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2010/11 Group Reads - Archives > Adam Bede - Book Fourth

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Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
This is the discussion thread for comments, observations, and discussions associated with George Eliot's "Adam Bede" Book Fourth.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
I haven't started 'Book Fourth' yet. I have, however, just placed my copy of AB in my backpack, and I plan to get caught tomorrow morning on the train ride to work. I shall return!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Mea culpa. I haven't even started Book IV and I will try to catch up tomorrow. Promise.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments I've been watching Eliot's interesting use of dualities.

On the very obvious front, we had in Book 1 the duality of the two women, Dinah and Hetty, in their bedrooms at Hall farm and the vast difference between their evening rituals. Then in Book 4 we have the dualities of the letters, both being read in the bedroom at bedtime, both written to those who have desire of marriage from those who have put themselves, at least for the present, out of the option of marriage with the letter recipients.

Those are quite obvious. In perhaps a somewhat less obvious but I think still clear duality, we have the duality of the two places of home and work, Adam's hope shop and the Hall farm, where we see Adam and Hetty both with fairly detailed descriptions of their working activities and with a picture of their home life.

We also have the duality, in this case contrast, between the preacher and the teacher, Mr. Irwine a representative of kindness and decency, and Mr. Massey the dedicated curmudgeon, but in fact both quite caring men in their own ways, both trying to uplift and help the working class.

There are several other dualities I'm enjoying looking at, but these will do for one post.


message 5: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 114 comments Christopher wrote: "I haven't started 'Book Fourth' yet. I have, however, just placed my copy of AB in my backpack, and I plan to get caught tomorrow morning on the train ride to work. I shall return!"

I have been very naughty and have read the entire book in one big gulp.


message 6: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Me too Laurel - but where are your comments?


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "I've been watching Eliot's interesting use of dualities.

On the very obvious front, we had in Book 1 the duality of the two women, Dinah and Hetty, in their bedrooms at Hall farm and the vast diff..."


Superb observations, Everyman! I shall keep my eye peeled for these too.


message 8: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 114 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Me too Laurel - but where are your comments?"

Too busy getting my parents situated in an adult family home to think of anything else. I listened to Adam Bede while traveling here and there by bus.


message 9: by MadgeUK (last edited Oct 09, 2010 11:54PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I hope all goes well Laurel. Worrying and exhausting times for you:(.


message 10: by MadgeUK (last edited Oct 09, 2010 11:58PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments There is some great foreshadowing at the beginning of Book Fourth, Chapter XXVII A Crisis. Eliot dwells on the beauty of the natural scene for both artistic and philosophical reasons:-

'The eighteenth of August was one of these days when the sunshine looked brighter in all eyes for the gloom that went before. Grand masses of cloud were hurried across the blue, and the great round hills behind the Chase seemed alive with their flying shadows; the sun was hidden for a moment, and then shone out warm again like a recovered joy; the leaves, still green, were tossed off the hedgerow trees by the wind; around the farmhouses there was a sound of clapping doors; the apples fell in the orchards; and the stray horses on the green sides of the lanes and on the common had their manes blown about their faces. And yet the wind seemed only part of the general gladness because the sun was shining. A merry day for the children, who ran and shouted to see if they could top the wind with their voices; and the grown-up people too were in good spirits, inclined to believe in yet finer days, when the wind had fallen. If only the corn were not ripe enough to be blown out of the husk and scattered as untimely seed!'

Eliot hints at the tragedy to come, and generalises about man's relation to nature. The 'general gladness' of this second paragraph concludes with an ominous reference to a possible failure of the harvest and perhaps to Hetty & Arthur's 'harvest' too. The third paragraph begins ominously: 'And yet a day on which a blighting sorrow may fall upon a man' and comments on how 'Nature's mood' may be 'in harsh contrast with the great crisis of our lives' - perhaps another reference to the encroachment of industrialisation upon the countryside as well as to the human crises about to unfold.

