Advanced Reading Survey: Adam Bede by George Eliot

I’ve decided that on Mondays I’m going to revisit the books I read for a course in college called Advanced Reading Survey, taught by the eminent scholar and lovable professor, Dr. Huff. I’m not going to re-read all the books and poems I read for that course, probably more than fifty, but I am going to post to Semicolon the entries in the reading journal that I was required to keep for that class because I think that my entries on these works of literature may be of interest to readers here and because I’m afraid that the thirty year old spiral notebook in which I wrote these entries may fall apart ere long. I may offer my more mature perspective on the books, too, if I remember enough about them to do so.

Author Note: George Eliot was the pseudonym used by author Mary Ann Evans, esteemed by some as the most distinguished English woman novelist. She used a male pen name to ensure that her works were taken seriously. Mary Ann was an educated woman, and as a young woman she fell in with a set of free-thinkers and liberal Christians and subsequently “lost her faith.” In 1854, she met George Henry Lewes, her companion for twenty-four years. Lewes was already married and cold not obtain a divorce, so he and Mary Ann lived together and regarded themselves as husband and wife despite the lack of legal sanction and despite adverse public opinion.

Adam Bede: a carpenter.
Seth Bede: Adam’s brother.
Dinah Morris: a Methodist preacher.
Hetty Sorrel: a beautiful young woman.
Arthur Donnithorne: a gentleman.
Martin Poyser
Mrs. Poyser
Mr. Irwine: the village vicar.

Summary: Adam Bede, a salt-of-the-earth village carpenter, falls in love with Hetty Sorrel, a flighty young woman whose lack of judgement and whose yielding character bring her to ruin. Adam’s brother, Seth, loves another woman, Dinah, whose sterling character and devotion to God preclude her commitment to any mere man.

Adam: “God helps us with our headpieces and our hands as well as with our souls.”

Although he would probably have declined to give his body to be burned in any public cause, and was far from bestowing all his goods to feed the poor, he had that charity which has sometimes been lacking to very illustrious virtue —he was tender to other men’s feelings and unwilling to impute evil.

Imagination is a licensed trespasser: it has no fear of dogs, but may climb over walls and peep in at windows with impunity.

Dinah: “It seems as if I could be silent all day long with the thought of God overflowing my soul—as the pebbles lie bathed in the Willow Brook.”

People who love downy peaches are apt not to think of the stone, and sometimes jar their teeth terribly against it.

The human soul is a very complex thing.

Sleep comes to the perplexed—if the perplexed are only weary enough.

The beginning of hardship is like the first taste of bitter food—it seems for a moment unbearable; yet, if there is nothing else to satisfy our hunger, we take another bite and find it possible to go on.

God’s love and mercy can overcome all things—our ignorance and weakness and the burden of our past wickedness—all the things but our willful sin, sin that we cling to and will not give up.

Adam Bede is my favorite book by George Eliot. It’s on my list of Semicolon’s Best Fiction of All Time.

Other bloggers on Adam Bede:

Sonderella: “This was Mary Evans’ first published novel under the pseudonym George Eliot. An amazing first novel I might add. She has an uncanny ability to paint beautiful pictures with her words as she brings characters to life on the pages.”

Chris at Bookarama: “I did feel for Adam but I was aggravated with him for not seeing Hetty for what she really was. Most of the female characters were either harpies or whiners. It wasn’t enjoyable to read those parts.”

Incurable Logophilia: “Thankfully, there wasn’t a kitten to be seen in those last 100 pages of Adam Bede – my opinion of George Eliot remains firmly positive.”

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These books are also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own.

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