Adam Bede

Critics gave their views that Adam is shown as over-virtuous. What George Eliot had considered an ideal person should be, she rendered all those aspects to Adam. But, a deep analysis of his mind makes us aware of the flaws in his character. He is hard, arrogant with little sympathy for ordinary sinners. Reva Stump (1959) notes that “Adam measures the weakness of others against his own strength, and his judgement is sometimes harsh” (p.10)

In this world, nobody is perfect and imperfection should be pardoned, but Adam Bede lacked this integrity. Gradually, he comes out of all these faults and converts into a complete and real human being. Dinah’s affection for him and later, their marriage, brings about this grand change in him. The process of his education occupies the centre of the novel. If the process is taken carefully the point would become clear.

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Conflict in Head and Heart

In the very beginning of the novel, we realise that Adam may be intelligent and honest, yet, not a sincere man because the head dominates the heart in him.

He is stern, cruel, harsh and hasty with unforgiving aspect in him which stamped him as a stone-hearted man. Whenever such kind of conflict rises between head and heart, intellectual curiosity turns into hardness and pride. Adam’s pride gave rise to various disputes on all sides.

His hardness also faced the same responses. Adam’s hardness consists in his having “too little feeling with the weakness that errs inspite of foreseen consequences’ George Eliot says that if this fellow feeling is absent, “how are we to get enough patience and charity towards our stumbling, falling companions in the long and changeful journey?” The first part of Adam Bede provides us with the answer to the question which had been haunting us again and again.

Over Emotionality

Neither she takes life practically nor she gets involve within it. Says Creeger (1970), “implicit in her fear is also, I believe, a kind of unwillingness to become fully involved in life. In this respect she is like her creator who once said that it was pity her life could not be managed for her, while she stood by, the passive but interested spectator.”(89) It cannot be denied that she was not mild, compassionate and sympathetic but never tried her hand to involve in somebody’s problems.

Love Brings Maturity

She overcomes her fear after she was told by Adam that he was in love with her. Dinah also responses positively and starts participating in her life symbolised by her returning to Stonyshire. Adam also leaves Loamshire and enters Stonyshire where he is able to find Dinah again and feels a great change in her. She is now a complete woman with intense love for him and with a ‘strong desire to become his wife. Finally; in departing November, the wedding of Adam and Dinah is done.

The ending is proper as both of them had painful experiences concerning with Hetty, which render them a sympathetic heart and thus love based on sympathy wins. Barbara Hardy (1959) is of the view that intellectual growth forces the enhanced perception of the realities as this “forces him [Adam] to self-assessment; the tragic suffering is an imaginative step in human sympathy; a genuine catharsis within the tragic hero”. (p.12)

Withdrawal from Reality

Adam Bede, a handy carpenter loves her honestly and it is not a secret for Hetty also, but he is poor and so cannot match with her dream-lover. So, she rejects him as soon as her eyes catch the attention of Arthur, a real prince. She starts dreaming of him and is sure about her coming future, which would be bright and colourful. The words of novelist make us aware of her dream world and this dreaming helps her reaching in a new world with pleasant and gay atmosphere, with new hopes and prospects. So it a profound narcotic effect on her. Such a psychological state represents a complete withdrawal from life.

This does imply that Hetty characterization is unnatural but “The figure of Hetty is like nothing that art had before developed out of nature, and yet it is profoundly true, with a reality in it which makes the heart ache.”(The Westminster Review). Creegor sums up the theme of dreams in this way;

Her peace and joy come from, having no life of her own. Adam’s love only raises the fear that she will forget Jesus, the man of sorrows, and become hard: ‘And think how it is with me, Adam : that life I have led is like a, land I have trodden in blessedness since my childhood; and if I long for a moment to follow the voice which calls me to another land that I know not I cannot but fear that my soul might hereafter yearn for that early blessedness which I had forsaken, and where doubt enters there is not perfect love.

I must wait for clearer guidance: I, must go from you’. Here is clear expression of Dinah’s fear of accepting full maturity, for the land which faces her (i.e. Loamshire and, of course, Adam) is a strange one; and who knows what life there may hold for her? Better, then to the other land (Stonyshire and the self-contained world of childhood). There is at least no risk is run. If Hetty was incapable of growing up, Dinah is afraid too” (Creeger, 1970, p. 143)

How all of her dreams shattered with only one mistake she was to make by Arthur’s persuasion and the suffering is doubled when she is said good bye by her lover Arthur, when she is pregnant and has lost her virginity with nobody to help her. In this way, George Eliot brings out a moral aspect how a person is tempted and is made to sin. If sin is done then punishment must be given. Thus Hetty gets the punishment, when she is left alone to face all the hardships and then her futile attempt to search her lover, Arthur. Her premature delivery and the murder of her own son, is crime over crime.


We may sum-up with the words of A.E. Baker,

“She emancipated herself from the Evangelical creed in which she had been brought up, but she was always religious minded. The phase of rationalism through which she passed after abandoning the belief in heaven and hell of her Evangelical upbringing did not last long. Pantheism she found unsatisfying and she resigned herself to the conviction that there is no answer to our cravings for a definite faith. But hundreds of passages in her novels imply that she could never eradicate a profound sense, not merely of divine immanence, but of divine transcendence. Her Puritanism, her worship of duty rested all her life upon the consciousness of an inner reality, which adherents of the creeds readily identified with the Divine. The monitor within represented something higher than ourselves, whether of another order of being or simply the loftiest ideal conceivable to man.”

In short, the novelist takes the moral aspects painfully and brings us to notice the consequences of the deeds which are done ignoring the rules and regulations of nature and society as well. The religious themes have not been taken into consideration as Adam Bede is not a religious novel (Collins 97) in essence.


Collins, W.L. Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Sheila Fitzgerald. Detroit: Gale Research. 1983.

Eliot. George. Adam Bede. New York: Dodd, Mead.1978.

Fyfe, Albert J. The Interpretation of “Adam Bede”. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Sep., 1954), pp. 134-139.

Greegor. G.R. George Eliot: a collection of critical essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-

Hall [1970]

Hardy, Barbara. The Novels of George Eliot. AS study in form. New Jersey: Essential Books. 1959.

Herbert, Christopher. Preachers and the Schemes of Nature in Adam Bede. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Mar., 1975), pp. 412-427.

Levine. G.L The Cambridge companion to George Eliot. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Stump, Reva. Movement and Vision in George Eliot’s Novel. Seattle; University of Washington Press. 1959.

 “The Westminster Review, October 1876,” in George Eliot and Her Readers: A Selection of Contemporary Reviews, edited by John Holmstrom and Laurence Lerner, The Bodley Head, 1966, pp. 22-23.

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