English Midland: GEORGE ELIOT began her career with a loving attachment to the region in which her youth was passed. Her interest was in a particular locality – English Midland which had a powerful pull on her imagination. Even in the simplest of provincial situation, life is revealed clearly, wholly and in depth. The Tragedy of Hetty Sorrel, a tragedy of Sophoclean intensity and grandeur, takes place in this rural setting.
Major divisions: The rural world in AB possesses two major divisions: the counties of Loamshire and Storyshire (With their villages, Hayslope and Snowfield). Loamshire – most of the action takes place here and around the village of Hayslope. Regarded together, the Midland-shire and village constitute a kind of earthly paradise. Loamshire is a region of corn and grass – a fertile and sheltered land. Prosperity is not common and poverty is rare. Exile from this snug land is regarded by its inhabitants as the worst evil so the Poysers don’t want to leave it. Stonyshire – throughout the novel we are reminded of a different kind of county which is naked and barren under the sky ‘where the trees are few, so that a child might count them, and there is very had living for the poor in the winter’ Poverty is common of these people. Loamshire is apparently soft and fertile, but it has a core of hardness, so also Hetty beautiful and soft apparently, there is hardness within her which is perceived by Mrs. Poyser. This is expressed in her ‘stubborn silence’ after the child-murder. Dinah tells Mr. Irwine, the Rector of Hayslope, “But I have noticed that in these villages where the people lead a quiet life among the green pastures and the still waters, there is a strange deadness to the world.” Loamshire people are spiritually dead, while those of Stonyshire are more responsive to religion, more spiritually awake though they live in a hard region.
Sight and scenes: The background against which the drama of AB takes place is picturesque and graphic and faithful descriptions of the region are abundant in the novel. Its scenes and sights, landmarks and customs, professions are transitions have been faithfully rendered. The geographical features such as inns, churches, mansions and road life have been honestly recorded. These sights and scenes play an important role in the novels of George Eliot. They appear and reappear in her novels and this imparts to them rare organic whole. The magic of the world works upon the reader in such a way that he finds himself passing through those instances of scenery. GEORGE ELIOT’s novels are highly pictorial and graphic in nature. She is a product of rustic and pastoral environment. She uses rich descriptions in this novel to provide a credible setting and to bring out the individual character of the setting and places where her characters live and to which they are bound by traditions, love, family, memory, work and affection. Finally, GEORGE ELIOT uses landscapes to define, reinforce and foreshadow the events of the plot and moral situation. There are many scenes in the novel which we should not merely pass over as background materials. Henry Auster. Mrs. Poyser is the voice of rural tradition and community, her home, the Hall Farm, provides a background that illustrates her character vividly. The Hall Farm is the center of orderliness, comfort, love, energy, security and peace. As Walter Allan says, “Mr. Poyser’s images with his similes from unripe grain, are those of he farmer: Mrs. Poyser’s those of the housewife.”
Language, Professions & nature: According to Anne Morley, “We do not know if our literature anywhere possesses such a closely true picture of purely rural life as Adam Bede presents it.” The noblest achievement of GEORGE ELIOT in the novel is the fact that she has succeeded in conveying to us the quality or flavor of the life at Hayslope. Its rude language, its typical dialect and the people in the novel all truly represent the rustic life. The characters in the novel represent a cross-section of Midland occupations and professions. The carpenter, the preacher, the Rector, the clergy, the farmer, the dairy-maid and the dairy hands, the common laborers and the vain village girls are all present in the world painted by GEORGE ELIOT.
The symbolic word of Adam Bede: George Eliot communicates the meaning of her novel partially by employing symbolism in the description of the physical world in which her characters live. These patterns point up contrasts and support, by an appeal to the visual imagination, some of the book’s central ideas.
It is obvious that the names of the two counties mentioned in the novel and the names of the two towns where principal characters live are significant. Snowfield, Dinah’s home town, is located in Stonyshire; as the names indicate, this is a bleak, forbidding region in which people eke out a poor living on the rocky hills or else work in a factory. Hayslope in Loamshire, on the other hand, is a pleasant spot where the farmers are prosperous and the workers comfortable; there are no factories, but only small neighborhood businesses like Jonathan Burge’s workshop.
The “world” of the novel thus divides into light and dark, or hopeful and gloomy areas. Taking this world to represent life, we can see that Eliot is dividing experience into the pleasant and the unpleasant–giving us symbols for the “light” and “dark” sides of life. Dinah lives in Stonyshire; she is familiar with the darker side of life, accepts human suffering as necessary and inevitable, and knows how to deal with it. Adam, Arthur and Hetty, on the other hand, take a much more optimistic view of things and must learn what Dinah already knows. The crisis of the novel takes place in Stonyshire (in a town called Stoniton, as a matter of fact) and it is here that the three Loamshire people discover the meaning of “irremediable evil.”
This division is supported by another one–that between controlled and uncontrolled human actions. We noted in the commentaries that the seduction, the fight between Adam and Arthur, and Hetty’s abandonment of her child all take place in the woods. These actions, prompted by “natural” urges rather than by a “civilized” use of intellect and will, form one of the two primary causes of suffering in the novel.
The other cause is that part of reality which is beyond man’s control. This area of human experience is symbolized by the tapping at the door in Chapter 4 which, though a superstition, turns out to be a valid portent of death, by the force of blind circumstances, and by God. Religion in George Eliot’s novels seems to mean a respectful attitude towards the great unknown. Dinah, the completely religious woman, realistically recognizes the existence of evil and is patient and humble. Adam, who is religious in a naturalistic way, and Arthur and Hetty, who are not religious at all, have pride in them and must learn humility through experience.
Thus the world of the novel is set up to show that man must recognize that life has its less pleasant side and that suffering derives from the nature of things and from a lack of self-control. Like Dinah and Mr. Irwine, he must act upon this knowledge, avoiding evil whenever possible, accepting and dealing with it when it cannot he avoided.