George Eliot's Adam Bede: Christian Ethics Without God Essay example

George Eliot's Adam Bede: Christian Ethics Without God Essay example

Length: 2371 words (6.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Research Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview

George Eliot's Adam Bede: Christian Ethics Without God


The greatest recent event -- that "God is dead," that the belief in the Christian God has ceased to be believable -- is... cast[ing] its shadows over Europe. For the few, at lease, whose eyes....are strong and sensitive enough for this spectacle... What must collapse now that this belief has been undermined... [is] our whole European morality.
--Nietzsche, from The Gay Science: Book V (1887)

Dr. Richard Niebuhr writes, in his introduction to Eliot's translation of Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity, that Eliot "sought to retain the ethos of Christianity without its faith, its humanism without its theism." In her first full novel, Adam Bede, Eliot succeeds at doing this. By replacing God's all-seeing eye with a plethora of human eyes, Eliot depicts characters in the close-knit community of Hayslope who don't need God to be good Christians, who can hold their standards without their faith.

Eliot begins with the simplistically Christian notion that God can see everything. Adam, our title hero, sings a tune in chapter one that refers to "God's all-seeing eye," (Eliot 24). Meanwhile, Bessy, a local Hayslope country girl, feels that "Jesus [is] close by looking at her, though she cannot see him" (Eliot 40). According to this model, a person must act morally otherwise God will know through sight and he will punish her. But, Eliot abandons these sorts of references to an all-seeing God by chapter four in favor of a structure that does not require God's eye.

On the most basic level, Eliot is continually describing the physical eyes of her characters, and reminding us of their presence, although she gives up talking about God's eye. Adam's eyes, for instance,...


... middle of paper ...


...f course, this analysis leaves me with a glaring question. Why does Eliot hold onto the morality defined by Christianity after surrendering its God? Why doesn't she re-evaluate that structure as well, rather than holding onto it by transferring authority? Why bother dismissing God if the visible fabric remains static? Perhaps she's being pragmatic -- perhaps she fears anarchy in the wake of a passing God.

Bibliography

Dickens, Charles. "Letter to George Eliot on 10 July 1859," in Ed. David Carroll, The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, (1971).

Eliot, George. Adam Bede. England: Cox and Wyman, 1994.

Ferris, Ina, "Realism and the Discord of Ending: The Example of Thackeray," Nineteenth Century Fiction, 38/3 (1983), 289-303.

Goode, John. "Adam Bede: A Critical Essay," in Ed. Barbara Hardy, Critical Essays on George Eliot, (1970).

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about Eliot and Methodism in Adam Bede

- Eliot and Methodism in Adam Bede     Adam Bede was George Eliot's-pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans-second book and first novel. Eliot was raised in a strict Methodist family. Her friendships with two skeptical philosophers, Charles Bray and Charles Hennell, brought her to challenge and eventually reject her rigid religious upbringing  ("George Eliot" 91). Adam Bede was based on a story told to Eliot by one of her Methodist aunts, a tragicomedy, and the moral of the novel is that man cannot escape the results of his actions (Wiesenfarth 145)....   [tags: Adam Bede]

Research Papers
1078 words (3.1 pages)

Life of George Eliot aka Mary Ann Evans Essay

- George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) lived from 1819 to 1880. She was raised in a very traditional family. Her father was a farmer who managed various estates, and he made certain that his daughter was given a very strict Methodist education. She attended a series of boarding schools where she learned that which was typical for a young lady in the early part of the nineteenth century -- subjects such as French, piano, and handwriting. While at these boarding schools, she frequently turned to fiction as a form of amusement, establishing at an early age the foundation upon which her later novels would be based....   [tags: essays research papers]

Research Papers
621 words (1.8 pages)

Essay about Proper Feminine Beauty in George Eliot's Adam Bede

- Proper Feminine Beauty in George Eliot's Adam Bede Victorian women lived according to strict social conventions, which dictated their actions, emotions, and beliefs. These conventions were often presented in antithetical pairs: private versus public spheres, the angel in the house versus the fallen woman. One of the most complex paradoxes for women to master was that of beauty versus vanity. Society’s rules required a young lady to be attractive, but not provocative; diligent about her appearance, but not overly so; aware of her beauty, and simultaneously unconscious of it....   [tags: George Eliot Adam Bede Essays]

Research Papers
1526 words (4.4 pages)

