Summary of Chapter 46: The Hours of Suspense
Bartle Massey announces a visitor to Adam in his Stoniton room where he awaits Hetty’s execution. Dinah Morris comes to tell him that Hetty has repented and wants to see Adam, to ask his forgiveness before she dies. Adam, very haggard, says he cannot believe she has to die like that; he believes a pardon will come. He will wait till the last minute before seeing her. He sends his forgiveness through Dinah and says he will come.
Bartle, though disliking women, pronounces Dinah to be one woman he approves of. Adam cannot sleep the night before the execution. He bursts out in sorrow, thinking of what Hetty could have been if not for Arthur. Bartle reminds him that Hetty could not have gotten so hard in just a few months. It was in her nature. He says that perhaps some good will come of it all. Adam does not like this philosophy that good can come of evil; her life is ruined, and she is being hanged on the day they would have been married. In the morning, he goes to the prison to talk to Hetty.
He cannot bear to see Hetty’s eyes; they are so sad, and they are the eyes of the woman he loves. Dinah holds Hetty up as she asks forgiveness. Adam says he forgave her long ago. He feels a release and begins crying. Hetty is shocked by the signs of Adam’s suffering and moves towards him, asking if he will kiss her good by. Adam gives her a kiss and will never see her again. Hetty asks Adam to tell Arthur she forgives him, so that God will forgive her.
Commentary on Chapter 46
This is a very emotional chapter, handled with a touching beauty that is one of Eliot’s finest storytelling gifts. She is able to understand very subtle and refined human feeling and portray it convincingly. Even Hetty melts a little and is able to contemplate the suffering of another. She is sympathetic in her last hour, able to admit error and to reach out. The reader also believes in the nobility of Adam’s love. In the beginning, he seemed to love his idea of Hetty, her beauty and youth. Now, his love is mature and real. He loves Hetty despite what she has done. He is able to forgive and give comfort.