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Literature Study GuidesAdam BedeBook 5 Chapters 36 38 Summary

Adam Bede | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Adam Bede | Book 5, Chapters 36–38 | Summary



Chapter 36: The Journey in Hope

The trip by coach to Stoniton is expensive, and Hetty, unaccustomed to travel, has little money with her, having thought the amount she took was sufficient. Therefore, she will need to travel in carriers' carts and slow wagons, getting mostly free rides. Frightened, lonely, and unused to being on her own, she stays in an inn in Stoniton and starts out the next day, walking and hitching rides with kind strangers. After a journey of about 170 miles, and with most of her money already spent, she arrives at the local inn in Windsor, where she learns the Loamshire militia left for Ireland two weeks ago. After Hetty faints at the news, the married innkeepers surmise Hetty's predicament.

Chapter 37: The Journey in Despair

The landlords put Hetty up, and after a good night's sleep she decides to go to Dinah Morris. She asks them for help in getting money for her valuables—the earrings and locket. The greedy landlords say they will advance her the money themselves if she leaves the jewelry with them, reserving the right to keep the valuables if they don't hear from her in two months. Hetty naively asks for only three guineas, the amount of money she came away with, and they eagerly agree to the far better part of the bargain.

Hetty wanders somewhat aimlessly and considering suicide more seriously. She rejoices when she finally rejects that plan. After sleeping overnight in a shepherd's hovel, she is chased by a stranger and thereafter keeps to the road toward Stonyshire.

Chapter 38: The Quest

Back in Hayslope, two weeks have passed, and Adam, concerned about Hetty's absence, decides to go to Snowfield to retrieve both her and Dinah. Snowfield is about 20 miles away, and Adam walks, first to Oakbourne and then farther north. Arriving at the house where Dinah boards with an elderly couple, he learns Dinah left town some two weeks ago to preach in Leeds. Adam stops to eat, and the innkeeper offers to drive him back to Oakbourne in his cart. On the way, Adam sadly concludes Hetty was "deceiving herself in thinking that she could love and marry him; she had been loving Arthur all the while" and has now gone to join him. Adam goes to Stoniton and picks up her trail but then decides to return home before setting off again to find her.

The narrator notes, however, "that Adam in the incessant occupation of his mind about Hetty ... never ... alighted on the probability that she had gone to Windsor, ignorant that Arthur was no longer there." When he gets home, he first tells Seth, then the horrified Poysers, and finally decides to confide the whole story to Mr. Irwine.


Hetty's journey does not lead to transformation as it might in a tragic figure or dynamic character. She is simply a "spectacle of a human self-reduced to nothing but those primal natural impulses," says literary critic Christopher Herbert. A shepherd chases her, and the innkeepers take advantage of her by giving her only three guineas for her valuables, far less than their worth. She walks for long parts of her journey, and she must depend on strangers along her way to both carry and feed her. When she decides not to commit suicide, she passionately kisses her own arms in "one of the most naked instinctual gestures in literature," Herbert says.

The ordeal Hetty goes through sheds some light on what leads her to her terrible crime. Early in the novel Dinah discerns Hetty has no "warm self-devoting love" for other people. Whether she was born that way or whether her coldness is the result of an upbringing in which she has felt less like a Poyser family member and more like a Poyser servant, the result is the same: She cannot easily love. Her motives are always self-serving and material, but she can hardly be faulted for wishing to have an easier life, especially when it seemed to be within reach after Captain Donnithorne began to flirt with her. In one way or another, Hetty has always been in survival mode, but when she wanders, this becomes literally true. At the end of her second journey, her desperation has reached its height, so it is not surprising she will find herself taking desperate measures.

The one person who stays with her through thick and thin is Adam Bede. After Hetty is missing for two weeks, Adam seeks her in Snowfield and then figures out she ran off because she does not truly love him and has loved Arthur Donnithorne all along. Although Adam may have been projecting his own dream of happiness onto Hetty, he deserves credit for remaining loyal to her after she runs away from him, presumably to join her old lover. Readers may whether he have found the mercy within himself to stay with her if she had confessed her pregnancy instead of running away. But this is a thought that simple-minded Hetty cannot even imagine because the scope of her imagination is limited to herself. In lacking much imagination at all, she lacks intuition and perception as well.

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