Adam's walk through the grove of Beech trees is significant, as the beech signifies stability and he pauses to examine a 'curious large beech' to 'convince himself that it was not two trees wedded together'. Whilst he is steadfastly thinking of conjugal love, he comes upon Arthur and Hetty about to steal an illicit embrace. Adam suddenly realises the significance of the dropped locket and other puzzling events surrounding Hetty, which are cruelly brought home to him in the subsequent angry conversation with Arthur, who reveals his 'flirtation' with Hetty before being knocked unconscious by our stalwart hero. We as readers now know that there is 'no morning brightness that does not bring new sickness to desolation as well as new forces to genius and love', although what those new forces will be is yet to be revealed.


message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments I love this passage from Chapter 34:

IT was a dry Sunday, and really a pleasant day for the 2d of November....Nevertheless, Mrs Poyser did not go to church, for she had taken a cold too serious to be neglected;...and since his wife did not go to church, Mr Poyser considered that on the whole it would be as well for him to stay away too and 'keep her company.' He could perhaps have given no precise form to the reasons that determined this conclusion; but it is well known to all experienced minds that our firmest convictions are often dependent on subtle impressions for which words are quite too coarse a medium.

That's a subtle but I think very accurate observation on human nature and why we sometimes do things without admitting to ourselves why we are really doing them.


message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Someone has probably done it already -- or perhaps many somebodies -- but I have sometimes thought it would be interesting to trace through the history of what I would call the "polite" branch of the the English novel (not Fanny Hill, for example, and certainly not French novels) the development of the ways in which authors have represented the seduction of virgins and other sexual encounters.

Until the end of this section of AB, it wasn't even clear to me that Arthur and Hetty had in fact consummated their relationship. Now everybody else I'm sure will of course have picked up on it at the time, but whatever clues were there were too subtle for me to pick up. Certainly Eliot doesn't come right out with it. I contrast this with the description by Hardy, not so many years later, of the seduction of Tess, in which while there is still no specific description of the act, there is no question that it has taken place.

Then, of course, we get to D.H. Lawrence, who has absolutely no subtlety or hesitancy in describing what's going on. But his works definitely don't fall into the class of "polite" novels.


message 13: by MadgeUK (last edited Oct 13, 2010 12:51AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments The thing is about Lawrence is that he didn't want to be subtle - he set out to overturn those polite conventions and Lady Chatterley, together with the subsequent trial, marks a turning point in English Literature, where sex began to be discussed more openly.

As for Hetty and Arthur, there were plenty of obvious clues for the Victorian reader which we have become unaccustomed to because modern novels are more explicit. For instance Chapter XIII Evening in the Wood has Hetty entering Fir Tree Grove: The Fir Tree, sometimes called the Grecian Tree, is a symbol of the Greek God Dionysos, who was castrated, and the fir cone is a phallic symbol. So we see allusions to Arthur here and of what a liaison with Hetty might mean - not castration literally but tiredness and lack of energy, which are mentioned in this chapter, therefore a weakening of his power. Also, hares are mentioned several times (and a leveret) and hares are said to conceive by the light of the moon.

There are also these clues:

'She thought nothing of the evening light that lay gently in the grassy alleys between the fern..' [As Chris noted in FFTMC, ferns were a symbol of pubic hair for the Victorians.]

'He may be a shepherd in Arcadia for aught he knows, he may be the first youth kissing the first maiden, he may be Eros himself, sipping the lips of Psyche--it is all one.' http://www.paleothea.com/Myths/Psyche...

'Arthur lost himself among the narrow openings in the fern, winding about without seeking any issue, till the twilight deepened almost to night under the great boughs, and the hare looked black as it darted across his path.'

'..it had all come to nothing--worse than nothing.'

'He was dissatisfied with himself, irritated, mortified.'

All of these clues would not have been lost upon the Victorians, who even had reference books which revealed their meaning - like the Language of Flowers, the Language of Trees. Whenever we read Victorian literature we should be aware of these 'codes', particularly when meetings between lovers take place.


message 14: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments MadgeUK wrote: "The thing is about Lawrence is that he didn't want to be subtle..."

Yes, we've had this discussion elsewhere. I continue to believe that smut is smut; I agree with the outcome of the trial that he had a right to write it, but that didn't make it not smut.

Lady Chatterley, together with the subsequent trial, marks a turning point in English Literature, where sex began to be discussed more openly.

Not really. There was a lot of Victorian smut floating around. What Lawrence did was to start making pornography "literary." Whether that's a good or a bad thing, of course, is entirely in the eye (or other body parts) of the beholder.

But fortunately, we are discussing Adam Bede here, and Eliot didn't feel a need to parade Hetty's experience before us graphically. I'm curious how many readers were clear on the fact when Arthur wrote his letter, and how many weren't sure at that point.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Everyman wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "The thing is about Lawrence is that he didn't want to be subtle..."

Yes, we've had this discussion elsewhere. I continue to believe that smut is smut; I agree with the outcome of ..."


