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Adam Bede

George Eliot

Book Sixth: Chapter 53–Epilogue

Book Sixth: Chapters 49–52

Important Quotations Explained

Summary: Chapter 53

Adam goes to the Harvest Supper at the Poysers. The Poysers have invited all their workers and others as well to come have a sumptuous meal and ale. Mr. Poyser is filled with good will as he watches the workers eat. Together, the table sings the harvest song, a drinking song with a set refrain in which all the other words are made up by each singer. The workers have their usual quarrels, but mostly everyone is happy and satisfied. Adam anxiously looks for Dinah, but she has already gone back to Snowfield. As Adam walks Mr. Massey home, they talk about Mrs. Poyser. Both agree she is a good spirited woman, for all her sharp tongue.

Summary: Chapter 54

Adam cannot bear the suspense any longer, so he goes to Snowfield to find Dinah. As he rides, he remembers the trip he made to Snowfield to find Hetty, and it still makes him sad. He believes that Hetty’s disgrace is a terrible, sorrowful event, but his love for Dinah is fuller because he has experienced that sorrow. Dinah is out preaching, but Adam follows her to the house where she is and waits on a nearby hill. When she walks by, he comes out from behind a hedge and softly speaks her name. She turns around and hugs him. As they both cry, Dinah tells him that it is God’s will that she should marry him. They kiss.

Summary: Chapter 55

A month later, on a rainy November day, Dinah and Adam are married in a simple ceremony. All their friends are there and wish them the best. For Adam, the day recalls another day when he was to be married, but Dinah does not mind the tinge of sorrow on their wedding day. As he rides home after the ceremony, Mr. Irwine reflects that the news of their wedding will be good news to send to Captain Donnithorne.

Summary: Epilogue

In 1807, Dinah calls to Seth in their cottage and tells him that Adam is on his way home. They gather up Adam and Dinah’s two children, Lisbeth and Adam, and they all go out to meet Adam. Adam and Seth’s mother has died, and Seth remains a bachelor who lives with his brother’s family. Adam is returning from his first meeting with Captain Donnithorne, who has just returned to Hayslope. When the family approaches Adam, he takes his son from Seth. The younger Adam goes to Adam very happily. Adam recounts his visit with Captain Donnithorne. The captain, who is now a colonel, is much changed, especially by a recent serious illness, but he is the same old Captain Donnithorne. Dinah is told that Captain Donnithorne also plans to come see her the next day, and she says she will be glad to see him. While he had hoped to see her preach, the captain is told by Adam that she no longer preaches publicly since the Methodists have outlawed it. Reacting angrily to this comment, Seth believes the Methodists were wrong to outlaw the women preachers, but Adam quiets him by saying that Dinah accepted this because it was best. Adam relates how Captain Donnithorne took the news that Hetty has died overseas, just when she would have been allowed to return to England. He says that Captain Donnithorne admits now the wisdom of Adam’s saying there are some wrongs that cannot be made up. As the family arrives home, the Poysers are entering their gate. Dinah sends her daughter forward to greet them.

Analysis: Chapter 53—Epilogue

Eliot devotes an entire chapter to the Harvest Supper to emphasize that no matter how great the scandal of the time, normalcy does eventually return to the lives of most people. Although it is clear that Adam’s life will never be the same after the events surrounding Hetty and Captain Donnithorne, the workers, villagers, and farmers of Hayslope return to their everyday lives, unaffected by Hetty’s trial eighteen months earlier. After the disruption that the novel suffered when the scene changed to Stoniton for Hetty’s trial and the narration shifted to the multivoiced telling of the trial, the story of the Harvest Supper represents a return to the previous form of the novel. Eliot indicates that the world itself is largely how people choose to see it. After all, although Adam’s view of other people has changed dramatically since Hetty’s trial, the people themselves have not changed much. That element of balance is an important piece of the compassion Eliot preaches throughout the novel. The option is available, she says, as to how people see their neighbors and how much they choose to love them. Compassion is always an option.

The Harvest Supper also adds another layer of realism to Eliot’s novel and offers her a chance to criticize those authors and artists who choose to ignore the reality of poor, rural life in favor of some idealized notion of the happy peasant farmer. It seems to be very important to Eliot that her novel portray poverty as it is. Most of her characters are poor, struggling on the edge of existence. They are not starving in the streets and are not dependant on the charity of others for their existence, but a bad harvest can destroy several years’ work for them. Eliot shows them as their lives are and rejects the idea that poverty somehow sanctifies people or makes them kinder than others, or worse than others. Poverty is not a positive social force, and the poor live life in much the same way as everyone else. This picture of everyone else of the novel forms an important background to Adam, and it is a social commentary as much about Eliot’s own time as about the time of the novel. Eliot warns against the dangers of not seeing others for what they are through the allegory of Adam’s infatuation of Hetty, and at the same time she offers the most accurate picture she can of the common man so that those may see him as he really is.

The comments in the Epilogue about disallowing women to preach, and especially Adam’s reaction, stick out from an otherwise idyllic family scene. Adam’s comments, that most women who preached did more harm than good, reveal his view that women are inferior. Dinah herself says nothing on the subject of why she stopped preaching. Adam’s conflict with Seth, although minor, stands out as an unusual bit of dialogue in the last scene of the novel. Eliot may have felt obliged to insert this information for simple historical purposes, since the Methodists did outlaw women’s preaching. The effect of the conflict, however, shows Adam in a less than favorable light at the very end of a novel in which he has been the undisputed hero, and in which he has gotten everything he always wanted in his marriage to Dinah. This prevents the end of the novel from becoming too saccharine and reminds the reader that even the hero is human and has his failings.

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