We are expecting a blizzard here in the Northeast, so I have the perfect, classic book for you to get snowed in with for the long duration!
The strength of this book lies in the sympathetic, well-rounded and moving characters which Eliot portrays in a 19th Century bucolic setting. The centerpiece of the book, of course, is Adam Bede himself, a simple but hard-working carpenter who strives to be good at his craft and a dutiful son and brother. His loyalty and strength of character are admired by all those around him, rich and poor and young and old alike.
In contrast to Adam is Arthur Donnithorne who is the heir to his grandfather’s estates. As a member of the landed gentry he is held in high esteem simply by virtue of his position in society. He is younger than Adam and more brash; as a consequence of his youth and perhaps his privileged upbringing he does not take into consideration the consequences of his actions. And where Adam is always honest and forthright, Arthur will quickly make up lies to cover his indiscretions.
The dramatic juxtaposition of the female characters in the novel is equally fascinating. Hetty Sorrel, a simple farm girl who spends her days working in her Aunt Poyser’s dairy, wants so desparately to escape her life of hard work and monotony. Hetty’s life is consumed with thoughts of possessing pretty things, making the most of her outward appearance, and attracting a man who will adorn her with finery.
Dinah, Hetty’s cousin by marriage, is a woman who has adopted Methodist beliefs and actually seeks out others who are suffering; she gives comfort to the poor, sick and dying and cares nothing for earthly possessions. Dinah also has no interest in marriage or children for fear that these things will be a distraction to her religious and spiritual calling.
Eliot’s minor characters are rich in detail and offer some comic relief. Mrs. Poyser, a wife of one of the tenant farmers, does not hold back from speaking her mind, even to old Mr. Donnithorne whose upkeep of their rented farm does not impress her. Mrs. Poyser’s cherubic daughter Totty loves her family and is the happiest of little girls as she grows up amidst the animals, gardens and dairy on the Hall Farm.
This multi varied cast of characters are entangled in interesting plot twists that surprised me more than a few times. Love triangles, lies, romance and even a shocking crime will keep you turning the pages of this book until the very end. ADAM BEDE is a remarkable piece of 19th Century British literature and a great place to start of you are interested in reading George Eliot.
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