One of the curious things about Hetty is that George Eliot shows her no mercy, and inspires none in us.  Yet she is a limited being in everything except physical gorgeousness, and as a result, you wonder how much she can be held to account for her silliness and superficiality, which later snowballs into amorality and for which she ultimately pays a colossal life-long price.

Yet their author does have the two finest characters in the book, including the one Hetty has most wronged, show her compassion and forgiveness.

‘Yes, the actions of a little trivial soul like Hetty’s, struggling amidst the serious, sad destinies of a human being, are strange.  So are the motions of a little vessel without ballast tossed about on a stormy sea.  How pretty it looked with its particoloued sail in the sunlight, moored in a quiet bay!

‘Let the man bear the loss who loosed it from its moorings.’

But that will not save the vessel – the pretty thing that might have been a life-long joy.’

Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985 (1859)), p. 386

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