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Adam Bede Group

"Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds . . ." (369)


Responses to Path 2 prompts should deliver a structured, narrow argument in only 400-500 words, one you publish on Blackboard by 11:59 p.m. on Friday. Arguments should evince creativity and organization, support their claims with detailed evidence ( incl. page citations), and show signs of careful revision. Remember too that whether I happen to agree or not with your thesis matters little, as long as it is sufficiently supported and logically, persuasively rendered.

Some of the strongest essays will incorporate ideas from path 2 essays written by your peers and/or pertinent path 1 discussions and topics, though neither is required.

Week Five:
chps 23-31 [only bold-faced questions may be used as essay prompts]

1. why does Hetty smile at Adam Bede in chapter 23?

2. what do the following words suggest about the nature of Adam and Hetty’s intimacy?  “[W]hat had he done? Gone a little too far perhaps in flirtation, but another man in his place would have acted much worse; and no harm would come . . .” (325).

3. which portion of Parson Irwine’s speech at the dinner echoes George Eliot’s own voice in chapter 17?

4. consider the irony imbedded in Mrs. Irwine’s description of the kind of woman she hopes will marry Arthur Donnithorne, her godson (331-32).

5. the narrator claims that Chad’s Bess holds the same “little hopes and anxieties” as Hetty (334).  Does the incident with Miss Lydia, the prize she awards Bessy, and Bessy’s reaction suggest Bessy is indeed a mirror image of Hetty? 

6. why does the narrator glorify the “glorious country dance” in which our heroes participate?  What features of this dance, set back in 1799, so please our storyteller?

7. what does the narrator mean when she writes that “There are faces which nature charges with a meaning and pathos not belonging to the single human soul that flutters beneath them, but speaking the joys and sorrows of foregone generations . . .” (343)?

8. in the midst of yet another example of Adam’s self-deception—this time concerning what Hetty’s locket must denote—the narrator notes that Adam is “chewing the cud of this new hope” (346).  Why might she employ this bovine metaphor at this point in the narrative?

9. consider the ironic words with which Mr. Poyser closes chapter twenty-six.

10. why does Hetty smile at Adam (350), then encourage him to come into the Poyser’s place (350-51)?

11. what do the phrases “make love” and “lose one’s character” signify in the period resurrected by the novel?

12. in the following quotations, should the bold-faced words be associated with the narrator's own voice? What tone dominates each of these passages?

13. does Eliot’s narrator ever allow her reader to suspend the universal sympathy which Eliot, as we discussed in chapter 17, is directly promoting?  Does the narrator allow—or even encourage—us to actually judge a character as having done something morally deplorable? Consider Arthur, Hetty, and Adam.

14. do Eliot’s male characters admit to their own errors in judgment when they recognize them? Do Arthur and Adam each recognize the depth and breadth of their respective faults?

15. after discovering that Adam loves Hetty, Arthur immediately becomes more upset than he had previously been.  For what reasons?

16. do the characters in Eliot’s novel only make understandable mistakes, or do they sometimes commit acts that the narrator him/herself considers to be unequivocally “wrong”?  Are they the pawns of Fate, circumstances, and native predisposition, or is there evidence of a universal moral code which can be consciously defied?

17. are personality and temperament fixed or flexible quantities in Eliot's imaginary world?  Do her characters exhibit free will?

18. does such a thing as “evil” exist in this novel?  if so, against what is it defined?

19. what additional lessons in human psychology and motivation does Eliot provide the attentive reader this time around?

"In the Grass" (1864-65)
Arthur Hughes

Dr. Paul Marchbanks