Silas Marner, Interrupted

October 9, 2012 | 13 comments
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Godfrey is trying to repent but no one will cooperate.

Late in George Eliot’s Silas Marner, Godfrey realizes he’s made a terrible mistake and wants to correct it.

He shouldn’t have abandoned his child. He shouldn’t have let Silas Marner, the lonely weaver, adopt the child born to his disavowed, drug-addicted first wife who died in a blizzard while on the road to claim, in desperation, that child’s legitimate rights as Godfrey’s daughter. He shouldn’t have waited two decades before revealing the truth and taking some responsibility for his actions.

He’s resolved now – finally – to fix things. To set things right, he marches straight to Silas’ little house in order to liberate the girl from the only home and loving father she’s ever known and haul her back to a much-to-be-admired life of privilege.

But no one will cooperate! Neither Silas nor Eppie, it appears, want to be “rescued” from their simple life together.

Godfrey gets irritated.

Godfrey felt an irritation inevitable to almost all of us when we encounter an unexpected obstacle. He had been full of his own penitence and resolution to retrieve his error as far as the time was left to him; he was possessed with all-important feelings, that were to lead to a predetermined course of action which he had fixed on as the right, and he was not prepared to enter with lively appreciation into other people’s feelings counteracting his virtuous resolves. (177/190)

I’ve noticed the same. So many people – so frequently – gumming up my righteous resolutions.

Well, at least I can say I tried.

Tell me your sorrows. With what all-important feeling are you possessed? To what predetermined courses of action are you committed? Who has been steadily confounding your virtuous resolutions?

13 Responses to Silas Marner, Interrupted

  1. anonlds on October 9, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I very much relate to this post, but as the one gumming up others righteous resolutions.

  2. Jax on October 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Goal: To fix everyone

    Obstacle: everyone

  3. AnnE on October 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    This question reminds me of Elder Hales bravely confessing that his wife challenged his generosity with, “Are you buying this [fur coat] for me or for you?”, which was just referenced again in General Conference.

  4. Laura on October 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    The talks I hear on “reactivation” often sound this way to me. I have step-brothers and sisters who were baptized as children, but haven’t been involved at all in the last, oh, 40 years or so. Every now and then, someone from Salt Lake calls me to try to get their contact information. I’m not about to hand that over without their consent (I’ve asked, they don’t want to be found), and, well, sometimes the conversation gets awkward….

  5. Robert C. on October 10, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Mostly my kids. Usually they play along pretty well with my martyr-parent game, and indulge my pride before friends and neighbors. But sometimes they resolutely refuse to play along, and my ensuing frustration and embarrassment remind me of this tiresome treadmill of righteous resolutions….

  6. Julia Taylor on October 10, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I know that a gum up my biological father ‘s righteous resolution to save me from the truth regularly. He will be all “concerned” and get leaders or ward members to share details of my life, because he is concerned about my “fragile state” and the evils that being “unrepentant” have brought upon me. He will then enlist unsuspecting ward members into pleading with me to repair my relationship with him, often with quotes about hearts turning. His quest then becomes their quest, and forces me to share details of my life, to help them understand why my children and I have no contact with him, and why a judge has ordered my ex-husband to not allow the children to have that contact.

    It never ceases to amaze me that even after warning a new bishop and RS president, when we move into a new ward, he almost always can get one of them to listen to him enough that I end up re-explaining the entire situation. Even if the leaders follow my request to not encourage contact, there always seem to be several ward members who identify with *his* story, often without knowing me at all. I do wonder what it is that makes church members so open to believing a -poor parent whose child is unwilling to have contact for NO reason, and who is keeping grandchild from a loving grandparent- without seeming to consider that there might be a reason. Rarely does someone come and ask me my side. Much more often they simply come as an emissary, having bought his story hook line and sinker.

    So, if someone came to you, who you did not know previously, asking for your righteous help in convincing his daughter to let him see his grandchildren, would you do it? Why or why not?

  7. Snyderman on October 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    First off, with regards to the OP, I’m not so convinced that restitution should be (or possibly even can be) determined by the perpetrator of the act. At least solely by the perpetrator. Rather, it is the victims of the act that must determine what restitution requires. In most, if not all, cases, this should be done in conjunction with the perpetrator and possibly a mediator as well, but it is not the perpetrator who (usually) experiences the loss and thus knows what needs to be done to make it right.

    Julia (6), they obviously mean well, which you seem to understand. Most of them, however, have never experienced negative family situations and events. And they have probably never even heard about them, other than on TV shows and news reports–nothing personal. At least so negative that they require a restraining order. Thus, your situation probably never even enters into their realm of possibility.

    The human memory and brain are funny things. We remember things in terms of stories and narratives. There was a TED talk I watched this one time where the guy started off his talk with a ridiculous story. Throughout the rest of his talk, random facts came up that he shared, such as his birthday. At the end of his 20-minute talk, he asked (rhetorically) whether the audience remembered his birthday (I didn’t). Then he said that he bets most people still remember who was sitting on the horse in the story he told at the beginning of his talk. I watched this talk about 6 months ago, and I still remember: Cookie Monster.

