Liberal Humanism In George Eliot's Adam Bede

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In George Eliot’s Adam Bede we witness an illustration of the discussion between not only crime, but morality, values, and extraordinarily, beauty as well. The so-called “universal ideal” of femininity is, according to our novelist’s own interpretation, being interrogated sternly. Unfortunately, what we find in Eliot’s own interrogation method of these structures is just another, albeit different, version of Liberal Humanism with its own stereotypes, judgement calls, and unfair half-treatments of women, their bodies, and their interiorities that undermine the reality at which women are able to arrive at their happy or sad endings. While Eliot provides us female characters, Dinah and Hetty, as guideposts to understand women’s autonomy of decision,…show more content…
Indeed, both Dinah and Hetty are described as beauties in their individual right. And while Hetty is described as “[p]rettier than anyone around Hayslope,” (164) it isn’t her beauty that degradates her, but her cognizance of her said beauty. In Adam Bede, as in many other novels, it isn’t beauty that is degraded, as it is indeed praised quite highly, but rather, a woman’s knowledge of her beauty or attempt to gain beauty that is cast as the sin she commits. While Dinah evades judgement by being seemingly unaware of her personal beauty, Hetty is set upon her course by her own…show more content…
Even when she abandons her newborn child out of fear she isn’t the villain of the story. We see that she’s culpable, but we also have pity. Certainly, the aforementioned characterization is an enormous step in the literary tradition of the fallen woman. But is that enough? What’s truly troubling is how we cannot seem to ever respect her or hate her because we can’t really see her as much of an actor in her own life. Hetty is empty. At best, Hetty is Dinah’s moral Half-opposite. She is morally empty, but unlike Dinah’s characterization, we don’t see the “why.” Hetty lacks an interior life beyond any of the shallow remarks given by the narrator about her hopes of fancy thing. The closest we get to seeing Eliot provide Hetty with an interiority is when she is relaying the story and asks Dinah if she “think[s] God will take away that crying . . . now that I’ve told everything” (494). While this does work to elicit an emotional, pitying response from the reader, it is only a halfway construed attempt because in the end the reader realizes that Hetty is not lamenting and aching for the loss of the life of her child, but rather pleading and hoping to have personal discomfort taken away from her own personal

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