Literature Study GuidesAdam BedeBook 6 Chapters 49 52 Summary

Adam Bede | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Adam Bede | Book 6, Chapters 49–52 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 49: At the Hall Farm

Chapter 49 begins 18 months later. The Poysers have agreed to stay at the Hall Farm, and they have had Dinah for company. Adam visits the Poysers regularly and arrives this day as the women are talking. Dinah has now determined to return to her home and mission in Snowfield, finding Hayslope too comfortable. Mrs. Poyser, unhappy about this decision, voices her opinion to Adam: "I say it isna religion, to be so obstinate." When he says he wishes Dinah would stay, Dinah blushes—something she generally doesn't do.

But Adam, noticing Dinah seems disturbed by her aunt's chatter, will not find fault with Dinah, as he believes "her thoughts are better than our guesses." Dinah suddenly becomes emotional and begins crying, then excuses herself. Adam reports to Mr. Poyser that business is booming. After Dinah composes herself and puts her ever-present bonnet on, she walks out with Adam because Lisbeth wants to spend time with her before she leaves.

Chapter 50: In the Cottage

Dinah explains to Adam on their walk that the Poysers no longer need her, and her work in Snowfield is calling to her. Adam says she knows what is best, but he wishes she could have been his sister—by marrying Seth—which he would have counted as a great blessing. Adam believes Dinah to be a woman who simply isn't cut out for marriage. His little speech makes Dinah uncomfortable, and she changes the subject to give Adam news of Arthur Donnithorne, who says the foreign war will be over soon but doesn't plan to come home.

Lisbeth is glad to see Dinah, who will spend the night. The narrator says Adam has become more indulgent of his brother's tendency to daydream or get caught up in his own thoughts. Adam still feels sorrow about his ordeal with Hetty, and this pain has softened him in his relations with others. He has come to rely on Dinah's steadying presence, as well. In the morning Adam notices Dinah seems uncomfortable with him while she is tidying up and they are alone. He tells her he very much minds parting with her because she is a dear friend, but he also does not want to interfere in what she believes is right. This speech also seems to pain Dinah, and Adam drops the conversation.

Chapter 51: Sunday Morning

After Dinah leaves, Lisbeth tells Seth she hopes to see Dinah again and then, unexpectedly, says Dinah wouldn't go at all "if Adam 'ud be fond on her an' marry her; but everything's so contrairy." Shocked and hurt by his mother's outburst, Seth asks where she got such an idea and tells her not to mention it to Adam. Seth, too, believes Dinah is too independent to marry. But on Sunday morning when Seth is at church in Treddleston, Lisbeth raises the subject with her elder son, firmly convinced Dinah is in love with him. She also thinks the feeling is mutual, having noticed "thy eyes follow her about, welly as Gyp's follow thee," she says, referring to his dog.

Adam speaks about this new idea with Seth when he returns home, mostly attempting to determine whether his brother has reconciled himself to never having Dinah for a wife. Adam asks Seth whether he thinks there is any chance she might marry him, and Seth tells him to ask, for he has given up on marrying Dinah and sympathizes deeply with his brother's long chain of sorrows.

Chapter 52: Adam and Dinah

That afternoon Adam goes to the Poysers' house with the intention of speaking with Dinah, knowing the rest of the family is out. When he tells her "I love you next to God who made me," Dinah admits she loves him, too, but fears she will slip away from "the Divine presence and seek no love but yours." Adam promises never put himself between her and God, but she is not convinced it is right for her to marry. She fears she will become hard, "a lover of self, and no more bear willingly the Redeemer's cross." Her heart is divided, and she is determined to go away until she gets some clear guidance. As they are walking in the fields, Adam and Dinah meet the Poysers coming back from church. Mrs. Poyser comments that "Adam's fond o' Dinah," although she cracks that she'll never marry anybody except if he's "a Methodist and a cripple." The chapter ends with the narrator's short paean in praise of "old Leisure," a quality of country life that has gone from the modern world.

Analysis

Considering the emotional ordeal Dinah and Adam have experienced together, it is not surprising they should fall in love. After all Adam has been through, however, he is not likely to think Dinah loves him or to even admit he has healed enough to love again. For once, his mother's meddling results in something positive: She is the first to tell him how Dinah feels. It is perhaps too convenient for the resolution of the plot that Seth does not mind if the woman of his dreams loves his brother, but Seth has had a long period of time to let go of the idea of marrying her. In one sense there is no accounting for love or for what the heart wants, and Dinah will never love Seth, no matter what happens. Mrs. Bede also knows her son and guesses his feelings, as well. Therefore, Seth has no reason to stand in the way of the possible happiness of two people he cares most about.

Although Dinah loves Adam—and the signs of her feelings have been implicit in her unaccustomed emotional behavior in these chapters—she fears she will love God less upon giving her heart entirely to a man. She feels that it is wrong to embrace earthly love, and the joy that goes with it, and turn her back on her vision of "Jesus, the Man of Sorrows," who counsels her to work among the sinful, the suffering, and the afflicted. Mrs. Poyser also has noticed Dinah is in love, and her joke about Dinah's needing to marry someone afflicted speaks to her extreme notions about suffering as a path to God. In the end, Dinah must pray at the figurative crossroad where she finds herself and ask Adam to wait.

The last part of Chapter 52 is a digressive hymn of praise to old Leisure in which the narrator—and also the author—describes bygone days in which people had time to do nothing. Gone are the spinning wheels, the wagons, packhorses, and peddlers. Gone are idle walks through the fields. Now even amusement is work, the narrator says, with excursion trains, art museums, periodical literature, and exciting novels. "Ingenious philosophers will tell you, perhaps, that the great work of the steam-engine is to create leisure for mankind. Do not believe them: it only creates a vacuum for eager thoughts to rush in." George Eliot was informed about science and technology and embraced modern advances, but, at the same time, she saw the value of the old ways. Her words, written some 160 years ago from today, can seem remarkably fresh and applicable to the present time. Indeed a reader could easily substitute "computer" for "steam-engine" and reach the same conclusion about the modern obsession with being "busy" all the time.

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