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Adam Bede | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Adam Bede | Quotes


Perhaps, too, he is angry with us; else why does the blight come, and the bad harvests, and the fever, and all sorts of pain and trouble?

Dinah Morris, Book 1, Chapter 2

Dinah preaches God's forgiveness and exhorts her listeners to repent of their sins and reunite themselves with a loving God. But she also describes an angry and vengeful God. For those who do not turn to Jesus now, he will turn into their judge later, saying "Depart from me into everlasting fire," according to Dinah.


If you've got a man's heart and soul in you, you can't be easy a making your own bed an' leaving the rest to lie on the stones.

Adam Bede, Book 1, Chapter 4

Adam says this to himself when he is thinking about how unpleasant his home life is. His mother constantly nags him, and his father makes no money, spending whatever he can on drinking. At one point Adam thought to leave his family behind but stayed because he felt obligated to take care of them, especially his mother and brother. To protect them is all-important to his identity as a man.


I have no objection to your contemplating Hetty in an artistic light, but I must not have you feeding her vanity.

Mr. Irwine, Book 1, Chapter 9

Early in Arthur's attraction to Hetty, the rector warns him not to pay too much attention to Hetty because she might consider herself a great beauty, worthy of a "fine gentlemen." Such thoughts will "spoil her for a poor man's wife." Mr. Irwine speaks about Hetty as if she were an object or commodity, but at the same time he is protecting her against Arthur's advance because he knows someone like Arthur will never marry her and can only create problems for both by pursuing a flirtation.


It's my belief her heart's as hard as a pebble.

Mrs. Poyser, Book 1, Chapter 15

This quotation appears after an extended narration in which the reader learns Hetty dislikes middle-aged people and children. She dislikes infants in any form—not lambs, nor chicks, nor young turkeys. Wise Mrs. Poyser has observed Hetty's hard-heartedness, telling her husband she cares nothing for little Totty and was not moved at all when the child fell into a pit. In sum, she concludes she has a heart like a stone.


We set our hearts on things which it isn't God's will for us to have and then we go sorrowing.

Dinah Morris, Book 1, Chapter 15

Dinah has a feeling Hetty eventually will get herself into trouble, and for this reason she tells Hetty she should remember to send for her in such a situation. When Hetty asks why she would say such a thing, Dinah responds, telling her trouble comes to everyone because they have desires for things that may be wrong for them and then become sad when their desires are not satisfied.


You can never do what's wrong without breeding sin and trouble more than you can ever see.

Adam Bede, Book 1, Chapter 16

Arthur is discussing with Adam whether he has ever had two opposing opinions regarding rightness, and he says he has not. He doesn't like to do wrong, he says, because it weighs heavily on his conscience, especially because it is impossible to know how far your wrongdoing will reach and continue to hurt others.


All honor and reverence to the divine beauty of form! But let us love the other beauty too ... in the secret of deep human sympathy.

Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 17

In delivering an extended sermon to the reader, the narrator makes the point that human beings should learn to love not only what is pleasing to the eye but also all forms of humanity—old women; scraping carrots; and common, coarse, and stupid people. Beauty exists in all of creation, and those with an expanded human sympathy will see beauty everywhere they turn.


Perhaps nothing 'ud be a lesson to us if it didn't come too late.

Adam Bede, Book 2, Chapter 18

These are Adam's thoughts in church as he mourns his father's death. His father was a drunk for many years, and Adam has been highly critical of him for that reason. But if he were to find his father home that evening, he would treat him differently with the more immediate knowledge he could be gone from Adam forever. Such is the nature of lessons: people must suffer the pain of doing wrong before they can realize their errors.


Thee canstna say but what I knowed how to make a choice when I married thee.

Mr. Martin Poyser, Book 2, Chapter 18

As Mr. and Mrs. Poyser are discussing the relative merits of different types of cows, the discussion turns to how Mrs. Poyser is not like other men's wives and how Hetty is not like Dinah. Mrs. Poyser criticizes men for running after women who are like "bits o' gauze ribbon, good for nothing when the color's gone." This is Mr. Poyser's cue to compliment his own boisterous wife who knows how to run a house, farm, and dairy.


There's no pleasure i' living, if you're to be corked up for ever, and only dribble your mind out by the sly, like a leaky barrel.

Mrs. Poyser, Book 4, Chapter 32

Mrs. Poyser makes this comment after her husband tells her she's "done it," meaning she has given the old Squire Donnithorne a piece of her mind, for which there will be hell to pay. She tells him off when he tries to change the terms of the family's lease entirely to their disadvantage and then threatens not to renew in retaliation when she will not agree to his terms. Stingy and mean, the old Squire does not keep up his properties, and Mrs. Poyser tells him so in clear terms. Mrs. Poyser is happy she has stood up to him because an honorable person must speak truth to power now and again to keep her self-respect, even if the consequences are negative.


He created the mind he believed in out of his own, which was large, unselfish, tender.

Narrator, Book 4, Chapter 33

The narrator explains how Adam's Hetty—the one he loves—is entirely a projection of his own character. His love for Hetty is based on her physical appearance. Sexually attracted to her, he mistakes those feelings for a more mature love. He assumes Hetty is loving and tender, with a sensitive intelligence, but these qualities are his, not hers. He cannot imagine she has given herself sexually to Arthur Donnithorne and thus cannot imagine the trouble in which she now finds herself.


No wonder man's religion has so much sorrow in it: no wonder he needs a Suffering God.

Narrator, Book 4, Chapter 35

The narrator makes this comment after he says the world may appear beautiful and shining, but behind this appearance is the anguish of suffering beings, particularly conscious human beings. Thus, the suffering of God—namely Christ on a Cross—may accurately reflect human suffering. At this point in the story Hetty has desperately realized she is pregnant and doesn't know what to do. She even thinks of drowning herself.


The problem [of] how far a man is to be held responsible for the unseen consequences of his own deed ... might well make us tremble.

Mr. Irwine, Book 5, Chapter 41

Mr. Irwine is discussing with Adam whether Arthur should be held responsible for Hetty's crime. The clergyman says people's judgments of others are often wrong for not knowing some small fact. Moreover, people don't have the knowledge necessary to divide moral guilt and retribution fairly. What is frightening is that an individual cannot know the unforeseen consequences of even a single deed.


Our sorrow lives in us as an indestructible force ... passing from pain into sympathy.

Narrator, Book 6, Chapter 50

This idea expressed by the narrator is a central tenet of George Eliot's belief that people's trials and anguish have a purpose, which is not to forget them but to transform them into a larger self. The pain people experience will create more compassion for others, who also suffer, and ultimately suffering will teach people how really to love.


His love for Dinah was better and more precious to him.

Narrator, Book 6, Chapter 54

When Adam realizes, with the help of his mother's prodding, he is in love with Dinah, he thinks this love is of more value than what he felt for Hetty. This self-knowledge is the result of the "fuller life" after his experience of deep sorrow. Loving and losing Hetty and coming to terms with his own delusion help make Adam more compassionate and less judgmental. Dinah is the person involved in that transformation, and she has become his moral compass.

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