Friday, September 30, 2011

Adam Bede

Finished Adam Bede by George Eliot, this summer's pastoral read. Adam is a kind, hard working, god fearing carpenter who is in love with Hetty Sorrel who works in the neighboring buttery. Hetty is uncommonly pretty, young, innocent and vain. She longs for pretty trinkets and fine dresses. Hetty falls in love with the local squire, Arthur Donnithorne, a handsome, kindly, good humored young man, and boyhood friend of Adam. Hetty and Arthur's secret love affair is discovered by Adam, who at first reacts violently, then repents and begs Arthur to renounce Hetty. Arthur does so and leaves the country with his regiment. As time passes Adam and Hetty begin to keep company and decide to marry. When Hetty finally admits to herself that she is pregnant with Arthur's child, she runs away and tries to find him. Enduring much hardship and unhappiness, Hetty has her baby with the help of a kind woman who takes her in. Frightened and unsure what to do, Hetty sneaks away with her baby and leaves it in the woods, hoping someone will find it. The child dies and Hetty is tried for murder. In the midst of all this, Hetty's cousin Dinah, a saintly Methodist preacher, comes to the aid and solace of both Adam and Hetty.

At times Hetty's character reminded me of Hester Prynne, at others Tess Durbeyfield. Hawthorne's novel was published first, in 1850, Eliot's in 1859 and Hardy's in 1891. Hetty wears a red cloak, Tess wears a red woolen cravat and Hester her scarlet A.

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