Dinah Morris as second eve: the fall and redemption in Adam Bede.
Before getting to an analysis of how these two levels of the novel relate to each other, it will first prove helpful to lay some initial groundwork. The first section of the paper, therefore, will look briefly at the novel's use of typology, specifically in its appropriation and development of certain biblical ideas. After this piece is in place, the subsequent section will examine the significance of the names given to some of the main characters in Adam Bede, so as to specify how the scriptural background to these names illumines the characters' roles in the novel. The third section of the article will consider how the work employs the resources mentioned above (i.e., typology and biblical motifs) to offer a unique interpretation of the Fall and its consequences. Finally, the conclusion will demonstrate how Dinah Morris's role in the novel as a Second Eve operates as an apocalyptic in-breaking amidst the suffering of Hayslope's citizens, and as such signals reason for hope in a generally bleak world.
First Adam, Second Eve: Eliot's Typological Imagination
To understand the significance of the biblical material in Adam Bede one must first have a firm grasp on how Eliot employs typology as a literary technique. In an important study on this topic, Jo Ellen Parker argues that Eliot cultivated a typological imagination, in large part, through her encounter with Evangelical religion. (2) As she builds her case for the centrality of typology in Eliot's early novels, Parker offers a helpful explanation of typological interpretation. In her words, "Typological interpretation subverts the common-sense perception of the linear nature of time, for it perceives two or more widely separate historical moments as bound into one timeless instant of prophecy and fulfillment in the mind of God....It perceives all things as existing simultaneously in two realms, the material and the spiritual." (3) Throughout Christian history this mode of interpretation has held a prominent position, but especially so during the Patristic era. (4) Within the tradition of Christian exegesis of scripture, biblical interpreters utilized typology as a way of demonstrating the correspondence between the Old and New Covenants, and also to establish deeper levels of meaning in the events of salvation history. Some of the most famous instances of this method of
interpretation can be found in the Pauline corpus--as for instance, when Paul describes Christ as a Second Adam (I Cor 15:20-22) or when he compares the Israelites' passage through the Red Sea to Christian baptism (I Cor 10:1-5). (5)
Although typological exegesis flagged somewhat during the Middle Ages, it returned to prominence during the post-Reformation era, "as exegesis of the Old Testament [became for Protestants] an issue necessary to daily reading of Scripture." (6) By Eliot's time, typological exegesis was one of the foremost interpretive modes utilized by English Protestants, both low and high church, as the research of George Landow has effectively demonstrated. (7) While the fascination with typology was not limited to any one segment of British Protestantism, it had a particular appeal among Evangelicals, the stream of Christianity with the greatest influence on Eliot's early formation. (8) In 1845, the Scottish theologian Patrick Fairbairn sought to provide some boundaries for this mode of exegesis through the publication of his The Typology of Scripture, a work that eventually went through five editions. For Fairbairn, "types are historical realities (persons, events, or institutions) which by God's appointment embody, and therefore exhibit, the same truths, principles, and relationships as corresponding New Testament realities." (9) Certainly, in Adam Bede Eliot is doing something a bit different--extending typological relationships from scripture into present-day life--but the Evangelical outlook of figures such as Fairbairn likely provided a model for Eliot's employment of this literary technique. (10)
What is notable about the typological framework in Adam Bede is that it draws upon some of the most well-known Christian typologies, but develops these connections along unique, sometimes unorthodox, lines. Although space constraints prevent me from setting forth an elaborate treatment of this issue, a few brief remarks at this point should prove instructive. Within the creative vision of the novel, Adam Bede serves as an antitype of the "First Adam," father of the human race, while Dinah Morris is depicted as a New Eve, that is to say, as an antitype of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (11) Thus, within the novel Adam Bede is presented as a kind of primordial human being: he manifests a deep connection to the earth, sustains himself through manual labor, and displays a surprising amount of innocence, especially in his relation to others. (12) As Peter Hodgson puts it, "Adam is not just the archetypal Englishman but the archetypal human being, an everyman who was something of a plodder but capable of growth and goodness." (13) Moreover, just as Adam in the Garden of Eden is lacking companionship until God fashions Eve, so also Adam Bede does not fully come into his own, so to speak, until after his marriage to Dinah Morris. In this regard, the Genesis account of Adam's union with Eve could just as easily frame Adam Bede's marriage to Dinah: "The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called "woman," for she was taken out of man.' Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen 2:23-24). (14)
Whereas the typological framing of Adam Bede is almost completely rooted in the Genesis narrative, Dinah Morris represents a more complex figure in this regard. On one level, Dinah serves as an antitype of Eve, especially in her relationship to Adam Bede. But in its construal of Dinah's character the novel also creatively appropriates the Christian notion of Mary as a Second Eve. This aspect of the portrait of Dinah particularly stands out in chapter 45, when Dinah visits Hetty Sorrel in prison after Hetty has been sentenced to die for the crime of infanticide. During this scene, Dinah actually sees herself as a vehicle for God's merciful presence, much as in Catholic theology Mary operates as a feminine mediation of Divine love. Along these lines, Dinah promises to stay with Hetty "to the last," (15) and the fact that she accompanies Hetty all the way to the gallows powerfully evokes the classic Catholic image of Our Lady of Sorrows--according to which Mary cooperates in Christ's work on the Cross by suffering with him, as a fulfillment of Simeon's prophecy that "a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also" (Lk 2:3 5).
