One of the major issues in George Eliot’s novel Adam Bede is a binary opposition in characterization: Adam Bede versus Arthur Donnithorne and Hetty Sorrel versus Dinah Morris. In contrast to Adam’s hardworking, staunch personality, Arthur comes from money and, though he does hold a military position, does not have to work. Dinah is similar to Adam in her zest for her cause, preaching, but Hetty’s cause is her beauty, about which she obsesses.
From the beginning of the novel, Adam is presented as a hardworking, ethical man who encourages others to behave in similar ways. For example, when the workday draws to an end, Adam’s coworkers stop work and begin to collect their belongings before the final toll of the clock. Adam alone continues to work, chastising his mates for their lack of work ethic. His responsibility extends to his family relationships. Though he teases Seth for neglecting to complete his work, he also provides a lesson in proper labor. He continues to mentor Seth by commenting on Seth’s interest in Dinah’s preaching and its relevance to religious beliefs that Seth had been exposed to prior to her arrival.
Adam’s familial responsibility stretches further as his father dies, and he is left with his mother’s care. Despite his mother’s clinging possessiveness and open dislike of the woman he believes himself in love with, Adam prepares to provide for her needs. His love for Hetty allows for another instance...
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