Literature Study GuidesAdam BedeBook 6 Chapters 53 Epilogue Summary

Adam Bede | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Adam Bede | Book 6, Chapters 53–Epilogue | Summary



Chapter 53: The Harvest Supper

Adam attends the harvest supper at the Poysers' on Wednesday, but Dinah has already left. The narrator provides a detailed description of the celebration, in which the entire community comes together and honors one another, showing appreciation for the abundance of nature. There is eating and drinking, perhaps to excess, and song. The narrator paints brief portraits of the people who work on the Hall Farm, some of whom have been mentioned in passing and some mentioned for the first time: Alick the shepherd; Tim the wagoner; Ben Tholoway, the thresher; and Mr. Craig, the gardener. Bartle Massey, too, is at the feast and opines that Mrs. Poyser is a terrible woman, "made of needles," but Adam adds that "she's a downright good-natur'd woman for all that."

Chapter 54: The Meeting on the Hill

After several weeks have passed, Adam becomes impatient for an answer from Dinah and heads to Snowfield. "Tender and deep as his love for Hetty had been—so deep that the roots of it would never be torn away—his love for Dinah was better and more precious to him; for it was the outgrowth of that fuller life which had come to him from his acquaintance with deep sorrow." Adam doesn't find Dinah at home. She is preaching about three miles from Snowfield, and Adams rides there to accompany her back. When he sees Dinah, she at last says it is God's will that her soul and his should be knit, telling him "I have a fulness of strength to bear and do our heavenly Father's Will, that I had lost before." The couple kisses "with deep joy."

Chapter 55: Marriage Bells

In November, about a month later, Adam and Dinah marry. Mrs. Poyser insisted Dinah not wear her usual black and has given her a simple gray dress. The wedding day is a joyful one, in fact a holiday, for the villagers, most of whom attend. Yet there remains "a tinge of sadness in ... [Adam's] deep joy; Dinah knew it, and did not feel aggrieved." Even Bartle Massey attends the weeding, and Mr. Irwine "is glad of heart over this morning's work." He thinks it will be good news to cheer up Arthur Donnithorne and plans immediately to write to him.


More than seven years later, in June 1807, Arthur Donnithorne returns home. Seth and Dinah are waiting for Adam, who has gone to meet his old friend. They have heard that Hetty has recently died, either at the end of her sentence or on the ship returning home. Commenting on Hetty's death, Dinah says, "the death of the poor wanderer, when she was coming back to us, has been sorrow upon sorrow." Lisbeth, too, has died, and Adam and Dinah now have two children. When Adam returns, he reports that Arthur, now Colonel Donnithorne, is still recovering from fever, but the doctors say he will heal.

The Methodist Conference has forbidden women to preach, and Dinah has thus given it up. Opposed to this ruling, Seth left the Wesleyans to join a congregation that doesn't put "bonds on Christian liberty." But Adam disagrees, saying the Methodists are right, since most women may do more harm than good and don't have Dinah's gift. Dinah has decided to set an example by submitting. Colonel Donnithorne has been invited to visit the Poysers, and Mr. Irwine is overjoyed to have him home.


The reader is left with a sense of completion and the feeling the community has knitted itself back together. After some weeks Adam goes looking for Dinah, and as soon as she sees him, she knows which path to take. In a sense she has capitulated, giving up the austere calling that wed her to religion, and, yet, it seems to be the right path for her. She is no longer a static character, having embraced change and allowed herself the happiness of marriage. What is disappointing, however, is how easily she gives up preaching. Seth, at least, is angry enough about the Methodist edict to leave the original Wesleyan community. Dinah, on the other hand, has become rather passive, easily conceding to the patriarchy. It would not have been impossible for her to continue preaching. In fact, some Methodist women preachers did continue their work, despite what the church demanded. But Dinah will not. Adam supports both his wife and the church, using the rationalization most women are not suited for the work, but he fails to mention this is also true of men.

In the epilogue Arthur Donnithorne returns, now a colonel but rather physically broken. The doctors predict he will heal, however. Hetty has conveniently died, thus allowing the author to wrap up her story tidily. After all, if Hetty had returned to Hayslope, how would everyone have coped with her? Would the limits of Christian charity have branded her a pariah for life, or would the community have been able to make room for her? Probably not. When Arthur hears of her untimely death, he feels great sorrow. He claims he could not do anything for Hetty, and she lived long enough to experience great suffering. Indeed, the lives of women sent for transportation were worse than the men's, and they were often forced into prostitution. It is hard to think about how Hetty Sorrel might have fared on a ship bound for Botany Bay, a prison colony in Australia. At least the colonel is honest enough to say to Adam, "[Y]ou told the truth when you said to me once, 'There's a sort of wrong that can never be made up for.'" On that note, the Poysers come into the yard, and the citizens of Hayslope return to the rhythm of their ordinary lives, and the novel ends on an affirmative note.

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