As an antitype of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dinah becomes for the people around her a vehicle of the divine presence. During her visit to Hetty in prison, Dinah begins to see herself in this light: "[Dinah] did not know how long they sat in that way, but it got darker and darker, till there was only a pale patch of light on the opposite wall: all the rest was darkness. But she felt the Divine presence more and more,--nay, as if she herself were a part of it, and it was the Divine pity that was beating in her heart, and was willing the rescue of this helpless one." (16) Through this divinization of sorts--that is, by achieving union with "the Divine presence"--Dinah reaches the full embodiment of the mediatorial role unwittingly prophesied for her by 'Lisbeth, who at one point mistakes the ministering Dinah for an angel (chap. io). The fourth section of this article will deal at greater length with the import of Dinah's role as a mediator of divine mercy, especially in the way that her character functions in relation to Hetty's significance in the novel.
The Power in a Name:
An Onomatological Analysis of Adam Bede
Another facet of Adam Bede's connection to the first book of the Bible has to do with the way that central characters in the novel bear the names of important figures in the Genesis narrative. In this way, Adam Bede plays on the scriptural background to add texture to the identity of the characters in the novel. For the sake of brevity, I will focus specifically on the figures of Adam, Dinah, and Hetty. As mentioned above, Adam Bede functions in the novel as an antitype of the biblical Adam, the first human being. In Hebrew, Adam is a pun on adamah, the word for "earth" or "land." In other words, Adam might be translated as something like "the earthy one"--one who is made from the dust of the earth and elected by God to be a steward of the land (cf. Gen 1:28-30, 2:7-8). (17) Within the imaginative world of the novel, Adam Bede naturally assumes such a role. Further heightening the biblical resonance of Adam Bede's name is the portrayal of Hayslope, where Adam lives, as a kind of Garden of Eden. Against the backdrop of the first Industrial Revolution, the novel depicts Hayslope as a rural paradise, almost as existing in a prelapsarian state in its pristine beauty. Near the beginning of the novel, the reader receives a glimpse of Hayslope's Edenic glory, as viewed through the gaze of a traveling stranger:
Then came the valley, where the woods grew thicker, as if they had rolled down and hurried together from the patches left smooth on the slope, that they might take the better care of the tall mansion which lifted its parapets, and sent its faint blue summer smoke among them. Doubtless there was a large sweep of park and a broad glassy pool in front of that mansion, but the swelling slope of meadow would not let our traveler see them from the village Green. He saw instead a foreground which was just as lovely--the level sunlight lying like transparent gold among the gently-curving stems of the feathered grass and the tall red sorrel, and the white umbels of the hemlocks lining the bushy hedgerows. It was that moment in summer when the sound of the scythe being whetted makes us cast more lingering looks at the flower-sprinkled tresses of the meadows. (18)
By situating Adam within this sumptuous natural landscape, the story reinforces the typological schema of Adam Bede as the archetypal human being. The paradisiacal setting suggestively complements Adam Bede's native innocence, and hints that the plot to follow will involve a reimagining of the creation-Fall story of the Genesis account.
Dinah Morris presents an interesting case study in this whole discussion, because, as previously suggested, her closest parallel in the Bible is Mary, particularly in her typological function as the Second Eve. Without in any way diminishing the significance of the Dinah-Mary connection, it seems equally clear that Dinah's character stands in relationship to the obscure Old Testament matriarch of the same name. In the Genesis account, Dinah is the daughter of the patriarch Jacob, born to Jacob's first wife, Leah (Gen 30:21). Notably, in the Hebrew, Dinah means both "judged" and "vindicated." (19) This name, then, is deeply appropriate for Dinah Morris, for she is both judged by the inhabitants of Hayslope for transgressing gender boundaries, but also vindicated by the novel's sympathetic portrayal of her perseverance in the face of such cultural obstacles.
The only scriptural story about Dinah's life is found in Genesis 34--commonly subtitled "The Rape of Dinah." At the start of this account, Dinah goes out to visit "the women of the land" (34:1). When Shechem, a Hivite and "the prince of the country," sees her, he seizes her and forcibly has sex with her (34:2). After violating Dinah, Shechem realizes that he loves the maiden and asks his father, Hamor, to secure Dinah as his (Shechem's) wife (34:3-4). Dinah's brothers, furious at Shechem's treatment of their sister, will have none of it. Deceptively, they arrange for Dinah to be given in marriage to Shechem on one condition: that Hamor, Shechem, and all of the Hivite men be circumcised according to the Abrahamic custom. On the third day after the circumcision rite, while the Hivite men are still sore, two of Jacob's sons--Simeon and Levi--enter the Hivite city, put to death all of the men residing there, and "plunder the city, because their sister had been defiled" (34:27). The narrative ends on an ambivalent note, however. Rather than praising Simeon and Levi for upholding Dinah's honor, their father Jacob chastises them for bringing trouble to his household by making it "odious to the inhabitants of the land" (34:30). In response to their father's rebuke, the brothers rhetorically ask, "Should he treat our sister as a harlot?"--at which point, the narrative abruptly ends.
