Friday, July 04, 2008

Adam Bede
by George Eliot

"See the difference between the impression a man makes on you when you walk by his side in familiar talk, or look at him in his home, and the figure he makes when seen from a lofty historical level, or even in the eyes of a critical neighbor who thinks of him as an embodied system or opinion rather than as a man."  - George Eliot, Adam Bede

George Eliot's Adam Bede lives in the charming rustic countryside and adheres to a stoic version of the Puritan work ethic. His world is disrupted by both the classic temptation of Eros in the form of the too beautiful Hetty and the dissenting spiritual views of the Methodist preacher Dinah Morris.
The author controls the narrative and lectures the reader as the other characters, brother Seth, Arthur Donnithorne, the Poysers, and the Rector Irwine are intertwined in the the fates of young Hetty and Adam. The novel succeeds in conveying the bucolic charm of the place while almost convincing us of the inevitability of fate. Above all, the characters are interesting and believable. My favorite, the Rector Irwine is notable in his interest in the classics and his disdain of preaching. Hetty Sorrel, the narcissistic young girl is harder to believe or understand, but she certainly has the requisite beauty to catch the eye of the aristocratic young Arthur who lets his emotions hold sway over his reason (insufficiently developed to handle this battle). Rereading this early novel of Eliot suggests the potential that she would fulfill in her later work, particularly Middlemarch.

Adam Bede by George Eliot. Everyman's Library, New York, 1992 (1859)

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