In Chapter 4 of Silas Marner, how does what happens to Wildfire affect the plot?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The dissolute Dunsten Cass blackmails his brother Godfrey, who must allow him to sell his spirited horse, Wildfire. For, Dunsten tells Godfrey to sell his horse in order to repay his father money he has borrowed to give Dunsten. But, Godfrey's ne’er-do-well brother decides that after that after the sale before handing over the animal and receiving payment, he will enjoy riding it in the hunt on his way to deliver it.  As fate would have it, however, Dunsey is careless as he recklessly tries to make ground on the other horses; he blindly sends the horse over hedges until the poor animal is impaled.  With no concern for the poor animal, Dunsey takes a drink of his brandy and heads back home afoot.

However, on the way home, he reconsiders his previous thoughts of the old weaver's gold which would easily recompense him for the loss of the sale of the horse, thus solving Godfrey's dilemma as well as providing Dunsey some money of his own.

The idea of Marner's money kept growing in vividness, now the want of it had become immediate....

When Dunsey reaches the cottage of Silas Marner, to his amazement he finds the cottage unlocked. In an instant, he has found the hole where Marner's cache is hidden and steps out into the night.

With such inclement weather, had Wildfire not died, Dunsey might not have ventured out in such fog and inclement weather. Or, he may have taken a different direction from that of Marner's humble cottage. However, since the avarice was present in Dunsten Cass's heart in the beginning of the chapter as he passed the "Stone-pit" where Marner's cottage lies--"the old fool of a weaver...had a great deal of money hidden somewhere"--he may yet have tried to rob Marner whether Wildfire died or not.