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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
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
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.