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Adam Bede by George Eliot
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Adam Bede (1859)

by George Eliot

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    Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Heather39)
    Heather39: Both books tell the story of a young, working class woman who enters into a relationship with a gentleman, eventually to her downfall.
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» See also 238 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
I consider this one of the most underrated novels of the 19th century, never mind of George Eliot, and I am surprised it is not more widely known. Perhaps it is because the selective reader doesn't go further than Middlemarch, while keener George Eliot fans might also enjoy Silas Marner. I have to admit I fell in this category: this is my third George Eliot and it has convinced me to read her other major works.

Its relative obscurity may also be because similar themes are addressed less gently by Thomas Hardy's more popular Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891), of which Adam Bede (1859) is a precursor. Having read Adam Bede, I would love to know what influence, if any, George Eliot had on Hardy's later works. [Apparently, this was the subject of a 1903 American thesis.] Indeed, in many ways George Eliot was a rebel just like Thomas Hardy in challenging mores of the age. But she avoids the irrepressible gloominess of Hardy's works.

The plot is single threaded and revolves around a few characters: brothers Adam and Seth; Hetty and Dinah, relations of the Poysers; and the hier Arthur Donnithorne. All her characters are painted vividly, often with wit and humour. Take this example:

"On a front view it appeared to consist principally of two spheres, bearing about the same relation to each other as the earth and the moon: that is to say, the lower sphere might be said, at a rough guess, to be thirteen times larger than the upper, which naturally performed the function of a mere satellite and tributary."

The characters aren't ever-changing and you won't find many cliffhangers. Yet I can only see the straightforwardness of the plot and constancy of characters as aspects to enjoy. There are characters and feelings you can relate to; and, as much as George Eliot analyses the emotions she portrays, I was pleasantly surprised by her lack of criticism - until I had read a bit about her own life, ostracised from society as she was. George Eliot was a scholar, but writes skillfully on ideas accessible to anyone:

"Family likeness has often a deep sadness in it. Nature, that great tragic dramatist, knits us together by bone and muscle, and divides us by the subtler web of our brains; blends yearning and repulsion; and ties us by our heartstrings to the beings that jar us at every movement."

There was one chapter on Hetty later in the novel which I will never forget, but I won't spoil it for potential readers. As ever, George Eliot's writing is beautiful. Some of the metaphors and descriptions on life and hardship were striking. I took note of a couple:

"No: people who love downy peaches are apt not to think of the stone, and sometimes jar their teeth terribly against it."

"The beginning of hardship is like the first taste of bitter food—it seems for a moment unbearable; yet, if there is nothing else to satisfy our hunger, we take another bite and find it possible to go on."

The format of the novel helped me. Each chapter represents a scene. Scanning through the list of chapter names after reading the novel is in itself uplifting through the memories evoked. I could imagine a picture encapsulating each of the chapters in this novel, but that's an idea for a future edition when I hope this novel attracts the popularity it so richly deserves. ( )
1 vote jigarpatel | Feb 27, 2019 |
Adam Bede was wonderful. It was lush and evocative of the late 18th century and intensely psychological in a way I wasn't expecting at all. In 19th century literature it is so easy to lose sight of how most people lived, spending so much time with the gentry and high-stakes players of the era, with "common people" being Dickens caricatures, however lovingly drawn, and background noise.

I have been holding an unfair grudge against George Eliot for all the wrong reasons. It's not her fault the professor who assigned Middlemarch was the worst of the breed - popular because of incompetence - and made an environment in which it was impossible for me to appreciate the subtlety of her craft.

The core plot is simple - studly rough man loves dairy maid, dairy maid loves local rich dandy, and scene. The characters rise above and beyond their archetypes, however, and their reasons and justifications - especially Arthur's - are deftly treated. Meanwhile, Eliot has drawn a whole community from life. We spend the most time with the Bedes and the Poysers, but the joys and rivalries of small town life and a whole network of people that can only form over a lifetime seems effortlessly to appear on the page. I admire Trollope's Barchester novels for its community of Anglican clergy, but there is something inhibited about them, polite, never comfortable with one another. Which might be true of the Anglican clergy, I suppose I can't fault Trollope yet. But I can't believe in that discomfort in Adam Bede. These characters were at home, which makes events late in the book that much more upsetting. I won't say more about it. Instead -- the green of it! I loved the pastoral, blessed quality the land had about it. The narrator and the inhabitants themselves comment on the beauty of their own spot in England. I didn't need to be told this was written after the Industrial Revolution had made a large mark on England, Eliot not only romanticizes and celebrates country life, she practically canonizes it. The book is full to overflowing with beautiful prose about gardens, orchards, the details of the dairy and where the platters are hung in the kitchen.

An excellent start to my reappraisal of George Eliot. Going in order, I'll pick up The Mill on the Floss ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Summary: A tale centering around the love of Adam Bede, a woodworker, for Hetty Sorrel, a dairy maid who is eventually tried for murder of her infant child, conceived in an affair with the local squire, Arthur Donnithorne.

One reviewer of this book wondered why this book was not titled Hetty Sorrel. It's a fair question. So much of the story seems to center around Hetty, the niece of tenants Mr. and Mrs. Poyser, who works with them as a dairy maid. She knows she is beautiful and one to turn the heads of all the young men around, including the hard working, respectable Adam Bede, a woodworker. Instead she falls for the son of the local landowner, Arthur Donnithorne, who woos her into a love affair, which he breaks off when forcibly shown the error of his ways by Adam. Unknown to either, Hetty is pregnant. Finally, Hetty recognizes Adam's qualities and agrees to marry him, until realizing she is pregnant and can no longer conceal her condition. She flees to London, seeking Arthur's help. But he is far off in Ireland. During a harrowing return journey, she gives birth, then abandons her child to die, and is arrested for murder.

