Adam Bede: Chapter 36

Book Fifth

Chapter 36: The Journey in Hope
Hetty sets out with her little saved money, with no idea where Windsor is or how long it takes to get there. The coachman tells her Windsor is near London. She despairs and decides to take carriers’ carts and farmer’s wagons because the coach costs too much. On her own now with no knowledge of the big world, she realizes that her whole life has been managed for her, and she remembers her kind uncle and home. Now she can only have a hidden life because of the shame. She thinks Arthur perhaps can shelter her from this. She is proud and afraid of poverty and begging. She walks until tired and then begins to sob. Catching a ride on a cart, she makes it to the next town and gets a room. The clerk at the coach office writes down the stops she has to go through to get to Windsor. She is still a hundred miles away.On the seventh day she reaches Windsor with no money left and is fainting from hunger at the door of the Green Man inn where Arthur is supposed to be. The landlord takes her in and gives her a meal, telling her that Arthur is no longer there, for his regiment left for Ireland. Hetty collapses, and the landlady, seeing she is pregnant but a respectable looking girl, puts her to bed.

Commentary on Chapter 36
Hetty longs to be with someone familiar who will take care of her, for she has been taken care of all her life, and she is frightened and not physically strong. She gets help from strangers because she is pretty and looks in trouble, though she is proud. While suffering makes Adam and Dinah more sympathetic to others, it has the opposite effect on Hetty. She can think of no one’s suffering but her own. She does not think of the baby or Adam or the sorrow of the family she leaves behind. Yet she notices things keenly like a starving person, such as the friendly little spaniel on the road. When her one hope of Arthur is gone, she collapses and has nothing to hold her up. She goes farther and farther away from hope and from a solution, like the slippery slope that Adam mentions in his father’s case: “there’s no slipping up hill” (p. 50) when once you begin the downward path. Hetty is close to the bottom.