    Now, why do I mention this? Because unless people have personal experience with your situation or something like it, unless they have a personal story or narrative, chances are they won’t even think about that situation as being a possibility. They probably hear about restraining orders on news reports, but such things are not real possibilities until people have personal experience with them.

    Now, this does not excuse their behavior. There are better ways they could have and should have handled the situation. Using your example, if approached by your father, I would ask him something like, “Why doesn’t your daughter want you seeing your grandkids? I’m assuming she has a reason, one that’s legitimate enough at least for her? What would she say if I was to ask her?” Then, depending on how well I knew you, I would approach you and say something like, “FYI, your father is attempting to recruit ward members to solicit on his behalf in order for him to see his grandkids. I don’t know the story there and I don’t want to–none of my business–but I thought you should know so you can choose how you want to deal with it.”

  8. Snyderman on October 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Just a quick footnote I meant to add to my previous comment, but then forgot: I don’t remember the exact mundane fact that the TED talk guy asked about at the end. I don’t think it was actually his birthday, but it was something just about as mundane. I didn’t want to interrupt my explanation, but then forgot to put the note at the end. Apologies.

  9. Heather B on October 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I live in the South. And as a Mormon, a faithful one I hope, in SC, I live this concept daily. Both ways, but mostly in continually thwarting folks (friends, grandparents, co-workers) from saving me back into protestantism….

  10. Julia Taylor on October 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Snyderman- Can I move to your ward? ;-)

    I absolutely agree that most people can’t imagine that members of the church are in my situation. For a long time, I thought I was the only one, and so I didn’t talk about it openly. Then one day I felt prompted to talk about it with another mother who was also nursing her baby in the mother’s room during a sacrament talk (sorry to the high councilor whose talk we ended up turning the sound off during most of his talk). I still don’t go around sharing the details in fast and testimony meeting, although I have many times shared the power of the Atonement to heal not just sinners, but also those who have been sinned against. (Personally I think that is a message and idea that gets glossed over way too often.)

    I find that many people (men and women alike) struggle with reconciling incest and abusive parents with the doctrine on eternal families. Most don’t want to share every detail of their family history with every new bishop, RS president, home or visiting teacher, and the leaders working with their children. The church places so much emphasis on family, including extended family, that almost any member or leader in a ward would share information about an activity with a grandparent who wants to surprise another ward member, by coming unannounced. As I started being more open with my struggles, I have had an avalanche of people wanting to share stories and frustrations, as well as wanting advice and brainstorming.

    I wish that some of those now-close friends felt safe going to ward activities, but previous “surprises” have driven them away from ward activities. So many good and worthy things can be twisted into another form of terror. It is certainly the job of the person who is being driven away, to be honest and open about why, and what would help them feel safe in coming to future events. The following is cut and pasted from a list I helped an LDS woman who is a survivor of childhood physical and mental abuse. (The items in parenthesis are added by me, to help make the list make more sense. I also removed the names and replaced them with ) The original was just what I wrote up in a “note” on my cell phone to email her when I was done.

    ** Things that have hurt me or make me feel unsafe:

    – Having my mom receiving our ward RS emails (her mom does not live in her ward)

    – telling me he has my mom and dad’s number in case of an emergency. I did not give it to him and he said the Elder’s Quorum president gave it to him.

    – My parents coming to the primary program without being invited by me or my children.

    – reminding me that my temple recommend interview will be in December and that he hopes I will have worked hard enough to answer “yes” to the question about family members.

    – inviting my parents to pack meeting without asking me first and agreeing with my father to let it be a surprise

    ** Things I can ask for, and who to ask/tell

    Bishop –
    Follow up on my conversation with during my temple recommend interview. Ask him if his advice to focus on my husband and kids and creating a strong family for us being most important, and trying to reconcile with my parents when I feel spiritually strong enough and am ready to do it on my own terms.

    If he agrees that the advice is still his answer as a judge in Israel, ask him to help in explaining to other ward leaders that keeping me and my family safe, is the first priority. Share my entire list of ” Things that have hurt me or make me feel unsafe.”

    If he does not feel that the advice is still valid today, share the list of “Things that have hurt me or make me feel unsafe,” ask him for advice on how to keep church experiences for my family, and reconciliation attempts seperate at this time.

    Explain my concerns about a Bishopbric member discussing my temple recommend interview and potential answers to those questions, in the hallway at church and without an invitation from me.

    No matter what his answer, share my desire to be active in church activities, and my love for the gospel. Ask him if he would rather share my concerns with specifics members, or if I should do it. Thank him for his caring for my family, whatever his advice to me is.

    RS president (and maybe secretary) –

    Send an email to and asking them to please take my mother’s email address off of the RS email list immediately. Share what happened with the email containing the offer to loan canning equipment. Share example of my mother emailing other sisters, because she had their email addresses from the huge number in the To: category in the email.

