George Eliot’s debut novel tells a story of love in rural eighteenth-century England
Adam Bede is an upstanding, hardworking, intelligent young man, the kind of person who knows what he wants—and what he wants is the incredibly shallow Hetty Sorrel. Though Hetty is a milkmaid, she harbors dreams of becoming a dignified member of the upper class. To that end, she has set her sights on Captain Arthur Donnithorne, a squire and heir to much of the town’s wealth. Meanwhile, Dinah Morris, Hetty’s compassionate cousin, harbors irrepressible romantic feelings for Adam.
This love rectangle forms the character basis for one of the greatest English novels of all time. Upon its release in 1859, Adam Bede was immediately lauded as a seminal work for its depiction of English country life at the turn of the nineteenth century, garnering the praise of Charles Dickens. Eliot’s deft mixing of the fictional with the real has made Adam Bede a timeless classic.
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George Eliot (1819–1880) was the pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans, one of the defining authors of the Victorian era, who penned influential works such as Adam Bede, Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss, and Silas Marner. Eliot began her career by writing for local newspapers, eventually running the Westminster Review. During her time there, she decided to become a novelist and chose a masculine pen name in order to avoid the rampant sexism of the day. Her first novel, Adam Bede, was an instant success. Eliot’s realist philosophy and deep characterizations were defining features of her work, and her classic novels have earned her praise as one of the English language’s top authors.