Adam Bede by George Eliot is a historical novel that places ordinary people and commonplace things at the center of its art. It is the story of the personal and relationship struggles of the eponymous protagonist Adam Bede who falls in love with beautiful Hetty Sorrel and joyfully looks forward to making her his bride after a hard-won betrothal only to be crushed by the news of a crime that reveals Hetty to be callous and selfish. The novel is set in the year 1799 in the fictional village of Hayslope, located in the Midlands of England, and gives a depiction of the ordinary life of common folks in the countryside with a unique narrative technique.
Realism in Adam Bede
George Eliot the author was an advocate of realism in literature. Before publishing Adam Bede, she had always made a case for art representing the mundane and unexceptional in its true form and she put this train of thought into action in writing Adam Bede. Not only does George Eliot portray realism in the story of Adam Bede, but she actively appeals to people to embrace it in art as well as in other spheres of endeavors such as in social interactions and in appreciation of humanity.
George Eliot earnestly researched and made genuine observations of the realities of life in the late 18th and early 19th century from dressing, to occupation, morality, religion, gender stereotypes, dialects, accents, and even weather and made it her vocation to depict them without embellishments in Adam Bede.
The characters in Adam Bede are so ordinary and realistic that one can easily picture them in daily life, they are simple artisans, farmers, and housewives. Some are beautiful in appearance, some plain, but all possess a blend of virtues and flaws that make them all the more relatable.
The focus of the novel is not on the events that occurred in the story but on how the events affect the characters. For instance, the author omits the detailed description of significant events like the drowning of Thias Bede, Arthur and Hetty’s lovemaking, and Hetty’s childbirth but instead narrates how these events affect characters like Adam, Hetty, Arthur, and Mr. and Mrs. Poyser.
The characters are consistent in their wits, beliefs, and disposition and only change as a result of consequential experiences that affect them greatly. Overall, the character array is the best thing about the novel Adam Bede.
Structure and Narrative Style
Adam Bede by George Eliot is made up of fifty-five chapters, grouped into six parts from Book One to Book Six with an epilogue all in a total length of five hundred pages. Each chapter has a title that gives an idea of the major event in the chapter.
The narrative style is unique and interesting in that the narrator who is in the persona of the author, often puts the story aside to give a detailed expression of her personal opinions on general subjects that do not necessarily affect the characters or plot.
The narrator does not only give these personal opinions in bits and pieces of the progression of the story but literally puts the story on hold to dedicate an entire chapter to expressing her personal views. This can be found in Chapter XVII titled, “In Which the Story Pauses a Little” where the author interrupts the story to expend eight pages on telling the readers her personal views. This narrative intrusion is controversial as it is welcomed by some readers and despised by some others. Nevertheless, it is one of the things that make the novel unique.
In Which The Story Draws to an End
Despite the sad events that mark the story, the novel ends on a good note for the protagonist Adam Bede and for many other characters. The characters learn important lessons from their tragic experiences and become wiser.
However, some find the ending for the character Dinah Morris unsatisfactory as she gives up her passion and independence to settle into domestic life as a housewife. This group of thinkers believe it is an easy surrender to the societal dictates of gender roles and limitations imposed on women. But on the other hand, that line of thought is not very factual as individuals can find happiness in various ways– finding happiness as a housewife is as valid as finding happiness as an independent single woman.
How many books are in Adam Bede?
There are six books in Adam Bede, each book is a section of chapters that make up the novel. Book One is made up of sixteen chapters, Book Two and Book Three have five chapters each, Book Four has nine chapters, Book Five is made up of twelve chapters, and Book Six has seven chapters.
All make a total of fifty-five chapters then additionally, the story is wrapped up with an Epilogue.
Why does Eliot title her novel Adam Bede? What is the book really about?
Eliot titled her novel, Adam Bede because the story centers on Adam Bede’s character. Goerge Eliot is one out of many writers that like using eponymous titles on their books. Eponymous titles mean that a title is named after a character or place in the story concerned. Five of George Eliot’s seven novels are named after characters in the novels, and the remaining two are named after places.
Adam Bede is about Adam Bede, an industrious carpenter making an honest living in the fictional village of Hayslope and how he experiences a shocking heartbreak from Hetty Sorrel and how other events in his life, like the death of his father, shapes his character. It is a story that advocates for beauty in ordinary things and portrays the beautiful countryside of the English Midlands.
Where is Hayslope in Adam Bede?
Hayslope is a fictional village that serves as the setting for the novel Adam Bede. However, it is located in the real geographical location of the Midlands of England, particularly Warwickshire and Coventry where the author grew up.
Adam Bede Review
Lasting Effect on the Reader
Adam Bede Review: George Eliot's Realistic Manifesto
Adam Bede is a novel about Adam, the protagonist of the novel who falls in love based on beauty and charms but would find that behind the beauty which enchants him lies a selfish, ignorant girl whose lack of judgment and poor decision making lands her in a scandal and prison. It is a story of love, family, relationship, morality, and religion among ordinary people in the countryside. It focuses on the characters in their rustic, conventional life and how they are affected by personal and societal expectations of conduct.
- Authentic Characters
- Good Character Development
- Realistic Depictions
- Intrusive Narration
- Some Important Events are not detailed