This somewhat enigmatic tale of rape, deception, and revenge helps to inform our understanding of Dinah Morris's character. Like the biblical Dinah, the Dinah of Adam Bede represents a threat to the stability of the existing social order through her transgression of gender and cultural norms. In the Genesis narrative, Dinah's actions are dangerous, because her relationship with the inhabitants of the land opens up the possibility that the purity of the Abrahamic line will be compromised. Moreover, according to the cultural standards of the Ancient Near East, Dinah is safe as long as she remains in the household. By leaving the confines of her dwelling place, Dinah both runs the risk of being harmed and also becomes a source of temptation to the men of the land. (20)
Similar dynamics are at work in the life of Dinah Morris. By assuming the mantle of a preacher, Dinah contravenes a traditional norm of Christian culture--a step that some of the figures in Hayslope see as a threat to social stability. (21) Also, as in the case of the Dinah of Genesis, Dinah Morris's femininity, at least if not properly guarded, operates as a potentially destabilizing force within the broader cultural makeup. Although Dinah is not as strikingly beautiful as Hetty, the narrator describes Dinah as an attractive woman who naturally stirs the desires of men. In chapter 2, "The Preaching," Wiry Ben remarks: "Ay, an' she's a pleasant-looked 'un too...I'll stick up for the pretty women preachin'; I know they'd persuade me over a deal sooner nor th' ugly men." (22) Meanwhile, Rev. Irwine asks Dinah if she ever feels "any embarrassment from the sense of your youth--that you are a lovely young woman on whom men's eyes are fixed." (23) Significantly, in both Genesis 34 and also in Adam Bede men intervene to "protect" a vulnerable female, thus restoring the order that had been undermined by the transgression of cultural boundaries. While a shallow reading of these texts could see this progression (order leading to chaos leading to restoration) as the only dynamic at work, there also seems to be an ironic subtext in both narratives, in that the maintenance of social order comes at the cost of the full equality and independence of women.
The novel further dramatizes the plight of women living in a patriarchal society through the storyline of Hetty Sorrel. Whereas Dinah represents the Second Eve, Hetty epitomizes the First. Like humanity's primordial Mother, Hetty "yields to temptation in a grove," (24) and by doing so sets off a long chain of tragic events. Furthermore, as in the biblical account of the Fall, the transgressive female receives no assistance from her male counterpart, Adam, who demonstrates an embarrassing lack of awareness about the seriousness of the circumstances and, thus, fails to intervene at the crucial moment. Adam Bede's narration of "the Fall" also follows Genesis in using the symbolism of a tree--the beech that mesmerizes Adam-as a crucial prop in this drama. The beech is, in a way, Adam's own "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen 2:17). After his fixation on the tree is broken by the image of Hetty and Arthur caught in an embrace, Adam has his crucial epiphany: "He understood it all now--the locket, and everything else that had been doubtful to him: a terrible scorching light showed him the hidden letters that changed the meaning of the past." (25) In this idyllic garden, at the moment of the novel's fall, Adam--the archetypal human being--moves from innocence to a full awareness of good and evil; life in Hayslope will never be the same.
As in the case of the Genesis account, the reader is left to wonder whether men equally bear the burden of the curse that results from the Fall. In Genesis, God declares that the ground will no longer easily bear its fruit and that the man will now earn his food by the sweat of his brow (Gen 3:17-19). But, throughout human history, women have suffered just as much from the difficulty of gathering sufficient food for nourishment. Meanwhile, in addition to the curse of the land, women suffer increased pain in childbearing after the Fall and are also put in subjection to their husbands (Gen 3:16). If Hetty truly does serve as a figural embodiment of the First Eve, then she appropriately bears the last name Sorrel, which means "bitterness"--and "is the name of a bitter herb such as the Israelites were to eat at Passover to remind them of the bitterness of their captivity and desert wandering." (26) More than any of the male characters in the novel Hetty suffers terribly "the curse of the Fall," even though the central male characters, particularly Arthur, are arguably just as culpable. In this way, Hetty's life, like Eve's, becomes paradigmatic for the cursed existence that all women must bear in a world dominated by men.
"Your Desire Shall be for Your Husband": The Nature of the Fall in Adam Bede
With Eliot's typological schema in view, as well as the biblical background to some of the main characters' names, it is now possible to offer some tentative hermeneutical conclusions regarding Adam Bede. In a 1968 study of the work, U. C. Knoepflmacher suggests that Eliot draws in significant ways upon a Miltonian vision of the Fall and redemption, while infusing this vision with emphases unique to her religious perspective. According to Knoepflmacher, "In its attempt to justify man's banishment to a temporal world, George Eliot's first full-length novel reveals her highly imaginative appropriation of Paradise Lost for her own philosophical purposes." (27) As with the present study, Knoepflmacher draws numerous connections from Adam Bede to the Genesis narrative, noting (among other things) how "Adam's life with a second Eve allows him to become a Loamshire patriarch whose children will be fruitful and multiply." (28) These remarks by Knoepflmacher help to bring into focus some of the key elements at work in Eliot's reimagining of the Fall.