Essay about Inconsistency in Adam Bede by George Eliot

- Inconsistency in Adam Bede    In George Eliot's Adam Bede, an inconsistency can be found between Dinah's firmly held convictions and her decision to marry. Throughout the story, Eliot presents Dinah as a symbol of divine love who persistently shuns all earthly pleasures of her own for the benefit of those in need. Several passages in the text show that Dinah insists she must follow the path God has chosen for her and prevent her own needs and desires from rising to the surface. Despite her moral protestations, however, Dinah marries Adam in the last few pages of the book....   [tags: Adam Bede Essays]

Research Papers
1866 words (5.3 pages)

The Portrayal of Bertha in "The Lifted Veil" by George Eliot Essays

- The Lifted Veil is a novella written by George Eliot, which was originally published in 1859. The novella fits in well with the typical style of the Victorian era. However, George Eliot’s usual style was realistic, so when The Lifted Veil was written, it was the complete opposite of what was expected from her. The Lifted veil is a good example of horror fiction. It explores a wide variety of different themes, including extra sensory perception, foresight, insight, Victorian stereotypes, marriage and the Victorian ideals of womanhood....   [tags: George Eliot]

Research Papers
2198 words (6.3 pages)

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot Essay

- The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot It is said that George Eliot’s style of writing deals with much realism. Eliot, herself meant by a “realist” to be “an artist who values the truth of observation above the imaginative fancies of writers of “romance” or fashionable melodramatic fiction.” (Ashton 19) This technique is artfully utilized in her writings in a way which human character and relationships are dissected and analyzed. In the novel The Mill on the Floss, Eliot uses the relationships of the protagonist of the story, Miss Maggie Tulliver, as a medium in which to convey various aspects of human social associations....   [tags: Mill Floss George Eliot Essays]

Research Papers
1829 words (5.2 pages)

Essay about George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss

- George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss is a semi-autobiographical novel that traces the development of Maggie Tulliver, a character who finds herself caught in a web of conflict with her family and community as a result of both circumstance and her unique and spirited disposition. The narrative casts Maggie as a tragic heroin as she struggles between impulse and duty to define herself as an individual as “at one time [she] takes pleasure in a sort of perverse self-denial, and at another [she] have not solution to resist a thing that [she] knows to be wrong” (393)....   [tags: George Eliot Mill Floss Essays]

Research Papers
2044 words (5.8 pages)

George Eliot's Silas Marner Essay

- George Eliot's ‘Silas Marner’ The novel, ‘Silas Marner,’ is considered to be a moral fable. The author, George Eliot placed parental responsibility as one of the book’s main themes. She writes of two different parenting styles, along with the happiness and responsibilities that come with this through two characters, Silas Marner and Godfrey Cass. At the beginning of the narrative the character, Silas Marner, is a completely different person from the one he was later to become. The book starts by explaining how Silas Marner left his original home- ‘Marner had departed from the town,’ because of a false accusation that his best friend had made about him....   [tags: George Eliot Silas Marner essays]

Research Papers
2856 words (8.2 pages)

Essay about George Eliot’s The Lifted Veil

- George Eliot’s The Lifted Veil When George Eliot’s gothic story The Lifted Veil appeared in Blackwood’s in 1859, her partner George Henry Lewes was busy publishing his study of human anatomy, The Physiology of Common Life (1859). Intriguingly, this work of Lewes’s contains a brief tale which is as strikingly morbid as Eliot’s own. Unlike her story, his is not fictional — it is a scientific anecdote prefacing a detailed discussion of the respiratory system — but like The Lifted Veil its dark melodrama recommends it as “not a jeu d’esprit, but a jeu de melancolie.”[1] It concerns the case of a suicidal Frenchman, M....   [tags: George Eliot Lifted Veil Essays]

Research Papers
4946 words (14.1 pages)

Essay about Analysis of Silas Marner by George Eliot

- Analysis of Silas Marner by George Eliot At the beginning of the novel Silas says "There is not a just god that governs the Earth righteously, but a god of lies that bares witness against the innocent" At the conclusion of the novel he says "Theres good I' this world I've a feeling o' that now" What makes Silas change his mind, and what are the events leading up to his regeneration. Silas Marner is a novel based on the ups and downs of the main character, Silas and his friends, neighbours and villagers....   [tags: Silas Marner George Eliot Literature Essays]

Research Papers
2462 words (7 pages)