What affect does Silas have on Godfrey in Silas Marner?
The fact that Silas Marner affects Godfrey is, at first, certainly incidental. However, later on, the weaver has a profound affect upon Godfrey because of his loving care for Eppie and his words.
When Godfrey learns that Silas plans to keep "the tramp's child," his baby with his secret wife Molly, he is relieved because he knows that he can now marry Nancy Lammeter.
As for the child, he would see that it was cared for; he would never forsake it; he would do everything but own it. (Ch. XIII)
With this hidden interest in the child, Godfrey "did very kindly by the weaver," and the community feels that it is right that he should help Marner, who has lost his gold. So, the cottage has another room added to it, and it is decorated with oak furniture.
Further in the narrative, Dunstan's body is found in the pit, along with Silas Marner's gold. Godfrey confesses to Nancy that he was married to Molly and that Eppie is his daughter. He wants to adopt the girl, but Nancy tells him that it is too late; however, she suggests that they go to Marner's where Godfrey can acknowledge Eppie as his child and promise to provide for her and "do his part by her."
Godfrey hopes, too, that Eppie will love him. But, when he and his wife Nancy arrive at the cottage of the weaver and disclose that Godfrey is Eppie's natural father and Godfrey wishes that she live with them, Eppie declines. She tells Godfrey and Nancy that she loves Silas, and the cottage is her home. Furthermore, she claims that she cannot leave the man that she has called father for nearly her entire life.
Disappointed, Godfrey and Nancy return home. However, after having considered all that has occurred and all that has been said, Godfrey acknowledges the affect this meeting has had upon him:
Marner was in the right in what he said about a man's turning away a blessing from his door: it falls to somebody else.
Having witnessed the deep love between Eppie and the weaver, Godfrey is greatly moved, and he knows that it is only right that Eppie remain with the man who has acted as her father for all these years. This man is Silas Marner.
Silas' effect on Godfrey is circumstantial, and by that I mean that prior to Molly's death and Silas' adoption of Eppie, Silas is nothing more to Godfrey than the weird outsider. Once Silas adopts Eppie, Godfrey makes a considerate but restrained (so as to arouse no suspicion) effort to make sure Silas' and indirectly, Eppie's needs are met. This is more out of a sense of guilt than fatherly concern. At the end of the novel, when Eppie refuses to leave Silas for Godfrey and Nancy, Godfrey feels more guilt and actually acknowledges that this is his penance. So, I'd say that Silas, by sheer circumstance, ends up accidentally teaching Godfrey a lesson in morality and responsibility.