Study Help Essay Questions


1. Show how one bad choice — Arthur and Hetty's illicit love — affects the lives of Adam, Arthur, Hetty, and Dinah. How does this illustrate Eliot's theory of ethical determinism?

2. Compare the thoroughness with which one of the central figures and one of the background ones are characterized. What conclusions can you draw about the development of literary character?

3. Comment upon the use of symbolism in Adam Bede.

4. Eliot insists in Adam Bede that she is aiming for realism. How well do you think she succeeds?

5. Adam Bede has been referred to as a psychological novel. Discuss the relevance of this term.

6. Who is to blame for the conflict on which the novel centers? Hetty? Arthur? Both? Do both character and circumstance play a part?

7. Discuss Mrs. Poyser as a comic character.

8. Eliot has written, "It is the habit of my imagination to strive after as full a vision of the medium in which a character moves as of the character itself." How well does she succeed in this aim?

9. "Whereas Dickens . . . did not forget to mix pleasure with edification, in George Eliot's hands the novel was not primarily for entertainment but for the serious discussion of moral issues." Explain.

10. Comment upon Adam Bede as a criticism of classed society.

11. Show how the appearance-reality theme runs through the novel. What is its function?

12. Eliot has said, "My artistic bent is directed not at all to the presentation of eminently irreproachable characters, but to the presentation of mixed human beings in such a way as to call forth tolerant judgment, pity, and sympathy." Comment on any of the central characters in the light of this statement.

13. Analyze the structure of Adam Bede according to its division into books.

14. Discuss the novel's moral viewpoint as revealed in Dinah's and Mr. Irwine's words and actions.

15. Do you find the ending of the novel satisfactory in the light of the story as a whole? Why or why not?