Adam Bede

by: George Eliot

Hetty Sorrel

Hetty never changes through the book, even after her religious conversion in the jail, and she remains a vain and selfish creature. Hetty only wants what is best for herself. Throughout the novel, Hetty has no concern for how her actions will affect others. Yet because her desires and fears are childlike, it is hard to condemn her. Hetty’s defining moment in the novel comes when she kills her child. Feeling no love for the child, she acts out of self-preservation and fear of shame. Her fear of condemnation after death drives her to forgive Captain Donnithorne after Dinah tells her that God will not forgive her if she does not forgive Captain Donnithorne. But Hetty never expresses any regret for the loss of the child, and she never demonstrates any maternal instinct. The lack of feeling toward those who love her comes as a result of two factors. First, she is a child, who needs coddling and admiration. Second, she is consumed by her pride and vanity to the point of being unable to reach out for help even when she desperately needs it. Hetty is a tragic figure.


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