Adam Bede

by: George Eliot

Book Sixth: Chapters 49–52

Dinah’s resistance to Adam’s marriage proposal raises an unresolved question about giving up her freedom to be with Adam. Dinah’s life up until her marriage is not beholden to anyone. She does as she pleases, although she does not choose to live a hedonistic existence but rather to follow the will of God. She loves everyone in the world equally, and she does not show preference to any one person. The decision to allow her life to be governed by her affection for one man is a huge change in Dinah’s personality and is not one to be taken lightly. Although Dinah’s decision to marry Adam does lead to her happiness at the end of the novel, Eliot’s willingness to take seriously the notion that a woman might not be so eager to marry and give up her life, even for a man so wonderful as Adam, suggests a streak of early feminism in her that is way ahead of her time. Despite her sarcastic derision of women in the novel, especially of her lady reader, Eliot’s presentation of women is complex and textured. She does not resolve the issues about Dinah’s abdication of her freedom but rather leaves readers to decide them for themselves.