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Literature Study GuidesAdam BedeBook 4 Chapters 33 35 Summary

Adam Bede | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Adam Bede | Book 4, Chapters 33–35 | Summary



Chapter 33: More Links

Word circulates about Mrs. Poyser's dressing down of the old Squire, and everyone is delighted. Mrs. Irwine says, "I like that women even better than her cream-cheeses. She has the spirit of three men." Indeed, she has thwarted the old Squire's plan, and the Poysers will remain on their farm at least for the present, but should the old Squire proceed with his intentions, Mrs. Irwine and her son will do their best to dissuade him.

Weeks go by, and Adam Bede begins courting an acquiescent Hetty, who has shown less attention to her clothing and more inclination to her work. The sight of Hetty brings out his finest feelings, but the narrator notes Adam cannot imagine "the narrowness, selfishness, and hardness" inside this young woman because Adam has "created the mind he believed in out of his own, which was large, unselfish, and tender."

Mr. Burge, having been unable to find a satisfactory replacement for Adam, realizes he cannot do without him and offers him a share of the business without demanding he give up managing the woods. Adam's head is full of new plans, and he feels himself in a position to marry.

Chapter 34: The Betrothal

Adam Bede now tells Hetty he can afford to get married and proposes. She accepts, passively, while thinking, instead, of Arthur. When Adam tells the Poysers, they are overjoyed. But when Adam kisses Hetty, she feels nothing. She feels he is the best choice life has to offer her at the moment, and he promises her a change.

Chapter 35: The Hidden Dread

Dinah by contrast has refused Seth's proposal, and Adam is concerned about leaving his mother. He is relieved when Hetty says she doesn't mind living with his mother and brother, but Hetty's mind is elsewhere. Mrs. Poyser has been very sick, so Hetty ably has been managing the house. When Mrs. Poyser is on the mend, she scolds Hetty for not buying needed wedding items and sends her into town. On this trip Hetty wanders through the fields, weighed down by depression and sorrow.

The narrator says her dread has been increasing, implying she has gradually realized she is pregnant. She briefly considers drowning herself in a pool but then decides to run to Windsor to find Arthur Donnithorne, who "promised to be good to her." This is the town in which his regiment is stationed. On the pretext of visiting Dinah and bringing her back for the wedding—something her uncle suggested earlier—she leaves the next day with everyone's consent. Adam sees her to Treddleston, putting her on the Stoniton coach.


The old Squire's mean-spiritedness and greed are behind his desire for the Poysers to swap farmland for more dairy land and put an even greater burden on Mrs. Poyser to produce dairy items, from which his family can benefit. Mrs. Poyser is known for her superior products, which is why he wants more for his family. Further, if he can make the tenancy of the Chase Farm more palatable, he will have the benefit of another tenant. That the Poysers have a three-year lease is also indicative of the old man's greed. With a farm as large as theirs, the Poysers should have at least a seven-year ease, and it was not uncommon for large tenants to lease for as long as 21 years. But a shorter lease gives the old Squire more control and more room to maneuver and pressure his tenants with the threat of not extending their leases. For all these reasons, Mrs. Poyser has become something of a local hero for putting the master in his place.

The narrator continues to disparage Hetty in her condition, and no doubt Adam is projecting a completely distorted view of her character onto the flesh-and-blood woman. But the narrator never faults such a smart man as Adam for choosing to remain blissfully ignorant. Nor does he fault Adam for loving Hetty entirely for her physical beauty. Adam's blindness seems to prove that men who put so much stock in outward appearance may deserve, to some degree, the rude surprise awaiting them when they realize external loveliness does not necessarily mirror a sterling character. Adam's love, however, is so deeply evolved that the reader may come to see that people, intelligent or not, often are indeed poor judges of character when it comes to choosing mates by appearances. For her part, Hetty continues to have to forge a path alone, invisible to all who surround her and unable to confide in anyone. After Adam proposes, the family asks Hetty to kiss them. This is the first time the reader is privy to any show of affection toward the Poysers' unfortunate ward.

Shortly after the engagement, Hetty realizes she is pregnant. Now she finds herself in the grip of a vise that is squeezing her tighter and tighter. Finally, the narrator shows some pity for her as she wanders the hills in the winter, thinking about drowning herself and wondering what she can do to extricate herself from an impossible predicament. The narrator seems to reflect Dinah's tone of pity for humanity as he locates the despairing young Hetty among the beautiful hills and plowed earth of Loamshire and imagines how an outsider might think Loamshire a happy land, never thinking "behind the apple-blossoms, or among the golden corn ... there might be a human heart beating heavily with anguish." A young girl does not know where to take "refuge from swift-advancing shame." The narrator recalls the crucified Christ, opining "no wonder man's religion has much sorrow on it: no wonder he needs a Suffering God." He sees the suffering God as a mirror image of suffering humanity.

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