Adam Bede: Chapter 50

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Summary of Chapter 50: In the Cottage

 

Dinah and Adam walk together to the Bede cottage, and Adam tells her the Poysers will miss her. She answers that the Poysers’ sorrow is healed, and she is called back to her old work. Adam says he puts her above all his other friends and regards her as a sister. He does not understand her agitation at his words.

 

They change topics and speak of Arthur, “the poor young man,” as Dinah calls him (p. 485). Arthur is off fighting Napoleon and the French. The war will soon be over, but Arthur does not feel ready to come home. Dinah mentions his warm-hearted nature, and how our trial is to see good in the midst of evil. At the cottage, Seth sees Dinah’s tears that Adam does not see. Lisbeth also sees Dinah’s upset and asks her what is wrong. The two women spend the evening together, and Dinah tells her she is leaving.

 

The narrator switches to Adam, mentioning that his great sorrow was still with him but it was quietly transforming him to a greater love and sympathy for others. He is more tolerant of Seth and his mother. His work has also been part of his religion, his way of doing good in the world. His work is his life now, and he does not see that romance will ever touch him again. He is surprised Dinah does not love Seth, who seems cut out for her.

 

Dinah is up early and cleaning the house. Adam surprises her and tries to joke with her, but she is embarrassed. Adam asks her if she is displeased with him and says he doesn’t like parting with her. The narrator breaks in to tell us that this is courting, the way two souls gently approach one another by degrees.

 

Commentary on Chapter 50

 

The narrator is quite joyful in describing the growing love between Adam and Dinah in the closing chapters, waxing rhapsodic in places. The relationship has been foreshadowed in earlier chapters. Adam is the only man that has made Dinah feel like a woman rather than a saint. Some critics feel that Dinah’s attraction to Adam seems out of character, but she has always seen him as noble and unlike other men. He is not a Methodist, but he is sincerely religious and lives his religion. He is generous and not restrictive to Dinah’s wishes. She is the only woman he has ever looked up to or thought better than himself. Like Mr. Irwine, he respects her and shows it in regarding her as an equal.

 

In this part of the novel, Eliot wants to show how someone could rebound from tragedy, how the mind knits itself back together in the mystery of love. It is not always possible to predict where love will put people together, as Adam has said before. Neither he nor Arthur could resist Hetty, and Dinah prefers Adam to Seth, the one who seems made for her. Adam’s and Dinah’s is not a violent love, but a gentle, healing love that grows out of the tragedy they both witnessed. They have found strength in each other.

 

Adam is taking some time to get over his sorrow and so cannot ever imagine being in love again, though he admits Dinah is his best friend. She already knows that she feels love, but as will become apparent, she is afraid the earthly love conflicts with her divine duty. Both have to grow from the events they have been through in order to be together. Adam himself will realize that he was not ready for Dinah until he went through the agony with Hetty and purified himself. Eliot mentions that it is natural for lovers to delicately approach one another for a while. Love is subtle like music.

 

Readers might see the last book as a bit sentimental compared to the rest of the story, but for Eliot, it is as important to see the principles of healing as it is to observe the principles of suffering. She thus wraps up the story in stages, with little mini-essays on love and healing. This part of the novel contrasts with the tragedy of the main action. Once again, we get idyllic pastoral scenes as in the beginning of the story, along with humor, and local color. Each character finds his or her own place, so that society can begin anew in Hayslope.

 

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