From Knoepflmacher's vantage point, Adam Bede--like the Genesis narrative--incorporates an expulsion from paradise as a consequence of human sinfulness: Whereas "Dinah joins Adam in the fertile valley where she will bear his children, Hetty and Arthur ... must thread their solitary way outside of Eden." (29) Knoepflmacher's reading, then, directly identifies the Fall with Arthur and Hetty's illicit relationship; their punishment is banishment from the fertile valley of Loamshire. While this thesis is suggestive, it does not capture the full scope of Adam Bede's reimagining of the Fall. Although the garden scene in which Adam discovers Hetty's relationship with Arthur serves as an iconic representation of humanity's fall into sin, some elements in the novel give the impression that the Fall took place at some undefined point in the distant past. At the beginning of the story, for instance, even though Loamshire retains an Edenlike state, the world outside of it seems already fallen. As the narrator describes the landscape, "That rich undulating district of Loamshire to which Hayslope belonged, lies close to a grim outskirt of Stonyshire"--"a bleak treeless region, intersected by lines of cold grey stone."30 In this same section, the narrator also notes the existence of "huge conical masses of hill, like giant mounds intended to fortify this region of corn and grass against the keen and hungry winds of the north."31 Even if all is well (at least on the surface) in idyllic Hayslope, the peacefulness of this rural paradise may exist only because it remains fortified from certain ominous developments that are brewing outside of its confines, in a world not quite so Edenic.
Alongside the indications that the world outside of Loamshire already bears the effects of the Fall, as the novel progresses the reader gets the sense that not all is well in Hayslope either. Within the narrative, sexuality does not stand unambiguously as one of God's good gifts to humanity, but, instead, fosters mimetic conflict and perpetuates the inequality between men and women (e.g., the violent dispute between Adam and Arthur centered on their mutual desire for Hetty). (32) Although she is no more complicit than Arthur Donnithorne, Hetty suffers much more as a result of their relationship. After Hetty conceives a child, Arthur, because of the privileges afforded to him as an aristocratic male, maintains his autonomy and social status, while Hetty is imprisoned, sentenced to death, and, even after her reprieve, never experiences incorporation back into society.
Moreover, the novel depicts a great deal of enmity between various individuals and groups in the story. First, there is enmity between children and parents, most notably in Adam's relationship with both his mother and father. A similar kind of enmity exists between members of different social classes: besides the incongruity of Arthur's relationship with Hetty, note also the Poysers' anxiety around having their property taken from them by a member of a higher class. (33) Perhaps most significantly in terms of the focus of this study, Adam Bede portrays deep-seated enmity between men and women. When Bartle Massey unleashes a misogynistic tirade, the reader wonders how characteristic his viewpoint is among the men of Hayslope:
Don't tell me about God having made such creatures to be companions for us! I don't say but He might make Eve to be a companion to Adam in paradise--there was no cooking to be spoilt there, and no other woman to cackle with and make mischief; though you see what mischief she did as soon as she'd an opportunity. But it's an impious, unscriptural opinion to say a woman's a blessing to a man now; you might as well say adders and wasps, and bugs and wild beasts, are a blessing, when they're only the evils that belong to this state o' probation, which it's lawful for a man to keep as clear of as he can in this life, hoping get quit of 'em forever in another. (34)
Even if Bartle's opinions are not representative of Hayslope men as a whole, the fact that he can voice them without resistance from Adam indicates that his outlook does not exist simply on the fringes of society. All of these factors contribute to the sense that even if Hayslope looks Edenic on the surface, appearances may be deceiving, in that it too suffers from the impact of some primeval fall.
If the consequences of the Fall are stark and enduring, however, the hope for redemption in Adam Bede appears tenuous, at best. On the one hand, Dinah's marriage to Adam constitutes the answer, or resolution, to Hayslope's fallen state. Just as in Genesis Adam's existential solitude is healed by the creation of Eve, so also Adam Bede's surprising discovery of his love for Dinah serves as a salve for his restlessness and heartache. Since "it is not good that the man should be alone," God provides "a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18). On the other hand, this resolution appears highly unsatisfactory at a number of levels. Just as in Genesis the loving union of man and woman is marred by the reality of sin, so also in Adam Bede the fallenness of human existence means that even something like marriage--which is ideally intended to promote the mutual cooperation and growth in virtue of a husband and wife--can be a tool of patriarchy and, thus, a perpetuator of inequality. Most tellingly, by the novel's end, Dinah has been forced out of her preaching ministry and settles into the roles of mother and housekeeper. Notably, the reader never hears Dinah voice her opinion on the Methodists changing their discipline to exclude female preachers; instead, Adam speaks for his wife, telling Seth that Dinah has seen the wisdom in the change and "thought it right to set th' example o' submitting." (35) One of the last pictures given of Dinah, then, is of this once independent woman expectantly waiting for Adam to return home after a long day's work--much like 'Lisbeth used to long for the return of her oldest son. (36) This resolution is an ambivalent one indeed: marriage helps to ease the burden of the Fall, but it does so at a greater cost to women than to men. Hauntingly, the prophecy of Genesis 3:16 rings true: "To the woman [God] said, 'I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'"
Dinah's Mediation of the Divine:
Apocalyptic Irruption and the Hope for Redemption
Given the basic contours of Dinah's romance with Adam, it seems like Adam Bede offers very little reason (for women, especially) to hope for redemption from the fallen state of social relations. Feminist commentators, in particular, have expressed disappointment with the conclusion to the novel, charging Eliot with denying to Dinah Morris the kind of liberation that Eliot achieved in her own life. (37) For example, Kate Millett writes: "'Living in sin', George Eliot lived the revolution as well perhaps, but she did not write of it. She is stuck with the Ruskinian service ethic and the pervasive Victorian fantasy of the good woman who goes down into Samaria and rescues the fallen man--nurse, guide, mother, adjunct of the race." (38) Dinah's marriage to Adam, her transition from a charismatic Methodist preacher to a homebound mother, appears to support Millett's argument. Regardless of any irony at work in the narration of these events, it remains difficult to see how Dinah's renunciation of her ministry and acquiescence to the life of a homemaker constitutes any real liberation. Dinah, in spite of her personal strength and charisma, does not remain free from the impact of patriarchal structures: life after the Fall is bitter indeed.
