Summary of Chapter 23: Dinner-Time
Adam is told he is to sit upstairs in the cloisters at the table with the large tenants rather than with the workmen, and he apologizes to Seth and his mother. Seth says his honor is theirs. Adam has not yet given notice to Jonathan Burge, and he hopes they will not announce his new post before he has a chance to tell Burge. The tenants welcome Adam but argue among themselves who is to sit at the head of the table and give the toast. Bartle Massey settles it, and Mr. Poyser is selected. Hetty sees Mary Burge at the table and purposely flirts with Adam to make Mary jealous. Adam is happy that Hetty smiles at him.
Commentary on Chapter 23
The argument over who is to give the speech is a comic bit, for this is a momentous day for the folk on the Donnithorne estate, and everyone wants to have a share in the glory. Old man Poyser is the oldest, but he is as good natured as his son and always defers everything to the “young uns’” (p. 261). Mr. Casson, as a former butler, thinks he should do the toast as he knows about these things, but Martin Poyser wins out, as he is considered the best tenant on the estate. Adam is uncomfortable with sitting at the head table and does not want the announcement to take place. He is thinking of the feelings of others rather than his own fame. Arthur admits that Adam had to be talked into taking the post.
Hetty, on the other hand, is cross with little Totty for messing up her dress and frowns. Her only concern is how she looks. Adam is charmed with whatever Hetty does and her frowns seem adorable. Hetty wants to display her power to Mary Burge, her supposed rival for Adam, by purposely flirting with Adam. The narrator goes into Mary’s mind to see her reaction. Mary assumes that Adam can see right through Hetty. She believes that he will prefer a good woman.