Having committed infanticide, Hetty clams up and shows no remorse, having a severely limited moral and emotional range beyond the capacity for self-pity. As Dinah pleads with her to tell the truth, Hetty says, with unusual self-knowledge, ‘My heart is hard’.
She faces the death sentence and it was the belief of those around her that while she could not save her life, she might save her soul by admitting to her sin. Dinah, by imploring divine intervention, manages to penetrate her carapace of coldness.
‘… breathe upon her thy life-giving spirit, and put a new fear within her – the fear of her sin.’
Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985 (1859)), p. 496