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CHAPTER 17: Summary
At the Red House, Nancy tried to persuade her sister Priscilla to stay for tea. The Red House had also undergone a change after Godfrey’s marriage. Priscilla insists that she and their father could not stay for tea, as there was too much to do on their family farm, which she managed. Before leaving, the two sisters walk alone in the garden and Nancy told Priscilla that she was contented, but worried about Godfrey and his low spirits. Priscilla believed that men like Godfrey, always wanted what they didn’t have, but Nancy defended her husband. Priscilla urged Nancy to get some cows and chickens, which would take her mind off things. After Priscilla left, Nancy was sad for Godfrey’s sake. Women could always wrap themselves up in caring for their husbands, but men needed to have children to work for. Godfrey had talked before about adopting, but Nancy thought that adoption would go against God’s will and probably end up ruining any child they took in. Nancy complained to Priscilla about her predicament, but also defended her husband, which Priscilla had little patience for.
Nancy’s contemplation on Sunday afternoons focused primarily on her marriage as she and Godfrey were childless. This situation was linked to Godfrey’s past and his unacknowledged biological daughter and it seemed Godfrey’s past actions must, in a moral sense, be linked with his present unhappiness.
Nancy was hurt by the knowledge that their lack of children had been an aspect of their lives to which Godfrey could not reconcile himself. Nancy had once prepared a the drawer of baby clothes, enthusiastically expecting a child, but only one small dress had ever been used, for a burial dress.
The death of a child of Nancy and Godfrey’s, perhaps a stillborn death or an infant death, showed the emotional trauma Nancy and Godfrey had gone through over the years as they’ve hoped for a child of their own.
Nancy had resisted over the years Godfrey’s few attempts to suggest that they adopt a child. Nancy held strongly to her opinions and principles, and one such principle was her refusal to adopt a child. She felt such a course of action attempted to change the lot in life given by Providence, which would bring about a curse on anyone who tried to get what a high Power had determined they were better without. Any child adopted by them would turn out badly. When Godfrey said that Eppie was turning out just fine, Nancy countered that Silas didn’t go looking for her; she just showed up at the door. Eppie was the child Godfrey had in mind to adopt. Nancy refused. Godfrey was dissatisfied.
Q1. What was Godfrey’s suggestion for his childless marriage? What was Nancy’s stance about adoption?
Ans. Godfrey and Nancy suffered because of their lack of children and the disappointment it caused Godfrey. They did have one daughter, but she died at birth. Nancy wondered whether she was right to resist Godfrey’s suggestion that they adopt. She has been adamant in her resistance, insisting that it is not right to seek something that Providence had withheld and predicted that an adopted child would inevitably turn out poorly.
Nancy’s unyielding opposition to adoption was not based on any particular reasoning, but simply because she felt it important to have “her unalterable little code.” Godfrey’s argument was that the adopted Eppie had turned out well. Godfrey had all along specified that if he and Nancy were to adopt, they should adopt Eppie. Considering his childless home a retribution for failing to claim Eppie, Godfrey saw the adoption of Eppie as a way to make up for his earlier fault.