    Offer to help set up RS sisters group for email so that everyone’s email addresses are known only to the presidency, so that sisters can choose who they want to communicate with by email, and who not to share their email addresses to.

    Home Teacher-

    Invite over at a time that the kids are asleep and there are no other distractions. Explain to him why or I want to be the ones to choose if or when to share information with my parents, and we would not want him to contact my parents, about anything, without a specific request. Stress how unlikely that is to be, and share details of the situation if inspired to.

    Ask him to not take calls from my parents, and if he does answer the phone, to please tell them that they need to call us, not him, if they want to know how we are doing. Explain how hurtful it is to not be able to feel like we are protecting each other, and our kids, from situations and people who have been abusive to us.

    Ask him if he would be willing to share this information with the Elder’s Quorum president, or if we need to talk to him. If he wants us to talk to him, have basically the same conversation with the EQ president.

    Primary President and Cub Scout Leaders-

    Thank them for their service to , , and and all of the children in the ward. Emphasize how much cub scouts and primary means to our kids and that we want it to always be a positive and safe place for them to be. Explain that emotionally, my parents are not emotionally safe for our family, and while we do have some contact with them, it needs to be limited, and we need to be able to carefully choose the time, to make sure our entire family is stable and relaxed enough that the interactions can be positive.

    Explain that having my parents come without an invitation from us, will set up the situation to fail, and drive us away from those activities. Ask for their help in making primary positive, but directing any inquiries about primary or scout activities, to us and not giving out the times, dates or locations of activities invite them to call me anytime they have a question. Offer to have the next pack meeting at our house to that feels safe from ambush, and is more likely to go to future pack meetings.

    ******End List

    I do hear you when you say lots of people don’t personally have abusive families, or situations that would make them want to exclude some or all of their family members. I think it is worth trying to educate people, both because we all need to be more aware of each other, and because individuals and families become inactive, or leave the church entirely, when church activities done feel safe. We oftentimes put a lot of responsibility on those who leave in these kinds of circumstances. I pulled my children out of non-Sunday primary activities, before the restraining order, and was told many times that I was letting myself be “offended” by others that meant well, and that I was unrighteously judging them. Personally I saw myself as protecting my children and myself, (and the rest of the ward’s children for that matter) using righteous discernment. For others who are trying to balance emotional safety and supporting the programs of the church, I can see how it would be very easy to simply go inactive.

  11. Julia Taylor on October 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Emotionally I am not up to a long comment on it, but assuming that everyone wants to be with their families forever also causes a lot of unintended hurt feelings. My husband is a convert, who suffered horrific abuse at the hands of a number of family members. Whenever someone has a righteous resolution to get him started on his family history, he is an utter failure Oftentimes it keeps him home from church for a week or two. He is incredibly torn between wanting to be sealed to me, and the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual revulsion he feels at the thought of being sealed to anyone in his extended family.

    I try to head off the members with family history callings, by explaining that his entire family has a history of abuse, including five who have served jail time, and that is just from his parents’ generation. They are usually a little more understanding at that point, but earlier this year the Elder’s Quorum were challenged to make sure they had at least five generations entered into the new genealogy program, and their names submitted. He was out of town on business that week, and I told our home teacher, who is also the EQ president, about my concerns. Apparently those concerns weren’t passed on, because a few weeks later, he and several men were asking to share their progress so far, during the middle of an EQ lesson. It took three months to get him to go back to EQ and not just sit in the car during third hour.

    He doesn’t blame the teacher for asking him about geneology. In fact he doesn’t blame anyone in the church for his reaction. I am the one who is often frustrated that instead of getting to know my husband on a deeper level, the EQ helps move people, split wood, going shooting at the shooting range one of the members has on his property, and lots of other things where they are together, but not really getting to know each other. I realize that in a ward with 12% home teaching, there is already a huge gap in people even knowing who others are. If I hadn’t been raised in the church, and know to bug my home teacher until guilt finally kicks in, we might never get visited. And we do have a RS visiting teaching rate closer to 80%, so the bishop is getting feedback about ward members.

    Sigh. Maybe I could get the women in the ward to have our 2013 righteous resolution to bring the home teaching in line with the percentages of visiting teaching. I just wouldn’t want the VT numbers to come down to meet the home teaching ones.

    (Sorry this rambled more than I wanted it to, but I really don’t have the energy to rewrite it. :-( )

  12. Snyderman on October 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Julia (10) and (11), my only response is to think, “Oh, life,” and embrace you. I wish I was there to more personally share in and thus help alleviate your burdens. Alas, I am not, but hopefully someone is; and if not, may my not-quite-so-real hug be enough to sustain you until such a person arrives.

  13. Julia Taylor on October 19, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Snyderman-

    Sometimes cyber hugs are better at 4:00 am. :-)

    Thanks