Adam Bede

Adam Bede is George Eliot’s first full-length novel, and embodies the realist aims she would continue to develop over the course of her career. Published in 1859, it is set 60 years earlier in the fictional village of Hayslope, where a morally-upright carpenter named Adam Bede is in love with Hetty Sorrel, a pretty and self-absorbed dairymaid. When Hetty falls pregnant by the young squire of the village, she runs away, gives birth in secret and kills her baby. She is sent to prison and sentenced to death. It falls to her cousin, the Methodist preacher Dinah Morris, to impress upon her the gravity of her situation and turn her mind to repentance. Meanwhile Adam, shocked by Hetty’s crime and by the discovery of her relationship with the squire, has to reassess his rigid views of morality. Hetty’s sentence is commuted to deportation, and Adam and Dinah eventually marry. Eliot said she was inspired to write the novel by recalling her Methodist aunt, who similarly prayed with a woman convicted for infanticide.

Creator:
George Eliot
Published:
1859
Full title:
Adam Bede
Forms:
Prose
Genre:
Victorian Literature
Literary period:
Victorian

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Realism and research in Adam Bede

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Theme: 
The novel 1832 - 1880

In Adam Bede, George Eliot sets out her commitment to realism as a literary genre – a commitment she would continue to develop over the course of her career. Dr Rohan Maitzen explains how detailed research and Eliot’s own experience fed into the realist project, enabling her to express her beliefs about religion, sympathy and understanding.

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