Adam Bede

Adam Bede - Hugh Osborne, George Eliot Read in an e-version on Kindle. I had forgotten how much George Eliot is a moral essayist. Strangely, I didn't find this terribly disturbing, possibly because her frequent ruminations were both appropriate to the situation in the plot, and often quite perceptive. What I found most disturbing was the way she entirely gave up on the Hetty Sorrell character, pushing her out of the story - and then, in an entirely unnecessary conclusion, into the other world - as soon as her usefulness as a foil to the Good Woman (Dinah) was exhausted. Meanwhile, the male sinner was allowed eventual re-entrance to society and the reader's good graces.

Eliot doesn't deal in cardboard characters (especially her fallen woman); neither her Excellent Man (Adam) nor her Excellent Woman (Dinah) is entirely fault-free, though you have to squint hard to see the criticism of Dinah. It was that which kept me reading until the plot picked up pace, which it did rather suddenly as soon as Hetty ran away.

This novel reminded me strongly of Scott's Heart of Midlothian, though of course the plots are different. The apparent intractability of the problem of infanticide, brought about by the rigid divide between respectable and extramarital childbearing, appears not to have changed betweeen Scott's day and Eliot's. It makes me angry rather than sad that it took another hundred years before that not so intractable problem was solved.

I do feel sorry for Seth Bede. Eliot didn't make him quite unattractive enough, although she did try to make him resigned that his big brother carried off the spoils.