Adam Bede

by: George Eliot

Book Fifth: Chapters 40–43

Summary Book Fifth: Chapters 40–43

The novel at this point becomes its most multifarious and complicated. The narration suddenly comes through several characters who are new to the novel and about whom the reader knows almost nothing. The story of the death of Hetty’s child comes through witnesses at a trial, and in some places then through the filter of Mr. Massey as he retells it to Adam. This section also contains a major change of scene. The characters have left Hayslope and are staying in Stoniton, a town about which Eliot tells the reader very little other than that it is bustling. The action takes place in a room that is very different from the usual farmhouses and meadows where the rest of the action of the novel takes place. The effect of these changes is to throw the reader off balance, just as Adam, who remains the focal point, is off balance. These scenes and this story seem as strange to the reader as they do to him because they are so unlike the rest of the book. The peaceful tranquility and easy rhythm of the rest of the story are gone, and horrifying events have taken their place. It only makes sense, then, that the scenery and narration style should also change.