Adam Bede: Chapter 22

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Book Third

 Summary of Chapter 22: Going to the Birthday Feast

 

In the hot pause of July when nature is lazy, the great cask of ale brewed on Arthur Donnithorne’s birth is opened for his coming of age. All the people from Hayslope and Broxton are gathering at the Chase for dinner and games and a dance.

 

Hetty has bought a few bits of finery for the occasion, but secretly tries on the pearl and garnet earrings Arthur recently gave her. She has to keep them hidden. She does put on the locket he gave her with strands of their hair intertwined inside. It cannot be seen under her dress. The whole Poyser family departs in a cart and arrives at the Donnithorne house, built on to the remnant of an abbey. Arthur roams around greeting people with Mr. Irwine, informing him that his grandfather has given in to hiring Adam to manage the woods. Arthur wants to announce it at the dinner. Irwine teases him about wanting the announcement to make him look good with the tenants, and Arthur blushes.

 

Commentary on Chapter 22

 

 The focus is on the vanity of both Hetty and Arthur. Hetty is more in love with the earrings than with Arthur, the narrator tells us. She also continues to sound warnings about Hetty’s coming tragedy. Hetty is not only vain; she is jealous as well, imagining Mary Burge as a rival. Mary will have all new clothes, and Hetty has to wear some old things. But she imagines the clothes she will have as Arthur’s wife.

 

Arthur similarly is indulging in his dream of being the great landowner in the future and begins by planning the announcement of Adam as manager of the Chase woods. This, he believes, will make him popular with the people and make them look forward to his becoming the squire.

 

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