Adam Bede: Chapter 10

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Summary of Chapter 10: Dinah Visits Lisbeth

 

Lisbeth is stubborn in refusing help to lay out the corpse of her husband. She locks herself in a room with him and carefully prepares his body with the linen she has laid out for this day, for it is the last service she can do him. Adam is exhausted and falls asleep on a bench in the workshop, dreaming of Hetty, while Seth tries to make tea for his mother. She, however, weeps and whines to Seth and won’t be comforted. After the mother and sons visit the corpse and pray over it, Adam goes to bed, and Lisbeth sits rocking and moaning in grief. Dinah enters and at once begins to calm Lisbeth with her practiced way of dealing with the poor and suffering. She says she will be a daughter to Lisbeth in her trouble and begins to make the cottage orderly. Lisbeth looks at her and sees an angel and accepts her help. Dinah’s authority and perfect tact, that stem from sympathy, tell her what to say. She offers to stay overnight with Lisbeth. The old woman likes the quotes from the Bible that Dinah tells her, and she feels a vague sense of comfort that there is a divine Providence.

 

Commentary on Chapter 10

 

The main point of the chapter is spoken by Dinah when she tells Lisbeth her own life story. It has nothing to do with being a Methodist: “the heart of man is the same everywhere” (p. 113). What could be a point of difference between the traditional, literal minded Lisbeth and the radically spiritual Dinah, is swept away in the sympathy of one soul for another in time of trouble. Dinah becomes her friend in a tactful way, knowing how to share. Lisbeth has a primitive idea of death, thinking that the dead are conscious of how they are wrapped and handled. It is extremely important to her that she has the winding sheet ready and prepares her husband’s body with respect. Dinah, however, stirs her imagination to greater heights, to imagine that beyond her own sorrow and loss, there is a rightness in the universe. Dinah doesn’t preach doctrine; she brings divine comfort in her own person, and Lisbeth feels an angel is there. This is the sort of “natural piety” that Wordsworth depicts in his pastoral poems, the love between human and human, human and nature.

 

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