Summary of Chapter 31: In Hetty’s Bed-Chamber
Hetty waits until bedtime to read Arthur’s letter. He says that it is hard on him, but he must say goodbye to her. They cannot be married because they live in different worlds, so they must part for good. If however, any trouble comes, he will do everything to help her. She can write to the address he encloses. Hetty is taken by surprise, and is devastated. She cries herself to sleep, and the next day she only thinks how she can get away from Hall Farm. She asks her uncle if she can go for a lady’s maid. He says no; he wants to see her well married. Mrs. Poyser thinks the idea of being a lady’s maid came from learning lace-mending and decides to put a stop to it. Hetty begins to think about marrying Adam as an alternative plan; what difference doe it make as long as she can get away?
Commentary on Chapter 31
Hetty’s bubble is burst, and she begins to hate Arthur for it. She wants change if she cannot have what she wants. Hetty is not able to evaluate what Arthur has said in the letter about class differences, nor does she wonder if he loves her or worry that she will miss him. She had imagined a different life, and now it is taken away. She doesn’t seem to care who she marries as long as she can have what she wants. She decides Adam will do as well as any. The narrator and the reader are the only ones who know at this point how “trivial” Hetty’s soul is (p. 340). She is clever enough to hide herself from her family and from Adam, who believes her to be as good as she looks.
Arthur’s letter, however, contains some foreshadowing. He alludes to the fact of future trouble and says that he will help her, if it should come. He gives her an address. This is, at least, responsible on Arthur’s part. His letter sounds affectionate and caring, even if he is backing out of the relationship at a late point, and only because he was forced into it. He does seem to care what happens to Hetty, though not enough, and always belatedly. He does not have the foresight of Adam or Mr. Irwine, though he is far from cruel. Eliot’s point with Arthur seems to be to illustrate how anyone can commit evil, even if basically good. Readers generally identify with good characters. Eliot can make readers uncomfortable by having to identify with the ordinary characters who slip because they are lazy. Who has not looked for an easy way out, or merely got by because everyone else did? She calls her characters and readers to account, for the laws of cause and effect do not excuse anyone.