Adam Bede By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book V: Chapter 43

Summary

The first thing Adam notices on entering the courtroom is Hetty herself. To Adam she is still beautiful; to less prejudiced eyes she appears hard and worn. Two witnesses give testimony. One says that Hetty had borne the baby in her house and had then run off with it the following day. The other reports finding the dead baby lying half-buried in a small grove and adds that when he had returned to the spot with a constable, they found Hetty sitting there in a state of shock.

The case is clear and the verdict of guilty is quickly pronounced. When the judge assigns the death sentence, Hetty shrieks and faints, and is carried from the courtroom.

Analysis

The chapter is composed for the most part of straightforward facts which require little interpretation. One should note, though, that the author has structured her material so as to get the greatest possible suspense out of the issue of Hetty's guilt or innocence, just as she did with respect to the revelation of the murder. Even though we learn early that Mr. Irwine considers Hetty guilty, we are made to sympathize so strongly with Adam's sufferings in Chapters 40 through 43 that the question remains open. Adam's suspense is ours.

The confirmation of Hetty's guilt is the supreme blow to Adam, yet he takes it in the spirit of his new orientation. The man who earlier had preferred to rely only on himself now prays for help to sustain his grief. This reaction to trouble is the same as Dinah's, which indicates the direction of Adam's development.

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