Summary of Chapter 29: The Next Morning
This chapter centers on the thoughts of Arthur on his last day before leaving. He gets up early and goes for a ride on his horse. He is upset about the loss of Adam’s good opinion. He thinks that if he had done any other injury, he would have made it up to Adam with some gift, for he has a kind heart and likes to make people happy. His realization that he cannot make this up to Adam is the first understanding of “the irrevocableness of his own wrong-doing” (p. 313). He remembers that he did not tell Hetty on their last meeting that it was over between them. Adam had been right about Hetty’s delusions, for she asked Arthur to take her with him and marry her. He had been too cowardly to tell her the truth. The narrator notes that Arthur has slowly changed over the last few months from a fresh and honest person to a deceiver. But because he needs his own self-respect, he cannot admit his wrong. He believes the letter is the only answer, for it will satisfy Adam and cure Hetty of her dreams. For one moment, Arthur thinks about the other terrible possible outcomes of his deeds, but he puts them out of his mind. He writes the letter and leaves it with his man Pym, saying he is too busy to see Adam. Adam takes the letter and thinks it better they don’t see each other, for they are no longer friends.
Commentary on Chapter 29
Eliot uses a favorite technique here of going deeply into a character’s thoughts, and then commenting on them like a psychologist. She uses the mental processes of all the characters to show typical human maneuvers for both good and bad. In this way, she can contrast the selfish person with the unselfish person. In her philosophy, the unselfish person not only adds to the good of the world but is also the only successful person in the long run. Selfish people only get short-term gains. Both Arthur and Hetty are irresponsible and like to live in their illusions within the moment. A few weeks of passion will ruin their lives forever. For a brief moment Arthur worries that Hetty could harm herself, perhaps kill herself over the disappointment. Then another nameless fear surfaces, and the reader knows what is left unsaid—she could get pregnant.
The other important thing Eliot reveals in her analysis is how a good person can go wrong. Arthur is a loving person by nature, but also weak and self-indulgent. By making wrong choices and then covering up and lying, Arthur is slowly making himself more coarse. Each time he lies, he makes excuses. The result is that he becomes dull and loses his discrimination. Like Hetty, he is unresponsive to the clues from outside because he is so self-involved in his own drama. One can see how he will eventually become hard, like his grandfather, the very fate he wanted to avoid.