The tragic direction of Hetty Sorrel's life arguably reinforces this motif. On one level, the representation of Hetty is harsh and unforgiving. As William Myers points out, "Hetty is pathologically deficient in that instinctive sympathy with the world which Positivists associated with the fetishism of primitive experience ... Having nothing divine in her nature, she worships only surfaces, appearance, possessions." (39) Hetty, Myers goes on to write, in her unwavering narcissism is "virtually psychopathic." (40) On another level, however, the narrative paints Hetty as a tragic figure, whose level of suffering is in no way reciprocal to the guilt of her actions. (41) While Arthur and Hetty are equally culpable in their violation of Hayslope's moral code, Hetty pays a far greater price following the discovery of their relationship. The narrative draws attention to this injustice by setting forth characters such as Adam and Dinah as "witnesses" on Hetty's behalf. When Adam first hears of the charges against Hetty, for instance, he passionately comes to her defense by laying responsibility at Arthur's feet: "'It's his doing,' [Adam] said; 'if there's been any crime, it's at his door, not at hers. He taught her to deceive--he deceived me first. Let 'em put him on trial ... Is he to go free, while they lay all the punishment on her ... so weak and young?'" (42) Beneath the protests of Adam one can hear the narrator (or, Eliot herself?) coming to the defense of Hetty. Without denying moral agency to Hetty altogether, the storyline highlights the fact that much of what Hetty suffers is the result of an unjust social order that constrains women and vilifies female sexuality. Dorothea Barrett even goes so far as to describe Hetty as a "Christ figure, an icon of extreme suffering" in whose life readers can view an image of the via dolorosa that all women must traverse. (43)
Faced with this representation, the critic might legitimately ask, what kind of redemption, if any, does the moral vision in Adam Bede represent? Even if the novel destabilizes the notion of Hetty's guilt, does not the image of a "crucified Hetty" serve to pin women on the cross for the iniquities and injustices of the entire human race? Overall, Adam Bede resists offering simplistic answers. Set against the backdrop of Hetty's immense suffering, the novel pinpoints the theodical problem, but refuses to resolve it: "Such things [as a young girl weeping] are sometimes hidden among the sunny fields and behind the blossoming orchards; and the sound of the gurgling brook, if you came close to one spot behind a small bush, would be mingled for your ear with a despairing human sob. No wonder man's religion has much sorrow in it: no wonder he needs a suffering God." (44)
Humanity, at least in the Christian West, has consistently been drawn to the vision of a suffering God, the narrator suggests, because of the intensity of the suffering that we must endure, and because of the mystery of such suffering in light of the striking beauty and awe-inspiring majesty of the natural world. By juxtaposing the tragic story of Hetty's life with the rustic splendor of rural England, the narrative confronts the reader with the moral dilemma encapsulated in "the agony of the Cross." (45)
Considering these features of the novel, Knoepflmacher argues that Adam Bede ultimately proffers no hope for redemption: "George Eliot's stark retelling of Paradise Lost contains no angelic visitations or promises of divine redemption." (46) Taking into account the full range of the novel's moral vision, though, Knoepflmacher's far-reaching statement fails to do justice to the nuances of the story. The key scene in the narrative for discerning the source of redemption is Dinah's visit to Hetty in prison. Even though by novel's end Dinah has effectively been silenced and confined, (47) when she visits Hetty in prison Dinah achieves a striking mode of transcendence--a transcendence that cannot be denied to women even by the patriarchal constraints of Victorian culture. As discussed above, within Adam Bede Dinah functions as a Second Eve, that is, as an antitype of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In narrating Dinah's visit to Hetty in prison, the text highlights this typology. In her role as "the mediatrix of a divine redemptive presence," (48) Dinah offers to Hetty the most potent form of comfort available to one who is suffering: the comfort of another human being. Into the experience of Hetty's suffering, Dinah speaks the mercy of God: "See, Lord--I bring her, as they of old brought the sick and helpless, and thou didst heal them: I bear her on my arms and carry her before thee ... Come, mighty Saviour! Let the dead hear thy voice; let the eyes of the blind be opened; let her see that God encompasses her." (49) Through her mediation of grace, Dinah conveys to Hetty that "deep, unspeakable suffering," when endured with the right disposition, may well lead to "a baptism, a regeneration, the initiation into a new state." (50)
The depiction of Dinah as an antitype of the Blessed Virgin Mary is fascinating considering the fact that Adam Bede was written during a century that saw an upsurge in the number and frequency of Marian apparitions. (51) Adding to the apocalyptic ethos of the novel is the fact that Eliot sets her story at the turn of the nineteenth century. (52) From Daniel Siegel's perspective, the apocalyptic undertones of the narrative subvert the comfortable pattern of Dinah's marriage to Adam, establishing a "dialectical pattern of disruption and integration." (53) According to this schema, Dinah's transcendence in the prison scene disrupts the otherwise safe pattern of female submission to male authority: not even the constraints of patriarchy can prevent the apotheosis of the novel's strongest female character. Obviously, this construal of redemption will strike many feminist critics as unsatisfactory, but it does call into question Knoepflmacher's contention that Adam Bede "contains no ... promises of divine redemption." Certainly, within the framework of Adam Bede, divine sympathy is necessarily mediated through human love, but one gets the sense that, in the final analysis, humanity has warrant for believing that the love we experience in our human relationships has as its foundation a transcendent source.
