Adam Bede: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “He was but three-and-twenty, and had only just learned what it is to love—to love with that adoration which a young man gives to a woman whom he feels to be greater and better than himself. Love of this sort is hardly distinguishable from religious feeling” (Chpt. 3, p. 39)

    Seth Bede has fallen in love with Dinah Morris, the Methodist preacher, whom he feels is above him. Eliot believes that all love is essentially religious in that it elevates, purifies, and makes a person more unselfish.

  2. “If you’ve got a man’s heart and soul in you, you can’t be easy a-making your own bed an’ leaving the rest to lie on the stones” (Chpt. 4, p. 51).

    Adam Bede is thinking to himself about his drunken father. Many times he is tempted to run away from home to make his own life, but his ethical nature won’t let him desert his family in favor of his own personal desire.

  3. “Adam’s mind rushed back over the past in a flood of relenting and pity. When death the great Reconciler has come, it is never our tenderness that we repent of, but our severity” (Chpt. 4, p. 55).

    Adam tends to be severe on other people’s errors. When his father drowns in the stream, he feels pity for him and regrets how hard and unforgiving he has been.

  4. “Methodist or no Methodist . . . it’s the flesh and blood folks are made on as makes the difference. Some cheeses are made o’ skimmed milk and some o’ new milk, and it’s no matter what you call ‘em, you may tell which is which by the look and the smell” (Chpt. 8, p. 95).

    Mrs. Poyser, who is a dairywoman using a metaphor from her farm experience, expresses Eliot’s own sentiment that a certain brand of religion is unimportant; it’s the human feeling behind it that counts. Dinah Morris is a Methodist, and is welcomed even by people who don’t like Methodists because she loves and helps others.

  5. “When I’ve made up my mind that I can’t afford to buy a tempting dog, I take no notice of him, because if he took a strong fancy to me, and looked lovingly at me, the struggle between arithmetic and inclination might become unpleasantly severe” (Chpt. 9, p. 103).

    Mr. Irwine says this little parable to Arthur, warning him not to flirt with Hetty Sorrel. Knowing that he cannot “buy” or marry Hetty, he should leave her alone and not make her attached to him.

  6. “When one end o’ th’bridge tumbles down, where’s th’use o’ th’other stannin’? I may’s well die, an’ follow my old man” (Chpt. 10, p. 106).

    Lisbeth Bede feels sorry for herself when her husband dies, and tries to get her sons’ sympathy.

  7. “There’s nothing but what’s bearable so long as a man can work” (Chpt. 11, p. 115).

    Work is part of Adam Bede’s religion. He puts his soul into his carpentry, and it consoles him in times of trouble.

  8. “. . . at that moment he felt he would have given up three years of his youth for the happiness of abandoning himself without remorse to his passion for Hetty” (Chpt. 26, p. 285).

    Arthur has this thought at his birthday dance when he dances with Hetty. The irony is that he will give up all the joy of his youth by giving in to his passion and will suffer remorse all his life.

  9. “It’s well we should feel as life’s a reckoning we can’t make twice over; there’s no real making amends in this world” (Chpt. 18, p. 202).

    Adam feels this at his father’s funeral, but it is also the main moral of the story of Hetty and Arthur.

  10. “It’s all I’ve got to think of now—to do my work well and make the world a bit better place for them as can enjoy it” (Chpt. 48, p. 472).

    Adam says this to Arthur when they make up after the tragedy of Hetty’s conviction for child murder. Both men are stricken with sorrow and try their best to bring what order they can out of the circumstances.