I, for one, was oblivious. And yet Jane Austen writing almost 50 years earlier makes it perfectly clear what Lydia and Wickham have been up to without any graphic explanation. I think GE is being too coy here. Even for a Victorian.

Re: Lawrence. Openly writing about sexuality doesn't make it smut. It makes a refreshing change from the bizarre and somewhat prurient public repression of sexuality by the Victorians. I can see this is an on-going debate between you and Madge, but I had to throw in my 2 cents.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Kate wrote: "Openly writing about sexuality doesn't make it smut."

I don't disagree. Michelangelo's David is not smut. There is certainly some open writing about sexuality which isn't smut. But equally, some is. The reader can decide which.


message 17: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Kate wrote: "Everyman wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "The thing is about Lawrence is that he didn't want to be subtle..."

Yes, we've had this discussion elsewhere. I continue to believe that smut is smut; I agree wit..."


Thanks Kate - a good two cents:).


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
MadgeUK wrote: "Kate wrote: "Everyman wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "The thing is about Lawrence is that he didn't want to be subtle..."

Yes, we've had this discussion elsewhere. I continue to believe that smut is smut..."


Didn't somebody direct that drapery be hung about Lady Justice in the foyer of the U.S. Justice Department, some years back?


message 19: by MadgeUK (last edited Oct 13, 2010 01:05PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Kate wrote: "Openly writing about sexuality doesn't make it smut...'

This is what Lawrence himself said about it:-

'Despite the setbacks of The Rainbow (1915), Lawrence remained undeterred in his role as sexual evangelist: “I feel that one has to fight for the phallic reality, as against the non-phallic cerebration unrealities,” he wrote in a letter to Witter Bynner (March 13, 1928) in the year of the genesis of the novel. “So I wrote my novel, which I want to call John Thomas and Lady Jane ,” he continued, somewhat naively ( John Thomas being a British slang euphemism for “penis”). “But that I have to submerge into a subtitle, and call it Lady Chatterley’s Lover .” He
described the half-written work to Samuel Kotelianski as “the most improper novel ever written” ( Collected Letters , 1028), but he always denied that it was pornography. Subsequently, in A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1930) he used the tone of a manifesto: “If I use the taboo words, there is a reason. We shall never free the phallic reality from the ‘uplift’ taint till we give it its own phallic language, and use the obscene words” (Moore 1955, 267).

In 1959, Grove Press of New York published an unexpurgated edition in the United States. The ensuing action eventually generated the celebrated judgment by Judge Frederick van Pelt Bryan in favor of the publishers, conceding that “Four-letter Anglo-Saxon words are used with some frequency,” but insisting that “The book is not ‘dirt for dirt’s sake’” (in Craig 1962, 158). '

Folks may like to read the rest of this article, which contains some explicit words:-

http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/article...


message 20: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Kate wrote: "Openly writing about sexuality doesn't make it smut...'

This is what Lawrence himself said about it:-"


I have moved my response out of this Adam Bede thread.


message 21: by MadgeUK (last edited Oct 15, 2010 12:58AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Some trivia:

The distances Hetty walked in chapter 36 are amazing - from Leicester to Stony Stratford is 40 miles and from there to Stratford-upon-Avon is another 40 miles. She is travelling on Watling Street, the old Roman Road which crosses England from West to East and was a pilgrimage road to Canterbury, seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of the Church of England, so this may be significant.

Stratford-on-Avon is Shakespeare's birthplace and Stony Stratford is mentioned in Richard III when Richard finds out the location of the young King Edward, who was arrested at Stony Stratford and never seen again. Can anyone see any other references to Shakespeare in this chapter?

Perhaps a more significant reference is that when Queen Eleanor (wife of Edward I) died at Lincoln in 1290, her body was transported to London for burial and Stony Stratford was one of the eleven resting places on the journey. Each was marked with a memorial cross, the most famous being at Charing Cross in London. They are seen as symbols of love:-

http://mauriceboddy.org.uk/EleanorC.htm

Hetty stopped at the Green Man public house and this is significant because the myth is that this god dies in the Autumn and is reborn in the Spring:

http://milcrav.sitefantasy.us/green_m...

Stony Stratford was a major resting place for stage coaches and there were large coaching inns there, which is why it was Hetty's initial destination. The term 'cock and bull story' emanates from the tales told at these coaching inns:-

http://www.stonystratford.gov.uk/Visi...

http://www.cockhotel-stonystratford.c...

Most of the Bull Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1742 but a glimpse of the courtyard where the stagecoaches entered can be seen here:-

http://www.ukpubfinder.com/pub/22492


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