Places: Adam Bede

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1859

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Domestic realism

Time of work: 1799

Places DiscussedHayslope in the county of Loamshire

Hayslope Adam Bedein the county of Loamshire Midlands village in a fictional county of where Adam Bede, a skilled carpenter, works for Jonathan Burge. Scenes alternate between the indoors (the workshop, the Bede home, the rectory, the Hall farm) and the outdoors (the green, the woods, the churchyard, the orchard and garden) picturing the full range of a community. The novel opens in the village carpentry workshop, where Adam praises industrious creativity, which, he argues, God favors as much as the religious singing, praying, and preaching of the Methodists, a group to which his “dreamy” brother Seth belongs. The workplace emphasizes Adam’s strong integrity and reliability, as well as his tendency to be unsympathetic toward others’ weaknesses.

Bede cottage

Bede cottage. Cottage that Adam shares with his brother and parents. His work ethic dominates this place; he has been doing his father’s work for several years and is disgusted because his father too often visits the nearby pub. Eventually, however, Adam relents from his hard stance toward weakness, when he and Seth discover their drunken father has drowned.

Hall farm

Hall farm. Managed by Martin and Rachel Poyser, this is the best-kept tenant farm on the estate of Squire Donnithorne. Here the reader meets the fantasy-driven Hetty, niece of Martin, and sees the visiting squire flirting with her. Mr. Irwine, the rector, accompanies the squire and cautions him against turning Hetty’s head. After Hetty’s disgrace, the Poysers and Adam feel they must relocate; their move over a distance of only twenty miles is presented as a complete uprooting from their former sense of permanence. George Eliot is contrasting a lost agrarian world, Old England, with mid-century industrialized England.

Snowfield, Stoniton, and Stonyshire

Snowfield, Stoniton, and Stonyshire. Bleak areas, unlike the fertile Hayslope of Loamshire, that are associated not with agricultural productivity, but with the cotton mill where Dinah Morris works and with Hetty’s imprisonment and trial. They are also associated with the religion of the poor–outdoor Methodism–and Stoniton is the place of the upper room in which Bartle Massey looks after Adam, giving him bread and wine. Dinah says that the harsh conditions make the inhabitants responsive to religion.

BibliographyBarrett, Dorothea. Vocation and Desire: George Eliot’s Heroines. New York: Routledge, 1989. This book offers helpful insights concerning conflicts between women’s desires for creative fulfillment and culturally defined gender limitations.Beer, Gillian. George Eliot. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. Reappraises Eliot’s struggle toward self-definition as a woman and an artist. Includes historical background, a bibliography, and an index.Brady, Kristin. George Eliot. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. Summarizes contemporary reactions to Eliot and explains the historical gender assumptions that Eliot both worked within and tried to reform.Haight, Gordon. George Eliot: A Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968. This book offers the essential factual base for studying Eliot and her work.Haight, Gordon, ed. The George Eliot Letters. 9 vols. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954-1978. These volumes offer the best source for Eliot’s own voice–candid toward those whom she trusted and distant, circumlocutious, or self-protective toward those whom she did not. Haight’s notes and commentary are indispensable.Hardy, Barbara. Critical Essays on George Eliot. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1970. This collection by a pioneer in Eliot studies helped interest critics in feminist analyses of her work.Homans, Margaret. “Dinah’s Blush, Maggie’s Arm: Class, Gender, and Sexuality in George Eliot’s Early Novels.” Victorian Studies 36, no. 2 (Winter, 1993): 155-179. Argues that the euphemistic manner in which Eliot treats her heroines communicates their universal womanhood without regard to class.Marshall, Joanna Barszewska. “Shades of Innocence and Sympathy: The Intricate Narrative Syntax of Gossip, Metaphor, and Intimacy in Eliot’s Treatment of Hetty Sorrel.” In Dorothea’s Window: The Individual and Community in George Eliot, edited by Patricia Gately, Dennis Leavens, and Cole Woodcox. Kirksville, Mo.: Thomas Jefferson Press, 1994. Analyzing Eliot’s narrative art, this article supports the argument that her treatment of Hetty is more sympathetic than many critics have recognized.Miller, J. Hillis. The Ethics of Reading: Kant, de Man, Eliot, Trollope, James, and Benjamin. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. Reprinted in George Eliot, edited by K. M. Newton. New York: Longman, 1991. In his discussion of Eliot’s “economic-ethical-religious-affective-performative theory of realism,” Miller points out the use of figurative language to depict human experience in art, nature, love, and religion.Pinney, Thomas, ed. Essays of George Eliot. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963. These selected essays represent some of Eliot’s ideas about religion, education, the role of women, and standards for judging literary art that appear most frequently in her fiction.Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977. This study relates women writers to one another and suggests ways to place Eliot’s work in a continuity of similar attempts.Uglow, Jennifer. George Eliot. New York: Pantheon Books, 1987. This critical biography examines in detail the interworkings between Eliot’s life and her art, offering thoughtful analyses of her fiction in the context of Victorian feminism. Includes a chronology, a bibliography, photographs, and an index.
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