Hetty Sorrel – a perfect representative of Loamshire in Adam Bede

Nature-Background: Hetty Sorrel is a typical specimen of the Loamshire world. According to George Creeger, “Hetty is a perfect representative of the Loamshire-Hayslope world. Moreover, the background landscape keeps changes in keeping with changes in her fortune and career. In the novel George Eliot’s presentation of nature-background is strictly utilitarian, as in that of Hardy in Tess of the D’Urbervilles.”

Hetty has the fertility of the Loamshire world and also its beauty but conceals an essential hardness. To think of Hetty as she first appears in the book is to think her a being in certain places, themselves microcosm of Loamshire, the Hall Farm dairy, its garden and the Grove of Arthur’s estate. Each of these places has an individual aura, but all are suggestive of fertility and growth. Furthermore, these places are appropriate to a particular phase of Hetty’s relations with Arthur. Their first meeting occurs in the Hall Farm. GEORGE ELIOT emphasizes its cleanliness and purity, but it remains subtly sexualized because of its nature and associated imagery. More explicitly sexual is the meeting which takes place in the Grove of Arthur’s estate. Henry James regards Hetty Sorrel as the least ambitious and, on the whole, the most successful of GEORGE ELIOT’s female figures. He is of the view that Hetty’s misfortune makes her the central figure of the book. The part of the story which is concerned with Hetty appears to him to be the most forcible. He concludes, “About Hetty Sorrel I have no hesitation whatever. I accept her with all my heart.”

Beauty & Harness of the Youth: A second link between Hetty and the Loamshire world is that of her beauty. It was GEORGE ELIOT writes, “a spring tide beauty, the beauty of young frisky things.” Such beauty, at once suggestive of fertility and is difficult to comprehend it effect. George Creeger says, “It is a false beauty because it conceals a core of harness, as does the beauty of Loamshire itself. The people of Stonyshire observe her apparent beauty and those of Loamshire know her hidden hardness as Mrs. Poyser says, “Hetty’s heart is as hard as a pebble.’ She is a heartless beauty or rather a beast personified as beauty. Hetty’s hardness is childish or at best adolescent egocentricity. All people and events have value or significance only as they affect the narrow circle of her own life otherwise they are not important. At the news of Mr. Bede’s death, Hetty is concerned only as long as she thinks it is Adam who is meant; when she discovers her error, she lapses into indifference. She cares little about the Hall Farm, her family, aunt and uncle. So there is a persistent strain of narcissism in her. One thinks of her inordinate love of fine clothes and adornment. In such scenes she looks as if she were a worshipper. Before a mirror she turns up her own sleeves and kisses her arms with the passionate love of life. Even her love of Arthur is tinged with the same quality; in him she finds the objectification of her day-dreaming desires. What she loves in him is not so much Arthur as her own self.” 
Failure to Grow and Mature: Loamshire-Hayslope is a sheltered world, an earthly paradise. It is rich, fertile and beautiful world where nature is generous and abundant in this beautiful and fertile world, the poor Hetty has lived a sheltered life, entirely free from cares and worries which are the common lot of humanity. The result is that she has grown up without maturity. Growing up needs struggle; it is a process of facing difficulties and hardships. Childish creatures like Hetty in the Loamshire world are not called upon to face any such challenges; hence they remain immature and childlike. She has fantasies and day-dreaming in which she lives. She has developed a subjective world which entirely prevents her from looking at the objective world with total impartiality. She has always wished finery, clothes and jewelry. She dreams of a majestic life like Mrs. Irwine’s and finds herself being taken in a splendid carriage. In the chapter entitled, Hetty’s world, the novelist gives us detailed emotional fantasies. She couldn’t marry Adam because he didn’t come up the standard of her conception of a lover. It was only Arthur whom she adored. Hetty’s dreams were all full of luxuries. The admiring glances from Arthur’s eyes intoxicated he and she moved about and worked, lost in the world of her dreams. “A new influence had come over Hetty – vague, atmospheric and full of prospects.” Hetty was quite uneducated – a simple farmer’s girl, to whom a gentleman with a white hand was dazzling as an Olympus god. The Admiration of Arthur is like a strong wine that goes to her head and transports her to a world of fantasy. It is an enchanted world in which Hetty lives and moves. Arthur and Hetty are both willful children living a sheltered life in Loamshire which may be called an earthily paradise.  They are babes who fall an easy prey to the temptations of the devil. They are not mature enough to see the consequences of their actions. They realize only after the fall when it is too late. Much of the tragic catastrophe of both Hetty and Arthur springs from the fact that they are willful children performing adult actions in an age which is not golden. When the fantasy breaks and the dream is shattered on reading Arthur’s letter, she is dazed and bewildered and heart-rending tragedy is the result. George Creeger points out that “Hetty is as much a victim of Loamshire as its representative.
Conclusion: She has spiritual deadness and hardness so Dinah tries to prepare her for the possibility of pain in life in the early part of the novel, but Hetty remains deaf to all these things because she is self-centered. The effect of Hetty’s ordeal is to externalize the hardness which is concealed in her heart, although she changes towards the end of the story. No one in the Loamshire is ready to accept the actions of Hetty not forgive her or in any way help her, but Dinah Morris is able to restore Hetty to humanity  – to a better humanity, at least, than that with which she had been endowed by her own world. 

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