Adam Bede By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book II: Chapter 18

Summary

The action opens at the Poysers' farm, where the family is preparing for church. The walk across the fields to town is described, as are the social and religious customs these simple people observe on a typical Sunday morning.

Thias Bede's funeral is held before the regular service, and he is buried in the churchyard. Then the congregation enters the church and the author focuses on Hetty's and Adam's thoughts. Arthur has not come to church this morning and Hetty is bitterly disappointed; she had convinced herself that Arthur was in love with her. Adam, meanwhile, is admiring her from across the aisle. He regrets having treated his father roughly in his last years and recognizes his own lack of humility.

When the service is over, the people stand about in the churchyard for a while. The Poysers offer their condolences to the Bedes, and Mr. Poyser asks Adam to come out to the farm soon to look at a broken spinning wheel. Hetty, meanwhile, is receiving the attentions of Mr. Craig, the gardener at the Chase, who reveals that Arthur has gone off on a fishing trip for a week. After some small talk, Mr. Craig goes off with the Poysers and the Bedes head for home. Hetty is more upset than ever; she is afraid that Arthur's sudden departure indicates that he doesn't love her after all.

Analysis

This long chapter is mostly devoted to the development of "local color"; Eliot describes the people of Hayslope and their ways at considerable length.

The author once again points out Hetty's shallowness of spirit by contrasting her with another character. Religion means nothing to Hetty; she ignores the service completely and loses herself in her pettish disappointment over Arthur's absence. Adam, on the other hand, submerges his own feelings in the service, indicating a greater range of sensitivity and more concern for the human community as a whole than Hetty possesses.

Adam in this chapter is very much aware of his own faults, which is again an example of foreshadowing; Eliot intends later to show Adam overcoming his pride in a situation in which "irremediable evil" plays a central part, so now she describes him as striving towards humility in a similar situation, one in which he must adjust to his father's death. Note his self-analysis during the church service. He recognizes that he finds it hard to forgive people who, in his opinion, have done wrong, and he realizes that the most difficult thing for him would be to "go right against [his] own pride." This is a very precise statement of Adam's central personality problem; he knows that humility is desirable (as Arthur and Hetty do not) and intends to do better. But, at this point at least, he hasn't the strength of will to improve; he resembles Arthur in this. His approach to Dinah, the prototype of humility in the novel, will parallel his approach to the ideal of humility as a practical force in his own life.

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