Quote 2

No: people who love downy peaches are apt not to think of the stone, and sometimes jar their teeth terribly against it.

In chapter 15, while Hetty preens herself in her bedroom after the first time she kisses Captain Donnithorne, the narrator makes this observation about Adam’s love of Hetty. Like the peach, Hetty is pretty and soft on the outside but inside has a hardness that does not match her outward appearance. Adam does not perceive the hardness on the inside. He believes Hetty must be as beautiful inside as outside. For that reason, Adam is even more injured when Hetty turns out to have acted in an immoral way, both in her affair with Captain Donnithorne and in the killing of her own child. Adam’s love for Hetty is foolish but forgivable in the novel because it is natural for a man to fall in love with a breathtaking young woman. It is also natural, if foolish, for Adam to believe that Hetty’s outward appearance corresponds to an inner virtue. His is a wishful thinking, imagining her to be what he wishes she were and ignoring signs to the contrary.

Throughout the novel, inner and outer beauty often fail to correlate. Captain Donnithorne and Hetty Sorrel, described as the two most comely characters in the novel, are both vain, shallow, and selfish people. The villagers, especially people like Mrs. Poyser and Bartle Massey, may lack physical beauty, but in times of need they are the virtuous, hardworking, charitable people on whom others must rely. On the other hand, Eliot is careful not to accuse all beautiful people of vice. Both Adam and Dinah are described as very beautiful people, and they are both filled with love of their neighbor and a desire to do good for others. The only way to know people, in Eliot’s view, is live with them. People cannot be judged on appearances, wealth, or the quality of their speech. The best thing to do, she suggests, is to love the people in each other’s lives and make every effort to see the good in them.