Adam Bede By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book I: Chapter 11

Summary

Dinah comes down to the kitchen at dawn the following morning. Adam is already in the workshop and comes out to see who is there. Dinah explains her presence, and the two young people take a long look at one another: Adam admires Dinah's beauty, and Dinah is impressed by the strong young man. She blushes in spite of herself.

After some further talk, they sit down to breakfast with Lisbeth and Seth. Lisbeth is pleased with Dinah's abilities as housekeeper and cook, and she tries to persuade her to stay longer. But Dinah says she must return to her bleak Snowfield to help the poor there.

Contrary to Adam's wishes — he wants Seth to help him — Lisbeth insists that Adam make their father's coffin alone. As he and Seth talk in the workshop, Dinah comes in to say that she will be leaving that evening. Seth offers to see her home. When she is out of hearing, Adam encourages Seth not to give up hope of winning her love eventually, saying "she's made out o' stuff with a finer grain than most o' the women." He then sets about making the coffin, wondering how it is that the right woman can soften even the strongest man.

Analysis

Chapter 11 affords a good example of the way in which Adam approaches life. Although he is grieved by the loss of his father, he doesn't collapse emotionally the way Lisbeth does, nor does he simply stand about helplessly, as Seth tends to do. Adam works, and this is extremely characteristic behavior for him. He explains his attitude on the matter, characteristically, by referring to his trade. He feels that a man can bear any adversity as long as he can work. Since "the natur o' things doesn't change," since the mathematical rules which guide calculation remain intact whether a man is happy or not, one should ignore mere transitory things as much as possible and preserve a stoic calm.

Adam's basic viewpoint at this stage is optimistic, constructive, and fundamentally secure. Note the terms in which he thinks; although his father is dead, he doesn't lose faith in "the natur o' things." In his mind, reality in general remains sensible and calculable. Because he retains this outlook, he instinctively reacts to an unpleasant situation by trying to better it. Instead of standing still and allowing himself to feel depressed or defeated, he has the urge to press forward, look to the future, make the best of things.

Note that Adam's attitude in this respect resembles Dinah's; she too reacted to Thias Bede's death by working to improve the situation. This active, constructive attitude toward trouble, though it derives from a different source in her case, is as typical of Dinah as it is of Adam; witness her dedication to helping the poor and sick.

Adam and Dinah's first meeting is a momentous one. Obviously there is some "magnetism" between the two young people. Adam becomes aware of Dinah as a woman for the first time and his interest is marked, as his comments to Seth towards the end of the chapter show. He seems to feel that Dinah is "special" in some way which he cannot articulate. Dinah reacts to Adam in a most uncharacteristic manner: She blushes, although her usual demeanor is, above all, serene.

Eliot brings the pair together in a plausible enough way. Their actual meeting is a matter of chance, but it follows upon Dinah's decision to visit Lisbeth, a natural action for her. But the author invests the occasion with a romantic aura by the manner in which she discusses it and by introducing small significant actions. When Adam first sees Dinah, Eliot describes his reaction this way: "It was like dreaming of the sunshine, and awaking in the moonlight." She reinforces this romantic rhetoric by having Adam's dog react to Dinah in a friendly way even though the dog, it is explained, normally doesn't take to strangers. Then, when Dinah says goodbye to Seth in the workshop, she refuses to look at Adam, indicating that she feels shy in his presence. By such devices as these, Eliot shows that the feeling between Adam and Dinah is natural and strong.

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