Summary of Chapter 55: Marriage Bells
One month later, Adam and Dinah are married. Mr. Burge’s workers are given a holiday; Mrs. Irwine and her daughters are in a carriage to shake hands with bride and groom after Mr. Irwine marries them. From the Donnithorne household come Mrs. Best, Mr. Mills, and Mr. Craig. The Poysers are there and Bartle Massey. Mrs. Poyser makes Dinah take off her black dress and gives her a grey Quaker dress. Adam feels a slight sadness underneath his joy, and Dinah understands. In the bridal party are Mary Burge as the bridesmaid, and Seth with Mrs. Poyser; Bartle Massey takes Lisbeth’s arm. Mr. Irwine sets off to write the good news to Arthur.
Commentary on Chapter 54
Although some readers do not believe the happy ending makes sense, it is in keeping with what Eliot is trying to show: some good can be harvested from suffering by the wise. It does not mean that Eliot is overly optimistic, for she paints a picture of life as a mixed bag of positive and negative, not always in the control of the individual. Selfless characters, however, do better in the long run by causing as little harm as possible, and by actively turning everything to good account. Adam is a case in point. He does not just ride off into the sunset with another woman, after the catastrophe. The narrator points out that both Adam and Arthur have been scarred for life. Even on Adam’s wedding day, he has some sadness, for he won’t forget Hetty, and Dinah does not expect him to. Because they shared the time of trouble, Adam feels that Dinah does not rival the first love but completes it. She was the one who stuck by Hetty; she knows how Adam feels and what he suffered. She was the friend who brought him out of his grief.
Is Dinah too idealistic a figure to believe in? She was based on Eliot’s own fond memories of her preaching Methodist aunt. Dinah also bears many of Eliot’s own personality traits, according to contemporary accounts. She is certainly saintly, and perhaps that is why she needs to be brought down to earth as a woman, wife, and mother at the end of the story. Dinah is one of Eliot’s many saintly women characters, who strive for a higher life by being selfless in everyday concerns.
Summary of Epilogue
On a June evening of 1807, Adam Bede’s workshop, that used to be Jonathan Burge’s, has just closed. It is nine years since the beginning of the story. Dinah appears outside the Bede cottage with her two children. She is more matronly now, and she is waiting for Adam to come home. Uncle Seth has the four year old daughter who looks like Dinah, with pale auburn hair, and the little two year old boy with black hair, who looks like Adam. His greatest happiness is being an uncle. Dinah takes Arthur’s watch from her pocket to mark the time.