According to the line of interpretation advanced in this article, the key sections in the novel are Dinah's visit to Hetty in prison and the striking image of "the agony of the Cross" in chapter 35, united as they are by the narrator's reflection about how it's no wonder that humanity needs "a Suffering God." (54) In his commentary on this central motif within the novel, Hodgson remarks: "We not only need a suffering God; we also find such a God, as Dinah testifies. Implicit in George Eliot's idea of God is the Hegelian conviction that love, sympathy, and suffering even unto death are not illusory projections of human qualities into God but qualities that inhere in the divine life itself. That the suffering God (the divine pathos) is apprehended in the modality of feeling (itself a pathos, an affective as opposed to a cognitive form of knowing) does not diminish but rather enhances the reality of such a God." (55)
Here, Hodgson powerfully captures a tension at the heart of Adam Bede's depiction of the world. From a certain vantage point, God seems completely absent from the uniform operations of the mechanistic natural order, such that human beings are at the mercy of the unforgiving consequences of their actions. As Hodgson puts it, "Adam Bede teaches this hard truth: deeds cannot be revoked, and the agents of deeds must live with the consequences of their actions." (56) Yet, this truth does not tell the whole story, for, from another perspective, the hope for redemption can never be quenched by the reality of suffering. In fact, redemption is achieved specifically in the moment of suffering, by the way in which one human being becomes for another an embodiment of the living Christ--the one who suffers on behalf of the other. We ought not to view this redemption, however, as some imagined hope relegated to the distant future; rather, redemption represents a possibility in the here and now--one that can be experienced in the everyday complexity of human relationships.
If Hetty is an icon of the suffering Christ, as Barrett suggests, then Dinah is her Blessed Mother, and in accompanying Hetty to her own "cross" Dinah becomes for the novel's readers an icon of Our Lady of Sorrows. Significantly, this role is not foisted on Dinah, but is one that she freely chooses. Thus, toward the end of the novel she confesses that she sometimes wishes that she could bear "all the anguish of the children of men," so that she might "shar[e] the Redeemer's cross." (57) Empathic love, she believes, participates in divine love, for "infinite love is suffering too--yea, in the fullness of knowledge it suffers, it yearns, it mourns; and that is a blind self-seeking which wants to be freed from the sorrow wherewith the whole creation groaneth and travaileth." (58) This startling spiritual vision subverts the conservative character of the main plotline, in which women truly are silenced by the patriarchal nature of the existing social order. Via her mediation of divine sympathy, Dinah experiences a level of agency denied to her both in her church community and also in her marriage. At the novel's end, Dinah is "effectively silenced," (59) but this silence cannot undo the legacy of her ministry as a preacher and pastor. When the work is viewed as a whole, the image of Dinah as an antitype of Mary outshines the image of her as a doting wife.
Admittedly, my analysis has followed a circuitous course. This course was necessary, however, since one cannot adequately comprehend the representation of Dinah as an antitype of the Blessed Virgin Mary without first having in view the biblical and theological background to this image, especially the Genesis material concerning humanity's origins and the Fall. When viewed through the lens of the Genesis account, one begins to understand how Mary, the Mother of Jesus, undoes the sin of Eve, thus making possible a new beginning for humanity. Through her "yes" to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary transcends the circumstances wrought by the sin of our original parents. In a similar vein, Dinah Morris, as "the mediatrix of a divine redemptive presence," (60) transcends her own circumstances, and through her ministry to Hetty displays a mode of redemption that remains available amidst the harsh reality of human suffering. In this respect, the novel hints at the possibility for liberation, even if the reader must look past a more conservative and stabilizing plot line to locate it. At the very least, it's safe to conclude that Adam Bede does not baptize the silencing of women that takes place in the novel. While Dinah's loss of her preaching voice comes as somewhat of a shock, this rather formulaic ending cannot obscure the grander status she achieves in her role as mediatrix. Ultimately, the lasting impression of Adam Bede is the divinized Dinah who rises above the limitations of a patriarchal society and, in so doing, helps to redeem a fallen world.
Eliot continued to explore these themes in her later novels. In The Mill on the Floss, for example, Maggie Tulliver receives a bag of books as a gift from a childhood friend, Bob Jakin. One of the titles is Thomas a Kempis's De Imitatione Christi. Maggie summarizes the insights that she gleaned from the book in the following terms: "Know that love of yourself hurts you more than anything in this world. If you seek your own will and pleasure, you will never be free from care; seek rather the Cross and follow it. Blessed are those who hear the whispers of the divine voice and listen not to the whisperings of the world. Hearken to the truth that teaches inwardly and tells the one thing necessary: go wholly out of yourself, retain nothing of self-love, resign yourself, and you shall find inward peace." (61)
Those who embrace self-renunciation, after the pattern of the Madonna, become living vehicles of divine love to the persons around them. They imitate Christ, who first learned to love from the example of his Mother. After Dinah Morris, Romola de'Bardi constitutes the most explicit embodiment of Marian love within Eliot's novels. (62) Romola, in fact, comes to be referred to as "Madonna Romola." (63) In her regular acts of service to the poor, helpless children flock to her and exuberantly cry out, "The Holy Virgin be praised!" "The Mother of God has had pity on us!" "Bless you, Madonna! Bless you!"64 These examples, as well as Dinah Morris's ministry in Adam Bede, demonstrate that for Eliot the Blessed Virgin Mary represents one of the preeminent icons of pure love. Those who model themselves after the Holy Virgin are able to enter into the suffering of others and, through their selflessness, to mediate graces that would otherwise be lacking in the often harsh reality of everyday human existence. The intimate relationship between Blessed Mothers and their spiritual children may be the most potent experience of divine love we are granted this side of death. "For now we see through a glass, darkly" (I Cor 13:12); whether we shall someday see "face-to-face" remains in Eliot's novels, as in life itself, a mystery.
