Summary of Chapter 53: The Harvest Supper
It is the time of country harvest, with the barley rolling by on the loaded wagons. The beauty of the country strikes Adam “like a funeral-bell” for “there’s a parting at the root of all our joys” (p. 315). It is the time of thanksgiving, though, and he realizes that out of the sorrow of Hetty came the joy of Dinah, an even greater love. He goes to the harvest supper at the Hall Farm, hoping Dinah has not yet left. He does not see her there but does not learn until later that she is already gone to Snowfield. Meanwhile, the ritual of the feast is presided over by Martin Poyser, who is proud to serve the beer and roast beef to family, friends, and farm hands. There is singing and toasting, as the reader is introduced to various colorful farm workers. A comic political discussion about Bonaparte and the French illustrates the ignorance of the country folk about the greater world affairs. The comic highlight, however, is an exchange of wit between Bartle Massey and Mrs. Poyser on the difference between men and women, Bartle denouncing women, and Mrs. Poyser denouncing men. Finally Adam and Bartle Massey walk home together, and Adam says that even though Mrs. Poyser has a sharp tongue, she is a woman better than her word, who is there in time of need and trouble.
Commentary on Chapter 53
This is a bit of comedy and local color to round out the novel, serving to bring us back to the pastoral mood of the setting. It was spring in the country in the beginning of the story, a kind of golden world of innocence where there was as yet no hint of tragedy. The bulk of the novel tells the disruption of that ideal life by one event that touches everyone. The novel ends in the autumn, a reaping of fruits, both good and bad. There has been sorrow, but new beginnings as well. The peace and harmony are being re-established, even though there has been a cost, and Adam is now reminded of the funeral bell underneath all joy. For the admirable characters, however, all life is transmuted by experience and suffering into something better, and these are the fruits they now enjoy together.
The political talk of the Napoleonic war, a major event in English history, is felt as the faintest echo in Hayslope. The ignorant opinions bandied about over beer show how untouched this remote district is from larger world disturbances. The tragedy of Hetty has been the local event of importance and “Bony” is as real to the farmers as Old Harry that Mrs. Poyser keeps referring to (the devil). Arthur Donnithorne is the only character in their world to take part in events on both the local level and the national level, for he leaves Hayslope for the war. Eliot’s tone towards the Hayslope community is elegiac, looking back to a landscape and a time that is gone forever. It contains her own childhood memories of country life and characters.