Adam Bede Quotes 💬

From quotes on religion to love, education, mourning, and beauty, ‘Adam Bede is rich with words that will resonate with readers.

Adam Bede

George Eliot

George Eliot in Adam Bede expressed some views that make for noteworthy quotes on various areas like religion, love, education, mourning, and finding beauty in the mundane. Some of these quotes are said through the characters, while some others are said by the narrator herself.


We must live and let live… in religion as well as in other things.

Mr. Irwine to Joshua Rann (Chapter V, page 57)

The quote above was said by the character of Mr. Irwine in response to Joshua Rann’s suggestion that Will Maskery be excommunicated by the Church for speaking ill of the rector and that the Methodists should not be allowed to preach in Hayslope. Mr. Irwine then pointed out the need for tolerance in religion and also how he is unfazed by Will Maskery’s aspersions.

I’m not laughing at no man’s religion. Let ’em follow their consciences, that’s all

Adam to Seth (Chapter I, page 10)

Adam had told Wiry Ben that he should let others alone with their religion the way others let him alone as he drinks ale, Seth misunderstood the allusion as a mockery of religion and so Adam responds by saying he is not laughing at anyone’s religion but wishes humans would be guided by their consciences no matter the religion they practice.

God helps us with our headpieces and our hands as well as with our souls; and if a man does bits o’ jobs out o’ working hours- builds a oven for ‘s wife to save her from going to the bakehouse, or scrats at his bit o’ garden and makes two potatoes instead o’ one, hes doing more good and he’s just as near to God as if he was running after some preacher and a-praying and a-groaning

Adam in the Workshop(Chapter I, page 10)

This quote was Adam’s summary of his religious belief to his colleagues in the workshop. He believed that doing ordinary earthly things with diligence was as good a way of communing with God as praying was.

There’s such a thing as being oversperitial; we must have something besides Gospel in this world

Adam to his colleagues (Chapter I, page 10)

Still, on telling his colleagues about his religious views, Adam expresses how he believes the world demands more than spirituality from us as humans.


How is it that poets have said so many fine things about our first love and so few about our later love? Are their first poems their best? Or are not those the best which come from their fuller thought, their larger experience, their deeper-rooted affections? The boy’s flutelike voice has its own spring charm; but the man should yield a richer deeper music

Chapter LI, page 466

This quote is saying that while first love is a wonderful feeling which is quite appreciated by poets, humans have underrated the power and beauty of finding love again after a failed first love. Then the narrator draws a parallel with poets and their poems with rhetorical questions that ask if poets do not write better poems as their experience in writing gets more seasoned. The quote was about Adam’s newfound love for Dinah after the crushing heartbreak from Hetty.

If you would love a woman without ever looking back on your love as a folly, she must die while you are courting her

Chapter XVII, page 170

In this quote, the narrator is referring to our high expectations of ideal in our fellow humans and how unrealistic these expectations are because humans always have flaws and weaknesses. It is trying to say that people might seem perfect from a distance but that when we get closer to them and observe them with time, we are bound to find flaws that negate our previous picture of perfection. And so the only possible way for us not to discover those flaws that would make us think back on our love as folly is if the person in question should die before we get to know their flaws.

Where doubt enters, there is not perfect love

Dinah to Adam (Chapter LII,page 474)

This was said to Adam by Dinah while telling him that she could not yield to her feelings for him because she had doubts. She was trying to make Adam understand that love is only perfect when it is void of doubt and uncertainties.

But a tender heart makes one stupid

Chapter XLII, page 396

This quote means that emotions cloud a person’s sense of judgment and make one incapable of comprehending rationality. Bartle Massey said this to Adam while narrating the proceedings of Hetty’s trial.

We are children of a large family, and must learn as such children do, not to expect that our little hurts will be made much of – to be content with little nurture and caressing and help each other the more

Chapter XXVII, page 270

Here, the quote is saying that we should not expect the world to change in consideration of our feelings because nature and the world do not function to cater to our individual feelings, and therefore, we must learn that life goes on irrespective of how we feel, therefore, we should invest our energy into love and helping one another instead of indulging in self-pity.

Education and Learning

College mostly makes people like bladders– just good for nothing but t’hold the stuff as is poured into ’em

Chapter XVI, page 155

This quote is a slur on formal education. It suggests that formal education limits the mind to established thought patterns and inhibits creativity and independence of thought. It was said in a light-hearted conversation between Adam and Arthur after Arthur told Adam that he believes Adam is the more knowledgeable one between them despite not going to college. Adam responds with the quote which he credits to the schoolmaster Bartle Massey.