(1.) Ina Taylor provides a helpful overview of Eliot's turn to agnosticism and the ensuing conflict with her father in chapter 4 of A Woman of Contradictions: The Life of George Eliot (New York: William Morrow, 1989), 34-45.
(2.) Jo Ellen Parker, "A lesson in reading: George Eliot and the typological imagination," in Through a Glass Darkly: Essays in the Religious Imagination, ed. John C. Hawley (New York: Fordham UP, 1996), 105.
(3.) Ibid., 104.
(4.) A classic study of this topic is Henri de Lubac, "Typologie et allegorisme," Recherches de science religieuse 37 (1947): 180-226. See Marie Anne Mayeski, "Catholic Theology and the History of Exegesis," Theological Studies 62, no. 1 (March 1, 2001): 140-53.
(5.) On this point as well, Parker proves helpful, even though she overlooks the use of typology within scripture itself. She writes: "Typology is a method of biblical hermeneutics, originating in the commentaries of the early Fathers of the Church, which assumes a complex and indissoluble relationship between the Old Testament and the New, a relationship best understood as a web of correspondences. Old Testament persons or events, viewed as 'types,' are interpreted as figures or images of New Testament persons or events, their 'antitypes,' which in turn figure or image some person or event in the kingdom of heaven." See Parker, "A lesson in reading," 105.
(6.) Earl Miner, "Afterword," Literary Uses of Typology from the Late Middle Ages to the Present (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977), 389.
(7.) George P. Landow, Victorian Types,Victorian Shadows: Biblical Typology in Victorian Literature, Art, and Thought (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), 13-63. For the use of typological interpretation within Tractarian writings, see Jerome Bump, "The Victorian radicals: Time, typology, and ontology in Hopkins, Pusey, and Muller," in Victorian Religious Discourse: New Directions in Criticism, ed. Jude V Nixon (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 33-43.
(8.) See Parker, Through a Glass Darkly, 104-105. See Landow, Victorian Types, 15-22.
(9.) This summary of Fairbairn's outlook comes from John H. Stek, "Biblical Typology Yesterday and Today," Calvin Theological Journal 5, no. 2 (Nov. 1970): i38.
(10.) Significantly, unlike some of his contemporaries, Fairbairn did not "limit typology
to those elements in the Old Testament on which the New Testament writers explicitly drew for analogies" (Stek, 134-35), thus modeling a certain level of imaginative flexibility in the use of this interpretive mode.
(11.) In Our Lady of Victorian Feminism, Kimberly VanEsveld Adams provides some fascinating background to Eliot's inspiration for Dinah's character, including a section on how Eliot's portrait of Dinah bears striking similarities to the physical description of the Virgin Mary--attributed to the fourth-century theologian Epiphanius-that Anna James records in her Legends of the Madonna as Represented in the Fine Arts (1864). See Adams, Our Lady of Victorian Feminism: The Madonna in the Work of Anna Jameson, Margaret Fuller, and George Eliot (Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2ooi), 156-57.
(12.) In terms of Adam's work ethic and purity of conscience, see Adam Bede (1859), book I, chap. 1, 10-12. Adam's innocence is further indicated by his prolonged unawareness of the nature of Arthur and Hetty's relationship. All references to Adam Bede are from the Oxford World's Classics edition, ed. Carol A. Martin (New York: Oxford UP, 2008).
(13.) Peter C. Hodgson, Theology in the Fiction of George Eliot: The Mystery Beneath the Real (London: SCM Press, 2001), 47.
(14.) All scripture citations are from the King James Version, the most commonly used vernacular translation of the Victorian period. See the concluding paragraph of Adam Bede, book VI, chap. 54, 475.
(15.) Adam Bede, book V, chap. 45, 402.
(17.) See Harold Bloom, The Book of J (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990), 176: "Adam is fashioned out of the adamah, or red clay, as a tribute to the earth, and so as a tribute to humankind. There is no 'Fall' for J, as we are about to see, because for J there is nothing fallen about nature, earthly or human." In his influential commentary, The Pentateuch as Narrative, John Sailhamer prefers the translation "land" instead of "earth" for adamah, arguing that "from the start the author betrays his interest in the covenant by concentrating on the land in the account of creation." See Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 82.
(18.) Adam Bede, book I, chap. 2, 17. The explanatory note in the Oxford edition comments (501): "white umbels: a cluster of flowers whose stalks spring from the same plant. Both this and 'feathered grass' suggest the luxuriance of the Loamshire landscape." Loamshire is the district to which Hayslope belonged.
(19.) See The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, 7th ed., ed. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003), 192.
(20.) Ronald R. Clark, Jr., fleshes out the historical context to this story, including why Dinah's actions transgress cultural boundaries, in "The Silence in Dinah's Cry," Restoration Quarterly 49, no. 3 (Jan. 2007): 146-47.
