How does Eliot provide a sympathetic and accurate rendering of 19th-century English pastoral life in Adam Bede?

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It's difficult to say how accurate George Eliot's portrayal of pastoral life is in Adam Bede, but the characterization is absolutely sympathetic. The first act of sympathy is calling the tale "Adam Bede" instead of "Hetty Sorrel." Since its publication in 1859, the novel has been praised for its authentic exploration of country living, particularly in the morals and values of insular pastoral communities.

Adam Bede stands in for the native son in this telling, content in his lot in life, good humored, and kind. Hetty is the restless spirit who balks at the stoic, staid lives in her community and desires something else. Her desire leads to suffering. Eliot portrays Adam and Dinah, the two most devoted to Hayslope, as virtuous and magnanimous, thereby conveying the idea that "country folk" are virtuous as well. She portrays Hetty (and, to a lesser degree, Arthur) as amoral and adrift, thereby sinful and worthy of punishment.

Some critics of the novel have complained that Arthur's act at the end of the novel undoes the morality play Eliot was trying to construct. In a critical essay on Eliot's work, "The Novels of George Eliot" (1866), Henry James wrote,

If the story had ended, as I should have infinitely preferred to see it end, with Hetty's execution, or even with her reprieve, and if Adam had been left to his grief, and Dinah Morris to the enjoyment of that distinguished celibacy for which she was so well suited, then I think Adam might have shared the honours of pre-eminence with his hapless sweetheart. [...] That his marriage at some future time was quite possible, and even natural, I readily admit; but that was matter for a new story (para. 19).

However, a more generous reading might say that Hetty and Arthur were, after all, from Hayslope and so it was impossible for them to leave the virtues of the community behind. In Hetty's reprieve, the Christian charitableness of the town and its people was underscored.

Eliot's dialogue is one of the conventions considered authentic, though it's difficult to know if or whether some of her applications are exaggerated. An example of an exchange from Chapter 1 illustrates the colloquial speech patterns of Hayslope,

“Seth, lad,” said Adam, taking no notice of the sarcasm against himself, “thee mustna take me unkind. I wasna driving at thee in what I said just now. Some 's got one way o'looking at things and some's got another.”

“Nay, nay, Addy, thee mean'st me no unkindness,” said Seth, “I know that well enough. Thee't like thy dog Gyp—thee bark'st at me sometimes, but thee allays lick'st my hand after.”

The informal address between characters as well as the contracting of words would be in sharp contrast to the way most of Eliot's readers would speak, which is one reason the novel gained a reputation for being authentic.

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