Summary of Chapter 6: The Hall Farm
The Hall Farm where the Poysers live, tenants of old Squire Donnithorne, is run down but immaculately run, a model farm in Loamshire. It is lazy summertime, and the animals and children are roaming around the place, while the workers are busy. Pretty Hetty Sorrel is churning butter in the dairy but looks at herself in the mirror when her aunt is not looking. Mrs. Poyser is a sharp-tongued and good-looking farm wife with three children and her nieces, Hetty and Dinah, staying with her. Mrs. Poyser tells Dinah, while she is mending lace, that she looks like her saintly Aunt Judith, the one who raised Dinah to be a Methodist. Mrs. Poyser, the soul of practicality, cannot persuade the idealistic Dinah to marry or even to stay with them for a while. Dinah will leave in a few days to continue her preaching in Stonyshire.
Young Captain Donnithorne and Mr. Irwine come visiting, and Mrs. Poyser cannot help pointing out that the squire needs to make repairs on the farm. While Mr. Irwine speaks to Dinah Morris about her preaching, Arthur admires Mrs. Poyser’s dairy, especially Hetty, who is making butter there.
Commentary on Chapter 6
Hall Farm is a chief setting in the story. The Poysers are old and respected tenants who set the tone for the whole valley. Mrs. Poyser’s dairy is famous, and Mr. Poyser is respected for his farming knowledge handed down by his old father, still living with them. The grandfather, mother, father, three children, and the two beautiful nieces make a very attractive and idyllic family. Arthur makes a pretense to go there to admire Hetty, the prettiest girl on his estate. At this point, he doesn’t know of Adam’s interest in Hetty. It is of course not unusual for a young gentleman to be wooing servant girls, but it is thoughtless of him, for he could ruin Hetty’s reputation and ability to get a husband. Adam is of her class but Arthur, as a gentleman, could never marry Hetty.
Dinah is also beautiful but otherworldly. The aunt worries about Dinah and does not understand her dreamy nature. Although Seth wanted to marry Dinah, Dinah explained to him that she has no trouble with young men wanting to court her or harass her. It is clear from her manner and self-confidence, that no young man would approach her with wrong ideas. Arthur called her St. Catherine. She appears as a nun to others.
Hetty seems to be innocently vain of her beauty, and this point is developed in the next chapter. The contrast between Dinah and Hetty is an important one, reminiscent of the pairing of Dorothea Brook and Rosamund Vincy in Eliot’s novel, Middlemarch. While both women are beautiful on the outside, inner beauty is far more important to Eliot, a constant motif in work. Among this honest farm family, Hetty sticks out as someone who is out of place.