Quote 5

The bucolic character at Hayslope, you perceive, was not of that entirely genial, merry, broad-grinning sort, apparently observed in most districts visited by artists.

Chapter 53 is devoted to the Harvest Supper at Hall Farm. The Harvest Supper is an annual tradition in which the Poysers host all their workers and others from the village at a huge meal to celebrate the end of the growing season. Eliot describes the meal in great detail and devotes lengthy descriptions to each of the minor characters seated around the table. Delving into their personal quirks and their age-old grudges, Eliot marks each of them with a texture of personality unique to themselves. She does not attempt to describe idyllic, idealistic peasants but attempts to describe real people, which comports with her realist novel. It also makes it hard to describe any of the characters either as good or bad, since they are all a little of each.

The narrator’s tone here is sarcastic. The reference to other artists is a derisive shot at other novelists and painters who portray poverty as somehow saintly and happy. Eliot rejects this glossing over of the harsh realities of day-to-day living, preferring a more honest description, and she is not above making fun of those who do not. The narrator does not, of course, believe that other artists actually observe “entirely genial, merry, broad-grinning” people in other districts. He believes that life in other districts is the same as in Hayslope, where sorrow and happiness mingle freely and good and bad characteristics are present in every person. Eliot often employs this sarcastic tone, in which the narrator says one thing when he means the opposite, when she writes directly to the reader. The technique makes clear the absurdity of an opposing position and the veracity of her own.