Term Paper: Adam Bede, George Eliot Uses

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[. . .] She may even have lost herself - for in the end she seems to have been reduced to something less than fully human, although not something that is in any way natural. She has none of the grace of the natural world that is so important in this novel - as well as in other Romantic works. She has become some sort of living ghost, some broken, preternatural thing.

We see the essential destruction of this character in this description of the fate of her child; in this passage we see how Eliot has irrevocably marked her as being unable to act as a moral agent in this story. Her inability to serve as a force of good - or even evil - marks her as inhuman. She has the strength of neither goodness nor evil, and as such has become a sort of wraith, something so passive that she can no longer even move or speak intelligibly, much less govern her own fate.

There was a lot of timber-choppings put together just where the ground went hollow, like, under the bush, and the hand came out from among them. But there was a hole left in one place, and I could see down it, and see the child's head; and I made haste and did away the turf and the choppings, and took out the child. It had got comfortable clothes on, but its body was cold, and I thought it must be dead. I made haste back with it out of the wood, and took it home to my wife. She said it was dead, and I'd better take it to the parish and tell the constable. And I said, "I'll lay my life it's that young woman's child as I met going to the coppice." But she seemed to be clean gone out of sight. And I took the child on to Hetton parish and told the constable, and we went on to Justice Hardy. And then we went looking after the young woman till dark at night, and we went and gave information at Stoniton, as they might stop her. And the next morning, another constable came to me, to go with him to the spot where I found the child. And when we got there, there was the prisoner a-sitting against the bush where I found the child; and she cried out when she saw us, but she never offered to move.

It is, of course, nothing of a coincidence that Eliot should have Adam find happiness not just in the arms of a good woman, but of a woman who because of her profession is a reflection of the divine. Adam may be seen in the end of this novel to be turning not only to Dinah, but also turning his life away from simple mortal, corporeal love and in the direction of God.

Adam has learned by the end of the novel that people are often weak and disappointing. Hetty has proven to be a weak vessel - but she has also shown Adam that he too is a weak vessel for having let his passion for another blind him to what is good and essential in life. And so in seeking to find a better love, Adam turns toward not just a better woman, but to God, to heaven as a place that can never disappoint.

We do have the feeling that Adam will succeed in drawing Dinah a little closer to himself and the (wholesome) pleasures that life on earth has to offer and a little farther away from God. For the final message of the novel concerning the value of human love is dual: One should love not love unwisely but one should love. Hetty is too weak to provide the kind of moral guidance that Adam needs, and she pays for this by in the end being entirely lost to the power of human love. But while blind passion is morally and even emotionally wrong, life without earthly love is also wrong, and so Dinah and Adam love each other even as they also love God.

Writing at the cusp of the era of the Realist novel, with her feet still very much planted in the rich, country loam of Romanticism, Eliot gave to most of the minor characters in Adam Bede roles cut from the whole cloth of the traditional Romantic novel. But for her two major characters, for Dinah and Adam, she blended then-modern, Realistic elements of characterization with Realistic ones.

Dinah and Adam are not the beautiful, perfect creatures of a Romantic novel who can only be saved in the end by abandoning themselves to the pull of their emotions. She does not give us characters who fall in love at first sight because the gods had always intended them for each other. The fact that they are happy at the end tells us a great deal about the shift in conventions that occurred between the Romantic and Realistic novel - shifts that Eliot herself was in many ways instrumental in bringing about.

But the fact that this couple is given a cup filled to the rim with bliss tells us not just about the changing conventions of the novel but the changing conventions of 19th-century society. As the 19th century was passing its midpoint and beginning its quickening run toward modernity, women were gaining in power - at least in the power to redeem the men that they loved.

References

http://www.princeton.edu/~batke/eliot/bede/bede-1.html [END OF PREVIEW]

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