Chapter 34: The Betrothal
Adam walks Hetty home after church one Sunday in November. He asks her to take his arm. He is more impatient about her now and is waiting for a sign from Hetty to declare his love. He tells her his good news about becoming a partner with Jonathan Burge. Suddenly, she is alarmed, for she remembers that the partnership was supposed to be coupled with an engagement to Mary Burge. Just when she was counting on Adam, he seems to slip away. She cries, and Adam guesses it is because of Mary Burge. He believes Hetty has come to love him and proposes marriage. She accepts. They rush home to tell the Poysers, who are overjoyed. It is what they had wished. They set the marriage date for the spring so they will have time to get ready.
Mr. Poyser tells Hetty to kiss Adam, and she turns away. Then he tells Adam he should kiss his fiancée. Adam gives Hetty a kiss on the lips. Hetty feels nothing for Adam, but she is content to be loved and taken care of. It’s not Arthur or what she expected, but it will do.
Commentary on Chapter 34
Readers will know why Hetty has “more luxuriant womanliness” (p. 359) than before, but Adam does not guess the possible reason. Adam does not seem to take it ill that Hetty does not come forth with a kiss on her own. Perhaps he thinks her shy. It is obvious she is looking for security, for she no longer has youthful hopes of love. The reader certainly guesses Hetty is pregnant and wonders if she knows. Although a woman today would certainly know by this time she was going to have a baby, Hetty is probably ignorant of such things and has no one to ask. Eliot never says outright that Hetty is pregnant, but it becomes plain in the next chapter.
Knowing what we know about Hetty, there is no way this marriage could be happy. Even if disaster were not waiting, Adam would surely be disappointed to find Hetty did not love him. Her pretense could not hold up for long. For the moment, he is deliriously happy; his life has purpose and direction now.