The first novel from Eliot in 1859 (although she had published under her own name before that.) Not her most popular; it does have one of her most beloved characters, Adam Bede.
According to The Oxford Companion to English Literature (1967),
"the plot is founded on a story told to George Eliot by her aunt Elizabeth Evans, a Methodist preacher, and the original of Dinah Morris of the novel, of a confession of child-murder, made to her by a girl in prison."
The story's plot follows four characters' rural lives in the fictional community of Hayslope—a rural, pastoral and close-knit community in 1799. The novel revolves around a love triangle between beautiful but thoughtless Hetty Sorrel, Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the young squire who seduces her, Adam Bede, her unacknowledged lover, and Dinah Morris, Hetty's cousin, a fervent Methodist lay preacher.
Adam is a local carpenter, in love with Hetty. She is attracted to Arthur, the local squire's grandson, and falls in love with him. When Adam interrupts a tryst between them, Adam and Arthur fight. Arthur agrees to give up Hetty and leaves Hayslope to return to his militia. After he leaves, Hetty discovers she is pregnant. She agrees to marry Adam but shortly before their marriage, has second thoughts and leaves in search of Arthur. She cannot find him; unwilling to return to the village and shame her family, she delivers her baby anonymously. She kills the child by abandoning it in a field, where it dies of exposure.
She is caught and tried for child murder. She is found guilty and sentenced to hang. When Arthur Donnithorne, on leave from the militia for his grandfather's funeral, hears of her impending execution, he races to the court and has the sentence commuted to transportation.
Ultimately, Adam and Dinah, who gradually becomes aware that she loves the carpenter, marry and live peacefully with his family.
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