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Adam Bede

Author: Eliot, George

Genre: Novel

Year: 1859

Characters: Mrs. Poyser, Mr. Irwine, Hetty Sorrel, Dinah Morris, Arthur Donnithorne


Adam Bede by George Eliot

Written in 1859 Adam Bede  by George Eliot (a pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans) shakes up life in the rural English community of Hayslope with a careless squire's seduction of dairymaid Hetty Sorrell, the love interest of plain-spoken carpenter Adam Bede. The betrayal brings on tragic consequences among the Midlands country folk, along with Adam Bede's own maturity.

Told from an omniscient point of view, Mary Ann Evans' first novel emphasizes her personal philosophies of moral realism and self-control.Immediately recognized as a significant literary work, Adam Bede has enjoyed a largely positive critical reputation since its publication. Charles Dickens wrote: “The whole country life that the story is set in, is so real, and so droll and genuine, and yet so selected and polished by art, that I cannot praise it enough to you.” in early criticism, the tragedy of infanticide has often been overlooked in favor of the peaceful idyllic world and familiar personalities Eliot recreated.

Other critics have objected to the resolution of the story. In the final moments, Hetty, about to be executed for infanticide, is saved by her seducer, Arthur Donnithorne. Critics have argued that this deus ex machina ending negates the moral lessons learned by the main characters. Without the eleventh hour reprieve, the suffering of Adam, Arthur, and Hetty would have been more realistically concluded.

The story of Adam Bede showcase Eliot’s view of human nature which is complex. She does not preach, and she does not offer flat characters with whom it is impossible to sympathize. Instead, she offers real characters, whose motivations are sympathetic even when the motivations are tainted. Throughout the Adam Bede novel, assessments against another person’s negative actions are a condemning aim of the novel.

In this story, Eliot contrasts the inner and outer beauty of the characters by portraying that Eliot continually discredits those members of the artificial ‘nobility’ who deride the simple pleasures of the lower classes.In fact, the narrator encourages people to enjoy life’s simpler pleasures and not turn their noses up at characters or people just because they are of a lower class. In this story, human nature is seen as a quintessence of the world or the universe.

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