The Squire comes to the Poysers to ask them to give up some of their farming land in exchange for some additional dairy land. The Squire wants the arrangement so that he can lease Chase Farm, and he flatters and wheedles in his attempt to get the Poysers to agree. Mrs. Poyser is furious and refuses the offer. She says she will not help him make more money while ruining herself. Mr. Poyser worries that he will kick them off Hall Farm when it comes time to renew their lease. He laments the idea of going to live among strangers when it has been the pride of his family that they have land. Mrs. Poyser tells him not to worry about that until it happens.
Because Mrs. Poyser refuses to exchange farmland for dairy land, the Squire is unable to rent out Chase Farm and is forced to take other measures. Villagers find this very amusing because the Squire is universally hated. Mr. Irwine also finds the situation funny, but he is careful not to laugh about it for fear of getting on the Squire’s bad side. Adam continues to woo Hetty, who persists to show more interest in him. Because Mr. Burge was unable to replace him, Adam has been made a partner in the carpentry business. Adam is also tending to the Squire’s woods. As Hetty begins to show more affection for him, Adam’s jealousy and hatred of Captain Donnithorne abate.
As he walks with her one afternoon, Adam tells Hetty about his new partnership in the carpentry business. Hetty believes this means he will marry Mr. Burge’s daughter, and her vanity is offended. She begins to cry. Adam realizes her misunderstanding and believes she is crying out of love, so he proposes immediately, even though he had planned to wait. Hetty, who seems more luxuriant lately, accepts. They go back to Hall Farm and tell the Poysers, who are ecstatic. Hetty gives Adam a kiss.
Hetty has been going about her work more obediently than usual, and Adam is pleased because he believes that she will make a good wife after all. He notices, however, that she is sometimes unhappy. Hetty goes to a nearby market town to get some things she needs for the wedding. On the way, she sobs and dreads a coming shame. The narrator does not directly say that Hetty is pregnant; the reader comes to this conclusion after the narrator persists in mentioning that Hetty is so afraid. Hetty contemplates killing herself but is too afraid that when they found the body, people would know why she killed herself. The only hope for her, she concludes, is to go far away where people will not know her. Hetty decides to tell the Poysers that she is going to see Dinah in Snowfield and really to set off to find Captain Donnithorne, who she believes can help her, even if he cannot erase her shame. Adam sees her off on her journey, and Hetty cries. Adam believes her tears are evidence of her deep love for him, but they are actually self-pitying tears.
Each time Hetty cries in the novel, something significant happens to those around her in response to her emotional state. The first notable instance of Hetty’s tears is during the encounter with Captain Donnithorne, when her tears provoke so much pity in him that he kisses her, thus sparking their affair. In chapters 34 and 35, though, her tears cause Adam to propose and to feel deep sympathy for her at their parting. However, Hetty cries out of humiliation, out of fear, and out of vanity, and never out of truly deep sorrow or feeling for others. Hetty’s tears come because they are a way for her to get what she wants, not unlike Totty’s temper tantrums. Because she is beautiful, her tears move others to feel especially sorry for her and to do their best to make the tears go away. Other characters, who have at least as many troubles, do considerably less crying. Dinah, for example, never cries in front of others. Hetty’s outward show of minor sadness when the world does not go her way signals her shallow nature, demonstrating just how frivolous she can be.
The narrator never directly tells the reader that Hetty is pregnant. Instead, Eliot and the narrator hint at it, dropping clues for a thoughtful reader to solve. For example, the narrator describes a sense of “luxuriant womanliness” in Hetty, the result of her affair with Captain Donnithorne. Likewise, the narrator describes Hetty as feeling a sense of dread. Eliot carefully lays out the timeframe so that readers can calculate how far along Hetty might be in her pregnancy. At the third trimester, when Hetty would be starting to show, she leaves the farm. Readers must connect her leave-taking with the pregnancy. Her situation becomes even clearer when Hetty resolves to seek out Captain Donnithorne for help in order to alleviate her sense of dread. This scene builds the emotion of the novel and aligns reader sympathy with Hetty: her distress forces readers to feel pity toward her, even as she begins to make bad choices.
The interaction between the Squire and Mrs. Poyser emphasizes that they are foils of each other. The Squire, who is basically an absent character in the rest of the novel, makes an important entry onto the scene in this section, apparently just to tell us more about Mrs. Poyser’s character. Chapter 32 adds very little to the plot of the novel, and the character of the Squire himself is not developed and not especially important. The chapter mostly highlights Mrs. Poyser’s character. When Mrs. Poyser squares off against the Squire, the reader is reminded of the scene in which Adam refused payment less than his required price for carpentry he did for the family. It shows Mrs. Poyser’s strength and how fierce she can be when protecting her family. Because she takes the lead over Mr. Poyser, the scene also firmly establishes her as the head of the Poyser family, at least in times of stress. The violence of her reaction to the Squire will also be important when it contrasts with the gentleness of her response to Hetty’s misfortune. The scene raises her above the merely petty complaining of some women, like Lisbeth, and into the realm of real strength and eloquence when it is called for.