It turns out that Eliot indeed wrote the story around a real-life incident in which a similarly afflicted woman, Mary Voce, murdered her child, was tried and sentenced to death. This edition includes journal entries from Eliot describing the genesis of the book in this incident. Why then should the book not have been titled Hetty Sorrel?

The answer, it seems to me, lies in the portrayals of a number of the other characters, local figures of no great distinction, as ordinary people with both foibles, and great qualities of character leading to actions that sustain the fabric of a rural community, and when tragic errors rend the fabric of local life, act with quiet wisdom and grace.

Chief of these is Adam Bede, elder brother of Seth and son of Lisbeth, the widow of a drunkard. His hard work as a woodworker gains the respect of all around, and while his father was living, finishing much of his neglected work, including a coffin on the night when he drowned in a local creek after a drunken binge. Eventually, his childhood friend, Donnithorne, taps him to manage his forest while the owner of the carpentry workshop is hoping Adam will succeed him, and even marry his daughter. It is Adam who searches for Hetty when she does not turn up when expected and keeps vigil during her trial.

But there are others. There is Dinah, the Methodist preacher, the object of Seth's love, not to be returned but who has a way of gently coming alongside all from the elderly to children who are in distress, eventually including Hetty. There are the Poysers, salt of the earth farmers, she of strong opinion but warm heart, he of sturdy affection and integrity. Rev. Adolphus Irwine, the local rector, is no religious firebrand, but exhibits quiet pastoral wisdom that seems "the word fitly spoken" in every situation. Crusty Bartle Massey, the schoolmaster, cares deeply for the pupils of his night school, Adam chief among them. Even Arthur Donnithorne, now the landowner when his grandfather dies, is transformed by the tragedy, perhaps in ways surprising to the other principals.

This passage, full of insight, representative of many, reflects Eliot's focus on the development of character among all these "ordinary people":

"For Adam, though you see him quite master of himself, working hard and delighting in his work after his inborn inalienable nature, had not outlived his sorrow--had not felt it slip from nature, had not outlived his sorrow--had not felt it slip from him as a temporary burthen, and leave him the same man again. Do any of us? God forbid. It would be a poor result of all our anguish and our wrestling, if we won nothing but our old selves at the end of it--if we could return to the same blind loves, the same self-confident blame, the same thoughts of human suffering, the same frivolous gossip over blighted human lives, the same feeble sense of that Unknown towards which we have sent forth irrepressible cries in our loneliness" (p. 487).

Yes, Eliot could spin some long sentences! Yet as I followed her into this story, I was reminded of the instances in real human life in the communities of which I have been a part of ordinary people, decent people who meet tragedy and grow through it, acting with resolve and compassion toward each other and sustaining the bonds of society. She challenges our attraction to superficial beauty and charisma, and calls us to a quiet greatness of character that endures. ( )
  BobonBooks | Dec 23, 2018 |
Adam Bede is a classic that reads even better after many years.

Unlike Wuthering Heights, which overflows with meanness and cruelty and not the remembered passion,
George Eliot's first book still flows into a compelling story of love sorrowfully lost. Characters and locale,
as well as dogs and food, are finely revealed.

Okay, this doesn't make Dinah's speeches any less insufferable, or awful baby talk,
chronic female complaining, or guide Hetty away from increasingly awful thinking.
And when, aside from Vixen, did sex occur? Does a dropped handkerchief signify seduction?

Just wish the return of Transported Hetty had more dramatic momentum!

"...we cannot reform our forefathers." ( )
1 vote m.belljackson | Mar 2, 2018 |
M100 General Works
  TLH7718 | Dec 15, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (79 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Eliotprimary authorall editionscalculated
Busken Huet-van der Tholl, Anna DorotheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibson, FloNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gill, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howe, W. D.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Israëls, JozefIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reynolds, MargaretEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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With a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorceror undertakes to reveal to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past.
When Marian Evans left her native Warwickshire in 1851 for London to assist John Chapman as editor and write for the Westminster Review, she took with her the memory of people and places that appear, transformed, in the fiction published under her pseudonym 'George Eliot'. (Introduction)
It is near the end of June, in 1807. (Epilogue)
The germ of 'Adam Bede' was an anecdote told me by my Methodist Aunt Samuel (the wife of my Father's younger brother): an anecdote from her own experience. (Appendix 1: George Eliot's History of Adam Bede)
At the Lent Assizes for the Town of Nottingham, held on Thursday, March 11, 1802, before the Hon. Sir Robert Graham, Knt. one of the Barons of his Majesty's Court of Exchequer, Mary Voce, aged 24, wife of ---Voce, bricklayer, was indicted for the willful murder of her daughter, Elizabeth Voce, an infant, in the parish of St. Mary, in the town of Nottingham, by administering a certain poisonous substance, called arsenic, mized in water in a tea-cup, to the said Elizabeth Voce, of which she languished a few hours in extreme agony, and then expired. (Appendix 2)
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What a look of yearning love it was that the mild grey eyes turned on the strong dark-eyed man!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140431217, Paperback)

Adam Bede is a hardy young carpenter who cares for his aging mother. His one weakness is the woman he loves blindly: the trifling town beauty, Hetty Sorrel, whose only delights are her baubles - and the delusion that the careless Captain Donnithorne may ask for her hand. Betrayed by their innocence, both Adam and Hetty allow their foolish hearts to trap them in a triangle of seduction, murder, and retribution.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:16 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Set in early nineteenth-century English countryside, an English squire yields to the temptations of an innocent country girl and crime, remorse, and suffering are the consequences.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 140010212X, 1400108942

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