as it would appear to be in the interests of both parties for such a match to be confirmed. For one thing, the Red House, where the widowed Squire lives with his four sons "a domestic life destitute of any hallowing charm", is desperately short of a woman's touch. The whole village would benefit, too, from a marriage between the two: "If she could come to be mistress of the Red House, there would be a fine change, for the Lammeters had been brought up in that way, that they never suffered a pinch of salt to be wasted ... such a daughter-in-law would be a saving to the old Squire, if she never brought a penny to her fortune, for it was to be feared that, notwithstanding his incomings, there were more holes in his pocket than the one where he put his hand in."
Squire Cass, who epitomises what David Carroll calls "the aimless, indulgent and bored life of the rural landowners", proudly and cynically toasts the "glorious war-time which was felt to be a peculiar favour of Providence towards the landed interest". In Raveloe, he is a big fish in a small pond - but with historical hindsight George Eliot's readers will have known that times were changing, and that his type would quickly die out after the end of the Napoleonic Wars with the fall in the price of grain and England's rapid development as a manufacturing nation: the Squire's careless spendthrift ways would no longer pass muster then. Nothing, it appears, could turn things round at the Red House more expeditiously than the presence there of Nancy Lammeter, whose hands "bore the traces of butter-making, cheese-crushing, and even still coarser work", in keeping with the hard-working, clean-living spirit of her family: she, her widowed father and her down-to-earth sister Priscilla are all portrayed in the novel with sympathy and even tenderness. What's more, she could hopefully make a man out of the physically strong and muscular, but also infuriatingly weak-willed and vacillating, heir to the estate!