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cherrypie

Adam Bede

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I am about a third of the way through this book. Having read and Loved Middlemarch by the same author last year I thought that I would give another a try. It tells the stories of the lives of a group of people living everyday country lives. Once again I am finding that George Eliot had a wonderful understanding of human nature and paints her characters beautifully, warts included. Although pretty slow going the language used is just lovely to read and even the not so likeable characters have their charm.

 

As with Middlemarch many of the characters set out with the best of intentions but life and circumstances constantly come along to trip them up. Adam Bede is an admirable charcter although ordinary. He supports his elderly mother and has helped his younger brother under difficult circumstances but I suspect that his will not be a happy story.

 

Once again there are many religous themes running through the book which seems to have been quite common with novels of the time. In Adam Bede though we meet the methodists which does not seem to be quite so common. Dinah, is a female Methodist preacher who I suspct was very unusual for her time. She is lovely and a wonderful foil for Hetty, a beautiful but rather vain and thoughtless girl with little depth of feeling. Unfortunately it is Hetty who Adam loves and I can see nothing but pain coming from his love.

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Agree about Middlemarch, a book full of wisdom. Ladislaw was the weakness, not Casaubon. On Adam Bede I wasn't entirely convinced by Hetty - a whose melodramatic demise was due to her dreaming about love. What I mean is she's a bit of a lay figure (no pun!)almost a type of (nearly) innocent victim.

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I am a good half way through this book now and, as with Middlemarch last year, am truly addicted. Although a less complicated story than Middlemarch and certainly slower going, Adam Bede is still a wonderful book. Once again there are a number of stories playing out around the central one and the reader jumps from household to household as the story unfolds. The various stories are now beginning to clash and the reader can see how small desicions or misjudgements can have lasting effects.

 

Arthur Donnithorne reminds me in some ways of Fred Vincy, again from Middlemarch, although I think that in the long run Fred may turn out to be the stronger of the two. Arthur has just turned 21 and in many ways is fairly young for his age. He is the grandson of the local squire and is set to inherit the estate on the death of his grandfather. He really does wish to help those around him I am sure but he is a vain young man and likes to be admired for his good deeds. He certainly is not one to make little of his achievements. Unfortunately he is a weak man as well as a vain one and has an ability to adapt his thoughts regarding his actions to please himself. His failure to be honest with himself and his actions lead him to be less than honest with others and seem to be setting up a chain of events from which a number of the characters will not be able to remove themselves. As in Middlemarch, George Eliot shows a wonderful understanding of human nature and is able to portray how small actions can cause such changes, not only in the lives of the desicion makers but in the lives of those around them.

 

Hetty is really nothing more than a vain child. As Nonsuch has suggested she is more the victim on which the story seems to hang than any real player in the story. As the book is unfolding it can be seen that she has no real substance to her character but is just a slightly silly, selfish girl believing a little too much in her own beauty. Unfortunately she is put upon by those who should know better and has no strength of character or even sense of her own to resist.

 

Adam remains, throughout the novel so far, the strong, often silent truly good man in the backgound of the lives of others.

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I am well over two thirds of the way through this book and finding it difficult to put down. What I love about the writing of George Eliot was her ability to develop her characters as her story unfolds. At the beginning of Adam Bede, as at the beginning of Middlemarch, I felt that I had many of the characters "pegged" and had an idea how they were to fit into the story. However, as the book continues I find myself constantly having to rethink.

 

Arthur Donnithorne is no Fred Vincy. Although Fred acted thoughtlessly and bought trouble on those dear to himself as well as himself he freely admited his mistake and dealt with his deeds himself. Arthur seems to think that virtually any wrong can be made right by being kind and offering gifts to make up for his wrong. He then simply walks away. His greatest fear seems to be that his wrong doung will be discovered and that his popularity will falter. Having never suffered hardship and having spent his life in comfort with the promise of a happy future he simply cannot conceive of a situation where he should suffer for his misdeeds.

 

Hetty, although a weak, silly and vain girl actually facs up to her mistakes a little more honestly although again her biggest fear seems to be that of discovery and the loss of respect of those around her. Hardship does not seem to be turning her into any more of a loving person than she was at the beginning of the book. Her main concerns still seem to be about herself and her appreciation of all that she has lost is centred more on her own loss than on love for those who have provided her happy life. I do think that she is more sinned against than sinning however.

 

Adam plods on through the story always looking for the best in people and prepared to put as much into the improving of the lives of those around him as he can. In some ways he reminds me a little of Gabriel Oak. This is probably not surprising as I tend to think of George Eliot as a female Thomas Hardy and the pastoral setting of Adam Bede reminds me very much of the setting of The Woodlanders.

 

I am not quite sure where this story is going to end but as it unfolds I suspect it will not be a happy ending for many of the characters.

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I finished this book this afternoon with a sad smile on my face. Although this book could be described as tragic in places some good does eventually arise out of the tragedy and all those concerned bar one come away from the situation stronger and probably better people. George Eliot presents us with the good and the bad in all her characters, there seem rarely to be complete heros or complete villains just real people in all their glory.

 

I have only read two books written by George Eliot so far but have been impressed so far with the intricacies of her story writing. Neither of the two books progressed exactly as I suspected they would and as I have stated in previous posts many of the characters did not develop or even always behave in expected ways. I do not think that George Eliot saw life or people in "black and white" but was always willing to search out the less obvious grey areas.

 

Another book that I have been sorry to finish and a group of characters I will be sorry to leave. I especially loved the Poyser family who lived at Home Farm. A wonderful couple. Mrs Poyser especially made me chuckle on many occasions with her everyday wisdom and sharp comments. She is certainly a character whose bark was worse than her bite as although she could be described as having a sharp tongue and displayed no fear of using it she also was possessed of a more than usually kind heart.

 

Although a sad story I have found the reading of this book to be strangely uplifting. The ability of human nature to adapt to circumstances and for the possibility of good to eventually come from even the direrst times can only leave the reader on a happier note even if it is tinged with sadness. Certainly to be recommended.

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