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Literature Study GuidesAdam BedeBook 5 Chapters 45 48 Summary

Adam Bede | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Adam Bede | Book 5, Chapters 45–48 | Summary



Chapter 45: In the Prison

Dinah arrives at the prison on Friday, intending to stay with Hetty through her ordeal. Hetty allows herself to be embraced by Dinah, who "feels deep joy in the first sign that her love was welcomed by the wretched lost one." Dinah tries to tell Hetty of the presence of God and prays aloud for her.

Hetty, afraid of dying, finally breaks down and confesses to her crime. At first, Hetty thought to drown the infant because she couldn't bear the shame she would face upon returning home. Then she saw the pile of chips and grass but could not bury the baby completely, hoping someone might find it. She left the area quickly but continued to hear the baby crying. She stayed close by, listening for hours, she claims, then left for the village to get some food. But she continued to hear the baby crying and returned to the scene. "Dinah, do you think God will take away that crying and the place in the wood, now I've told everything?" she asks. Dinah answers by suggesting they kneel and pray for God's mercy.

Chapter 46: The Hours of Suspense

On Sunday morning, Dinah calls on Adam in his room in Stoniton, asking him to visit Hetty, who would like to ask his forgiveness. Adam promises to come the next day because he is still hoping for a reprieve and must work himself up to seeing Hetty. Bartle Massey keeps watch with Adam through the night, and Adam realizes Monday is the day they were supposed to be married.

In the morning Adam visits the prison, and when Hetty asks for forgiveness, he tells her "I forgave thee long ago." She kisses Adam goodbye and asks him to tell Arthur she is trying to forgive him so that God may forgive her.

Chapter 47: The Last Moment

As she rides in the cart with Hetty to the gallows, Dinah commands her to close her eyes and "pray without ceasing to God" and prays as well. When they get to the place of execution, Arthur suddenly rides up at full gallop with a "release from death."

Chapter 48: Another Meeting in the Wood

Adam returns to Hayslope and updates the Poysers about Hetty's situation. The Poysers want to move away, and Adam intends to move with his mother and brother as well. The next evening, "drawn ... by a common memory," Arthur Donnithorne and Adam Bede happen to run into each other in the Grove where both are walking. Adam stiffly asks to be released from his job on the Donnithorne estate, but Arthur begs him not to leave Hayslope because he himself is going into the army. He insists Adam acknowledge his sacrifice, which is for the purpose of preventing further harm. With him gone from the village for years—and giving up the idea of being lord of the manor—the community will have a chance to heal. Arthur asks Adam to consider that he loved Hetty, too, and will suffer more because he is at fault.

Adam admits being too hard on people, except for Hetty, and perhaps his unyielding judgment has made him too hard on Arthur. Arthur and Adam are both miserable as they think about Hetty, now sentenced to transportation out of the country, a harsh ordeal she may not survive. The men shake hands and part as friends, with Adam agreeing to stay and to try to persuade the Poysers to do the same. Arthur takes off his watch and chain and asks Adam to give it to Dinah to show his gratitude for all she has done.


Dinah Morris arrives at the prison shortly after the verdict, with the hope of making the prisoner confess and then repent. Dinah's character is significant here. According to Christopher Herbert, Dinah "nourishes herself with others' suffering and with her own sense of sainthood." He takes as evidence this important passage, when the Methodist preacher is sitting quietly in the darkness with Hetty: "she felt the Divine presence more and more,—nay, as if she herself were a part of it, and it was the Divine pity that was beating in her heart, and was willing to rescue the helpless one." Indeed, there is something odd mixed with Dinah's eagerness to save Hetty. She seems not only to be feeding on Hetty's sorrow but also to be elevating herself to a god in her participation with the Divine pity. When Hetty takes comfort in Dinah's company and her promise to stay, Dinah takes the opportunity to get what she came for: she raises the idea that God is with them to save her from sin and suffering. She asks, "If you could believe he loved you and would help you, as you believe I love and will help you, it wouldn't be so hard to die on Monday, would it?" But to receive God's love, Hetty must first confess. Dinah calls upon the Savior to open Hetty's heart and to "tremble at nothing but at the sin that cuts her off from him." Not surprisingly, Hetty becomes fearful and confesses.

In her confession she explains she did not plan to kill the child, but she most surely determined at some point she would. She could not drown the baby, so she buried it. Yet she couldn't entirely bury it and left it room to breathe, hoping someone might rescue it. In her fear and desperation, she left the infant while she went to get something to eat but continued to hear it crying—likely hallucinating the sound long after she was too far away to hear. The reader learns that she still hears the baby crying, clearly indicating that hard-hearted Hetty, hardly more than a child herself, is really not all that hardened after all—but more immature, selfish, and desperate.

After Dinah leads Hetty to confess and repent, she comes to Adam with the message that Hetty, "the poor sinner," wishes to see him and ask forgiveness. Perhaps there is more than just a little pride in Dinah's remarks: "She is no longer hard: she is contrite—and she has confessed all to me. The pride of her heart has given way, and she leans on me for help, and desires to be taught." When Adam arrives at the prison, his words, not Dinah's, seem more in keeping with true Christian love: "Yes, I forgive thee, Hetty: I forgave thee long ago." Adam's ordeal has also allowed him to forgive Arthur Donnithorne. He realizes it falls to him to lead the healing of the community, and he is humble enough to put his misplaced pride aside and stay in place and help the Poysers do the same. Admitting his nature is to be judgmental, he realizes he has perhaps even been too hard on Arthur, no matter what Arthur did, as the latter is willing to do everything possible to make amends. Thus, while both Adam and Arthur change, enlarging their sympathy with regard to the struggles of others, Dinah remains entirely self-satisfied in her beliefs and sure she knows better than anyone what is required of the Divine pity, as she calls it.

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