Adam Bede

by: George Eliot

Key Facts

full title · Adam Bede

author · George Eliot

type of work · Novel

genre · Bildungsroman; tragedy

language · English

time and place written · 18571859, England

date of first publication · February 1, 1859

publisher · William Blackwood and Sons

narrator · The narrator is an anonymous historian who knows Adam later in life. The narrator has a low opinion of the reader, whom he imagines as a socialite woman.

point of view · The narrator speaks primarily in the third person, centering on characters one at a time and revealing their thoughts and feelings in turn. Sometimes, the narrator breaks through to comment on the actions and feelings of the character in the first person.

tone · The narrator is generally empathetic with the characters, although sometimes the narrator is very sarcastic about the reader’s imagined response to the characters.

tense · Past tense

setting (time) · June 1799–June 1807

setting (place) · Hayslope, England

protagonist · Adam Bede

major conflict · Adam Bede comes to terms with the disgrace and crimes of his fiancée and learns how evil acts in the world.

rising action · When Hetty Sorrel has an affair with Captain Donnithorne, gets pregnant, and murders her newborn child, Adam Bede must face the reality that not all people conform to his conception of goodness.

climax · Adam’s discovery of Hetty’s crime forces upon him the knowledge of her pregnancy and the death of her child; for him, life will forever be marked by the sorrow he feels over her disgrace.

falling action · Adam observes Hetty’s trial from afar, forgives Hetty, and returns to life in Hayslope. Only over time is he able to come to terms with Hetty’s disgrace and exile from England.

themes · The value of hard work; the power of love; the consequences of bad behavior

motifs · Natural beauty; dogs; narrative sarcasm

symbols · Gates; hearth and home; clothing

foreshadowing · Adam hears the omen of death the night before his father dies; Hetty’s impending shame is her pregnancy; Dinah blushes when Adam surprises her at the Bede home, foreshadowing their love and marriage.