carpenter and the protagonist of the novel. Adam is strong, intelligent,
and fairly well educated for a peasant. He is industrious and loyal.
Throughout the story, Adam’s pride forms the central movement of
the book. Adam believes that working hard is a way of doing God’s
work and is at least as important as religion itself. He hates all
evil and does not understand how a man could decide that something
is evil and then do it anyway. Adam is admired by his peers, but
he is not motivated by their admiration. For him, a job well done
is its own reward.
in-depth analysis of Adam Bede.
Methodist preacher who seeks to bring God’s love to all those around
her. Dinah’s gentle demeanor and selfless attitude bring comfort
to the other characters, including Hetty in the hours before she
is scheduled to die. Dinah’s outer beauty matches her inner calm
and draws all the other characters to her. She feels compelled to
help those in greatest need, even when it results in the denial
of her own happiness. Eventually she comes to believe that her own
happiness and God’s will are not necessarily incompatible.
in-depth analysis of Dinah Morris.
startlingly beautiful young peasant girl. Her downfall is the primary
action of the novel. Hetty is selfish and shallow. Although her
humiliation changes her somewhat, even to the end she is more concerned with
her own suffering than anyone else’s. Hetty is also foolish. She
has no sense of the way the world really is and no appreciation
for Mr. and Mrs. Poyser for taking her in and raising her when she
was orphaned. Hetty wants everyone to notice her beauty. Hetty is
a foil to Dinah’s character.
in-depth analysis of Hetty Sorrel.
Captain Arthur Donnithorne
A young regimental soldier, heir to the Chase. His
arrogant belief in his own good character leads him to disgrace
Hetty. Captain Donnithorne believes that he is fundamentally a good man,
no matter what else happens and even when events show that his evil
actions have consequences. He tries to buy his way out of every
situation. Even his desire to do good is really a desire to be seen
by others as one who does good. Captain Donnithorne cares for Adam,
although not enough to tell him the truth about Hetty. Although
he loves Hetty, his love is not strong enough to break the class
boundaries that separate them.
The rector of Broxton, the confidante of Captain
Donnithorne. Mr. Irwine is tolerant and compassionate. Although
he is a religious man, he believes that little good is done by chastising
people for their wrong-doings. Instead, he teaches patience and gentleness.
Mr. Irwine has never married and prefers to live with his mother
and two sisters. Although he does not pry into others’ inner lives,
he offers sage advice when his advice is sought. He loves Captain Donnithorne
like a son and is deeply wounded by Hetty’s disgrace. Mr. Irwine
knows the details of the lives of the people in the parish and does
his best to encourage what he believes will make them happy.
brother, a Methodist carpenter. Seth gives freely of himself, even
to the point of giving up his love of Dinah when he believes it
is for the good of others. Although Seth is not as intelligent as
Adam, he is motivated by love and acts well in all things as a result. Both
gentle and kind, he is comparable to Dinah but lacks her education
and intelligence. A bit of a dreamer, Seth likes to sit and think
rather than do, although he works very hard at his job as well.
country farmwoman. She has a sharp tongue and a deep love for her
family and friends. Mrs. Poyser is an indulgent mother to Totty,
her three-year-old daughter. A mother figure to both Hetty and Dinah,
she repeatedly warns Hetty against the dangers of vanity. She believes
she knows more than most people, stands up to authority when she
believes it is wrong, and criticizes freely when she believes others
are in error.
farmer and tenant of the Squire’s. Mr. Poyser is deeply traditional
and values his land and good name above all else. A simple man,
he cherishes his wife and believes in her wisdom.
schoolteacher and Adam’s best friend. Unbeknownst to his friends,
not only does Mr. Massey care deeply for his students, but he exhibits
a patience with them that he seldom shows in the company of friends.
Mr. Massey rails against the stupidity of women and says everything
twice. During Hetty’s trial, he is a tactful comfort to Adam because
he is able to see when it is best not to speak.
mother of Adam and Seth, the wife of Thias. Lisbeth shrieks at her
children, complains incessantly about the wrongs the world does
to her, and wishes for death when her husband dies. For all that,
she loves Adam and Seth, although she favors Adam over Seth and
never spares Seth’s feelings on the subject. She is the first to
remark on Adam and Dinah’s love for each other.
drunkard, the father of Adam and Seth. Thias fell from a straight
life sometime before the opening of the novel. Until his death,
he is only a burden to his family.
The old, spendthrift landlord of the Chase. He takes
no interest in his tenants as people but only as a source income
and therefore his comfort.
old socialite, mother of Mr. Irwine. Mrs. Irwine’s sense of superiority
over the peasants leads her to bring misery even when she ostensively
seeks to bring happiness. A proud and arrogant woman, she belittles the
peasants, believing that they are beneath her because they do not
have her wealth.
carpenter who works with Adam and Seth. Wiry Ben is a simple man,
who is uneducated, likes his ale, and can dance very well.
proprietor of the village inn. Mr. Casson knows everyone’s business
and affects great airs of nobility, even in the way he speaks.
tailless, faithful dog. Gyp follows Adam everywhere. How other characters
treat Gyp is often an indication of how they react to helpless creatures.
parish clerk who is so proud of his own voice and musical talent
that he flaunts them at every turn. He also takes great offense
at the coming of Methodists into the parish.
Methodist wheelwright. Maskery is outspoken and self-righteous.
Methodist widow from Stoniton. She lets Hetty stay with her when
she looks for Captain Donnithorne. She later testifies at Hetty’s
laborer who lives near Stoniton. At Hetty’s trial, he testifies
that he saw Hetty one morning and heard a baby crying.