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Literature Study GuidesAdam BedeBook 1 Chapters 10 12 Summary

Adam Bede | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Adam Bede | Book 1, Chapters 10–12 | Summary



Chapter 10: Dinah Visits Lisbeth

Adam is not present when Dinah comes to comfort Lisbeth, now grieving deeply for her husband, whose sudden death seems to have restored the feelings she had for him 26 years ago. Lisbeth's sons are unable to comfort her, and Dinah arrives just in time. Lisbeth, who doesn't like other women around the house, is interested in Dinah, however, noticing she has the hands of a working woman. Dinah tells Lisbeth, "I felt a command to come and be to you in the place of a daughter in this grief, if you will let me." Lisbeth is soothed by Dinah, who tidies the house and stays overnight. The narrator explains that Dinah has "had experience among the sick and the mourning, among minds hardened and shriveled through poverty and ignorance, and had gained the subtlest perception of the mode in which they could best be touched." Indeed, Dinah seems to bring peace and comfort to those in need, in general.

Chapter 11: In the Cottage

The next morning Adam hears footsteps that are not his mother's. Unaware of Dinah's visit, his first foolish thought is of Hetty, but, instead, he encounters Dinah, as if he were "dreaming of the sunshine and awaking in the moonlight." Dinah feels herself blush in Adam's presence as she tidies the kitchen and makes breakfast. She promises to stay the day but must go back to her aunt's in the evening to take her leave before returning to Snowfield in Stonyshire. Dinah and the Bedes talk about the difference in landscape in Loamshire and Stonyshire. Dinah, in her nature, loves the bleak, treeless landscape where she lives—where she feels the love of God in her soul she can carry "to the lonely, bare, stone houses."

The Bede brothers had thought to have their father's coffin made in the village to spare their mother, but Lisbeth insists Adam make his father's. In the workshop Seth confesses to Adam that he loves Dinah but she doesn't return the feeling. Adam says not to give up hope, for she may change her mind.

Chapter 12: In the Wood

In his room the next day, Captain Donnithorne is thinking about leaving town temporarily to distract his mind from Hetty. The narrator describes him as basically a good-natured person with affection for his family and the Rector Irwine, his former tutor, and a desire to do right by his tenants when he becomes master of the estate.

However, Arthur is also spoiled and used to indulging his desires. He ends up arranging his day so as to run into Hetty seemingly by accident. He places himself in the Grove, a wood of beech and lime trees on one side of the Chase—a large tract of unenclosed land—for he knows Hetty will walk in that direction on her way to the lace-mending lesson with Mrs. Pomfret, the lady's maid at the Donnithorne estate. As he walks with her—alone together for the first time—he learns the time she will head back home, at eight o'clock. He leaves her abruptly, determined to stay away, but then finds he must see her again and plans to return in a few hours. Arthur is, indeed, "getting in love with Hetty" and knows he should not.


Dinah is seen comforting the querulous Lisbeth Bede, who is hard to please and fearful of a younger woman, in the form of a daughter-in-law, taking her place in the Bede household. But Lisbeth immediately takes to Dinah, who has the effect of calming all who come within the circle of her influence. The fretting Lisbeth, "without grasping any distinct idea ... felt a vague sense of goodness and love, and of something right lying underneath and beyond all this sorrowing life." This is Dinah at her best, able to share with those in close proximity her own certainty of the existence of a loving God and the sense that human beings are supervised by a divine presence.

But the flip side of this religiosity is her perverse attachment to life's suffering, equated with the harsher landscape of Stonyshire. She affirms this attachment declaring, "I shouldn't like to set my face toward countries where they're rich in corn and cattle ... and to turn my back on the hills where the poor people have to live such a hard life." This sentiment goes beyond her missionary spirit as it reflects an inability to see the face of God in anything but misery. "It's very blessed on a bleak day, when the sky is hanging dark over the hill, to feel the love of God in one's soul, and carry it to the lonely bare, stone houses," she says. Surely, Dinah's religiosity is limited if it cannot also rejoice in the beauty of nature and in the more pleasant aspects of human life, especially in the countryside where she lives. Thus, the reader may take a more balanced view of Dinah's sense of God's works in light of the high praise both the narrator and the other characters in the novel give her.

Captain Donnithorne is shaping up in Chapter 12 to be both Hetty's and Adam's nemesis as he struggles with his growing lust for the beautiful dairymaid. The narrator is, by turns, sympathetic toward Arthur, who tries to fight his worst impulses and harsh with him in pointing out the hypocrisy of his pursuit of Hetty. Arthur believes his faults are of the "generous kind—impetuous, warm-blooded, leonine; never crawling, crafty, reptilian," the narrator says in a voice carrying verbal irony. He adds, with the same irony, "it was not possible for Arthur Donnithorne to do anything mean, dastardly, or cruel." Arthur thinks he easily gets himself into a jam, "'but I always take care the load shall fall on my shoulders,'" the narrator says of him, using free indirect discourse. But this is exactly what he does not do: the consequences of his affair with Hetty fall directly on her shoulders, not his. All this becomes clear as the story moves along, so that Arthur's limited understanding of himself and the reality of the world outside him will take on greater significance as events unfold for Hetty.

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