(21.) See, for example, the traveling stranger's comment in book I, chap. 2, 21: "'A sweet woman,' the stranger said to himself, 'but surely nature never meant her for a preacher'" (21).
(22.) Adam Bede, book I, chap. 2, 19-20.
(23.) Ibid., book I, chap. 8, 82.
(24.) Anna K. Nardo, George Eliot's Dialogue with John Milton (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2003), 138.
(25.) Adam Bede, book IV, chap. 27, 268.
(26.) Mary Wilson Carpenter, George Eliot and the Landscape of Time: Narrative Form and Protestant Apocalyptic History (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 4i.
(27.) U. C. Knoepflmacher, George Eliot's Early Novels: The Limits of Realism (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1968), 91. See Marshall on Eliot's use of an excerpt from William Wordsworth's The Excursion for her epigraph, thus locating Adam Bede within a literary tradition from Milton to Wordsworth that sought to offer a revisionist reading of human origins and theodicy. See Marshall, "Approach to Paradise," 1 .
(28.) Knoepflmacher, George Eliot's Early Novels, 91.
(30.) Adam Bede, book I, chap. 2, 16.
(32.) On mimetic desire in general, see Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1979), 143-68.
(33.) Adam Bede, "Mrs. Poyser 'Has Her Say Out,'" book IV, chap. 32, 307-21.
(34.) Ibid., book II, chap. 21, 217-18.
(35.) Ibid., Epilogue, 481.
(36.) A connection that Seth points out to Dinah: "'Trust thee for catching sight of him if he's anywhere to be seen,' said Seth, smiling. 'Thee't like poor mother used to be. She was always on the look-out for Adam, and could see him sooner than other folks, for all her eyes got dim.'" Ibid., Epilogue, 480.
(37.) Gillian Beer offers a helpful overview of the debates about Eliot's writings among feminist literary critics. See Beer, George Eliot, Key Women Writers, ed. Sue Roe (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1986), 1-29.
(38.) Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (London: Abacus, 1972), 139.
(39.) William Myers, The Teaching of George Eliot (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1984), 31.
(40.) Ibid. See the analysis of David Carroll, who describes Dinah and Hetty as "opposite moral poles." See Carroll, George Eliot and the Conflict of Interpretations: A Reading of the Novels (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1992), 76.
(41.) Steven Dillon concurs: "That the narrative condemns Hetty to death suggests ... that there is no simple understanding of Eliotic narcissism; the discipline is excessive." See Dillon, "George Eliot and the Feminine Gift," Studies in English Literature 32, no. 4 (Autumn 1992): 709.
(42.) Adam Bede, book V, chap. 39, 367. Emphasis in the original.
(43.) Dorothea Barrett, Vocation and Desire: George Eliot's Heroines (London: Routledge, 1989 51.
(44.) Adam Bede, book IV, chap. 35, 327.
(46.) U. C. Knoepflmacher, Religious Humanism and the Victorian Novel: George Eliot, Walter Rater, and Samuel Butler (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1965), 34.
(47.) Nancy Anne Marck traces out some of the critical response to Dinah being "effectively 'silenced' by the final chapters." See Marck, "Narrative Transference and Female Narcissism: The Social Message of Adam Bede," Studies in the Novel 35, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 462.
(48.) Peter C. Hodgson, Theology in the Fiction of George Eliot, 52.
(49.) Adam Bede, book V, chap. 45, 404-05.
(50.) Ibid, 382.
(51.) While nineteenth-century Evangelicals would have been skeptical of the validity of such apparitions, and suspicious in general of Catholic devotion to Mary, George Eliot exhibited a healthy interest in Roman Catholic spirituality throughout her adult years. We know from her letters, for instance, that Eliot occasionally attended Catholic masses, especially when spending time on the continent. See Hodgson, Theology in the Fiction of George Eliot, 27. For an emblematic Anglican critique of Roman Catholic Mariology and its attendant devotions, see Edward Bouverie Pusey, First Letter to the Very Rev. J. H. Newman: In Explanation, Chiefly in Regard to the Reverential Love Due to the Ever-Blessed Theotokos, and the Doctrine of her Immaculate Conception (London: Rivingtons, 1869).
(52.) For a fascinating exploration of how Adam Bedes historical setting illumines Eliot's philosophy of history, see Carpenter, George Eliot and the Landscape of Time, 30-53.
(53.) Daniel Siegel, "Preacher's Vigil, Landlord's Watch: Charity by the Clock in Adam Bede," Novel 39, no. 1 (2005): 67.
(54.) Adam Bede, book IV, chap. 37, 327.
(55.) Hodgson, Theology in the Fiction of George Eliot, 58.
(56.) Ibid., 61.
(57.) Adam Bede, book IV, chap. 30, 296.
(59.) Marck, "NARRATIVE TRANSFERENCE and Female Narcissism," 462.
(60.) Hodgson, Theology in the Fiction of George Eliot, 52.
(61.) George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860), ed. A. S. Byatt (London: Penguin Books, 1979), book IV, chap. 3, 382-83.
(62.) Hodgson, Theology in the Fiction of George Eliot, 91.
(63.) George Eliot, Romola (1862-63), ed. Dorothea Barrett (London: Penguin Books, 1996), chap. 43, 377.
(64.) Ibid., chap. 44, 387.
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|Publication:||Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2014|
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