The Feminist Polarity between Hetty Sorrell and Dinah Morris in George Eliot's Adam Bede
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Throughout Adam Bede the characters of Dinah Morris and Hetty Sorrell are compared and contrasted, albeit sometimes indirectly, both can, at times, represent the Madonna and the harlot. It is not always clear which woman is the harlot and which is the Madonna. Many critics have commented on the exchange in roles and the position of such a woman in pre-Victorian society. Dinah is a pillar of the society, a good hardworking girl who is a credit to the Poyser family, pretty but not beautiful by Hetty's standards. Dinah is unusual in that her vocation goods beyond dairy work, she is a Methodist preacher, this is the only thing frowned upon by some members of the society. On the other hand, Hetty is aesthetically beautiful, but is simple and vain; she views work as something that ruins her hands. The opinion of much of the village is that she is a burden to her aunt and uncle, with dreams above her station.
The story of Adam Bede is a story of polarity and opposition; Eliot critic Dorothea Barrett made this statement:
Rather than a simple opposition of Dinah the Madonna versus Hetty the harlot, we have in `Adam Bede' an opposition of oppositions, a dialectic in which each term is itself a dialectic, Dinah and Hetty are opposites.
This is to say that the polarity can swing back and forth, Hetty is not always a harlot, yet can be considered something of a martyr of this judging pre-Victorian society. Barrett went on to accuse Dinah of acting with `malicious intent' in that she almost forces a confession out of the already exhausted Hetty:
Let us pray, poor sinner: let us fall on our knees again, and pray to the God of all mercy.
It seems that Hetty cannot repent enough for Dinah; it is as though she needs to know how ...
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