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Adam Bede by George Eliot

Adam Bede (1859)

by George Eliot

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3,164481,769 (3.87)211
  1. 40
    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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Our title character is a good man and a simple one. He sees the world in black and white. Work hard, take care of your family, and you will lead a good life. He falls in love with an impetuous young woman named Hetty. Unfortunately, Hetty has fallen for the wealthy Captain Arthur Donnithorne, a man above her station, but one who is still susceptible to the young woman’s charms.

I loved the character of Dinah. She could be perceived as a killjoy or prude, but she never cane across to me like that. She is Hetty’s cousin and is a Methodist preacher who travels the countryside serving in local communities. Keep in mind, this was at a time when it was unusual for a woman to travel about on her own, much less to serve as a leader in the church. She has a fierce strength and independence and doesn’t give into the pleas from her family to give up her calling.

When she is asked about being a woman preacher, this is what she says…

“When God makes His presence felt through us, we are like the burning bush: Moses never took any heed what sort of bush it was—he only saw the brightness of the Lord.”

Dinah: When she does finally fall for Adam, she still doesn’t agree to marry until he declares that he will never stand in the way of her duties as a preacher and he fully supports her. I was a bit heartbroken from Adam’s brother Seth, since he’s the one who originally pursued Dinah.

Hetty’s story is so heartbreaking. I can’t imagine feeling so hopeless and abandoned. In the midst of her panic about her pregnancy she didn’t trust anyone with her secret and so she was unwilling to look for other options. Even though her life was spared, her future was still going to be full of grief and guilt no matter what.


BOTTOM LINE: I loved it. It reminded me so much of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Return of the Native (both of which were published decades after this one). It’s an intense look at the desperation of one woman and the man who loved her. I appreciated the rich depth of characters like Dinah and Adam. I also liked that Arthur wasn't a one-note cad. He easily could have been, but instead we see the situation from his point of view as well.

“What destroys us most effectively is not a malign fate but our own capacity for self-deception and for degrading our own best self.”

“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?”

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Mar 2, 2017 |
Thank god for sparknotes. While I enjoy Eliot and liked the story presented here, god forbid my attention wandered for a moment, I found myself completely lost. This is another book I'll have to re-read at a later date to thoroughly appreciate since I believe I would have enjoyed it more had I paid closer attention the first time. ( )
  benuathanasia | Sep 10, 2016 |
The only reason that this got a “good” rating from me and not “okay” was the legacy of the novel in terms of its depiction of country life at the time.

I don’t really get on with Eliot. I find her novels ramble on, and Bede was no exception. One example of this is the title. Why on earth call the novel Adam Bede? Sure, he’s one of the main characters, but he’s not the main character. In fact, his character isn’t even that interesting.

Maybe Eliot wanted to avoid the ire of her contemporary mysogynists by not calling it Dinah Morris or Hetty Sorrel, characters who were far more interesting and whose roles deserved far more of the novel’s focus than Adam’s bland involvement. Eliot’s gender-sakes could well have done with the air time, too.

Then there are various characters whose only role seems to be to hold forth on various topics with sometimes tenuous degrees of connection to the plot or issues of the day. Worst of these is Rachel Poyser who just won’t shut up. More often than not I felt a sharply delivered blow would be most apt.

The story must have been written on a winter morning. It takes ages to start and, when it finally gets going, it judders along. It concludes with the novelist using a get out of jail free card (almost literally) for one of the characters and the inevitable wedding. Yawn.

So, why is this any good then. Well, it’s an early novel and all the elements that would later make Eliot one of the highest rated novelists of all time are there. That the storyline is flawed and the novel rambles is therefore typical of someone finding their stride. And the fact that a novel that has such strengths can be ascribed to Eliot finding her stride is a measure of the heights she would go on to scale.

This is definitely a novel for anyone who is an Eliot fan. If you’re not, stick to her more accomplished works and give this a miss unless you have a hankering for long conversations in 300-year-old English dialect. ( )
  arukiyomi | Sep 10, 2016 |
Six-word review: Love and passion rule humble hearts.

Extended review:

Intersecting and overlapping romantic triangles generate drama in a rural English village, where Adam Bede, a carpenter, carries a torch for pretty, vain Hetty Sorrel.

In this novel as well as those that came later, George Eliot treats her characters--ordinary people, for the most part, in a rustic setting--with respect and compassion. Even mean and despicable characters benefit by her redemptive insight; she never shies away from folly or ill deeds, but she shows the humanity in them. She writes: "The way in which I have come to the conclusion that human nature is lovable--the way I have learnt something of its deep pathos, its sublime mysteries--has been by living a great deal among people more or less commonplace and vulgar." Strong emotions and complex inner states are by no means the province of the privileged classes.

Although this first novel has several conspicuous flaws, Eliot's storytelling skills, her rendition of ordinary people, and her depiction of the bond between people and place give this work a spacious scope and a quality of deep reflection. As we share in her perceptions and revelations, we grow our own capacity for empathy and our sense that everyone has a story worth telling. ( )
  Meredy | Aug 14, 2016 |
This was my first George Eliot read and I really thought it was well written. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
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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
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)
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)

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CLASSIC FICTION. Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen name George Eliot. She did this so that her works would be taken seriously in a Victorian England still under the assumption that females were of lesser intelligence. Her novels were set in a provincial England and were know for their realism. Adam Bebe was her first novel written in 1859. The story centers around 4 characters in a rural town in 1799. The plot centers around a love triangle, an unwanted pregnancy, a child left abandoned to die and a trial.… (more)

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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

Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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