It’ll be poor result of all our anguish and our wrestling if we won nothing but our old selves at the end of it

Chapter L, page 452

This was said in the narrator’s description of Adam after his heartbreaking experience with loving Hetty. Here the narrator tries to teach us that we must learn from our painful experiences and become better versions of ourselves.

No man can be wise on an empty stomach

Bartle Massey to Adam (Chapter XXI, page 219)

This was said when Adam visits Bartle Massey. The schoolmaster insists on having supper before any discussions and makes that remark as a way of saying that hunger and starvation negatively affect one’s mind and so conversations are better with food on the table.


When death, the great Reconciler has come, it is never our tenderness that we repent of, but our severity

Chapter IV, page 51

This quote is a description of Adam’s feeling upon realizing that his father is dead. It is saying that with the finality of the death of a loved one, we forget all the ill feelings we had for the person and we regret all the harsh ways we treated the loved one in their lifetime.

Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them: they can be injured by us, they can be wounded; they know all our penitence, all our aching sense that their place is empty, all the kisses we bestow on the smallest relic of their presence

Chapter X, page 97

This quote is trying to say that our loved ones live on in our minds even after death and that it is only when we forget them that we truly lose them to death.

Beauty in the Mundane

Paradoxically, the existence of insignificant people has very important consequences in the world. It can be shown to affect the price of bread and the rate of wages, to call forth many evil tempers from the selfish and many heroisms from the sympathetic and in other ways to play no small part in the tragedy of life

Chapter V, page 63

This was referring to how Mr. Irwine’s love for his unremarkable sisters was a credit to his personality. It is saying that insignificant people still play important roles in the scheme of things if not for anything but to serve as an avenue to emphasize what makes significant people truly significant.

These fellow mortals, everyone, must be accepted as they are: you can neither straighten their noses nor brighten their wit; nor rectify their dispositions; and it is these people- amongst whom your life is passed- that it is needful you should tolerate, pity and love: it is this more or less ugly, stupid, inconsistent people whose movements of goodness you should be able to admire

Chapter XVII, page 164

This is one of the narrator’s asides to readers, urging them to love and accept everyone, including people regarded as ugly or stupid. It preaches that goodness should be admired in people irrespective of appearances, this is consistent with the theme of overlooking physical appearance in search of the more substantial inner beauty of goodness in humans.

Thank God; human feeling is like the mighty rivers that bless the earth: it does not wait for beauty- it flows with resistless force and brings beauty with it.

Chapter XVII, page 165

Here, the author expresses gratitude that the ability to feel does not segregate based on beauty but flows with a force that transcends beauty.

Let us always have men ready to give their loving pains of a life to the faithful representing of commonplace things… There are few prophets in the world; few sublimely beautiful women; few heroes. I can’t afford to give all my love and reverence to such rarities

Chapter XVII, page 166

This is an earnest appeal by the author for people to find beauty in commonplace things because one would be missing out on a lot of love to be shared with humanity if one only reserves their love for exceptionally beautiful people who happen to be in the minority.


Who is the hero of the novel Adam Bede?

The hero of the novel is Adam Bede. The story centers around him. He is good-looking, hardworking, honest, and intelligent but rather judgmental and proud. There are also other major characters in the novel such as Hetty Sorrel, Dinah Morris, Arthur Donnithorne, and Seth Bede.

What is realism in Adam Bede?

Realism is the ideology that Art should represent things the way they are without artificial embellishments that distort their true form. And also that there is beauty in mundane and ordinary things. In Adam Bede, the author focuses on ordinary people in their rustic lives in the countryside and actively makes an appeal for art to find beauty in commonplace things around us. The author interrupts the story and dedicates a chapter to making an argument for realism in Chapter XVII of Adam Bede.

Was Adam Bede based on a true story?

Adam Bede is generally a fictional story. But one of the events in the novel was inspired by a true story. The event is the case of a woman named Mary Voce, who was imprisoned and sentenced to death in the year 1803 for killing her child. George Eliot’s aunt Elisabeth Evans had narrated the incident after going to visit Mary Voce in prison. George Eliot incorporated this story into Adam Bede as the character Hetty Sorrel goes to prison for killing her child.

Onyekachi Osuji
About Onyekachi Osuji
Onyekachi is a lecturer of Public Administration and a Literature enthusiast. After gaining accreditation in English Literature, Onyeka analyzes novels on Book Analysis, whilst working as an academic and writing short stories.
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