Adam Bede, an intelligent young carpenter respected by everyone in the village of Hayslope. He is honored when Arthur Donnithorne, the young heir to Donnithorne Chase, has him put in charge of managing the woods on the estate. Three weeks later, however, he sees Arthur kissing Hetty Sorrel, the young woman Adam loves. Knowing that Arthur will never marry Hetty, Adam becomes angry and fights with Arthur. Arthur leaves to join his regiment, and Hetty, deserted and pregnant, promises to marry Adam. When Hetty runs off, Adam is in despair. He stands by Hetty through her trial for the murder of her child. A man who has judged others—his drunken father, Arthur, and Hetty—harshly, Adam learns tolerance and forgiveness. Later he falls in love with Dinah Morris and marries her.
Dinah Morris, a young Methodist preacher, niece of Mrs. Poyser, a farmer’s wife in Hayslope. A compassionate young woman, she aids those who are ill or in trouble. When not needed by friends or her family in Hayslope, she preaches at Snowfield, a grimy industrial town twenty miles away. Seth Bede, Adam’s younger brother, proposes to her several times, but she says that her religious dedication takes precedence over any private emotion. She sympathizes with Hetty Sorrel and gets Hetty to confess that she had abandoned her illegitimate baby. Dinah later falls in love with Adam Bede and recognizes the claim of private emotions by marrying him.
Captain Arthur Donnithorne
Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the pleasant and impulsive young heir to Donnithorne Chase who tries to forward Adam Bede’s career. Attracted to Hetty Sorrel, he does not intend to marry her. After he learns that she has given birth to and abandoned his baby, he recognizes that his acts can have fateful consequences for other people. In disgrace, he leaves Hayslope, not to return for seven years.
Hester (Hetty) Sorrel
Hester (Hetty) Sorrel, the niece of Mr. Poyser, a dairy farmer. Fond of jewels and petty finery, Hetty is an easy prey for young Donnithorne. When she realizes that he will not marry her, she becomes engaged to Adam Bede; however, in the later stages of her pregnancy, she goes to Windsor to find Donnithorne, only to learn that his regiment has been shipped to Ireland. She then tries to find Dinah Morris, but on the way her baby is born. In confusion, she abandons the child, who is discovered dead. She is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death, but Donnithorne, just back from Ireland, manages to have her sentence changed to deportation. She dies a few years later while on her way back to Hayslope.
Mrs. Rachel Poyser
Mrs. Rachel Poyser, a bustling and efficient farmer’s wife. Although meddling and talkative, Mrs. Poyser is generous and loyal. She also stands up for her...
(The entire section is 1177 words.)