Dinah: Her Immaturity
It is generally recognised that Adam, in the beginning of the novel, is not a fully integrated and mature personality. The head in him outweighs the heart. He is proud, hard and self-righteous. But this truth is not generally recognised as far as Dinah is concerned. She is also not a fully mature person. She also lacks the balance of head and heart, the sign of maturity. The novel shows how, through her love of Adam, she attains this balance and becomes a fully integrated and mature personality. Thus it is also seen that the marriage of Adam and Dinah is not an artistic fault but promotes the central philosophical and intellectual purposes of the novelist.
Her Lack of Vitality
Dinah in the beginning of the novel is mild, compassionate and a true and selfless devotee of God, but she strikes one as having very little genuine vitality. She is all heart. She scarcely seems to breathe in the midst of her enduring calm and takes little or no nourishment—only scant victuals as Mrs. Poyser would say. Confronted by a vigorous fruitful world, she retreats. Says Creeger, “the cause of her retreat is the fear of selfishness and hardness resulting from too great abundance of world by goods”.
Lack of Involvement in Life
Says Creeger, “implicit in her fear is also, I believe, a kind of unwillingness to become fully involved in life. In this respect she is like her creator, who once said that it was a pity her life could not be managed for her, while she stood by, the passive but interested spectator.” Just such a one is Dinah: she observes the human condition, with sympathy and compassion, it is true, but without involvement. Selfless is a word used frequently in describing her but, selfless means not only something different from selfish; it means also lacking in self. To lack this sense of human identity is to become something either less or more than human—a clod, perhaps, or a divinity.” Talking of herself to Mr. Irwine, she says: “I’m too much given to sit still and keep by myself: it seem as if I could sit silent all day long with the thought of God overflowing my soul—as the pebbles lie bathed in the Willow Brook. For thoughts are so great—aren’t they, sir. They seem to lie upon us like a deep flood; and it’s my bestowment to forget where I am and everything about me, and lose myself in thoughts that I could give no account of, for I could neither make a beginning nor ending of them in words.”
“Such a psychological state represents a complete withdrawal from life, and withdrawal (or retreat) is characteristic of Dinah. Whenever, the going gets rough, that is, whenever life begins, paradoxically, to seem too pleasant and seductive, Dinah flees back to Stonyshire, barren and sterile under the “overarching sky”. The most notable of these strategic retreats occurs after Adam has told her of his love. Following his declaration, Dinah replies that she could return his love save for the fear that she would ‘forget to rejoice and weep with others’, even forget the divine presence. Her peace and joy come from having no life of her own. Adam’s love only raises the fear that she will forget Jesus, the man of sorrows, and become hard: “And think how it is with me, Adam:—that life I have led is like a land I have trodden in blessedness since my childhood; and if I long for a moment to follow the voice which calls me to another land that I know not, I cannot but fear that my soul might hereafter yearn for that early blessedness which I had forsaken, and where doubt enters there is not perfect love. I must wait for clearer guidance: I must go from you”. Here is clear expression of Dinah’s fear of accepting full maturity; for the land which faces her (i.e. Loamshire and, of course, Adam) is a strange one; and who knows what life there may hold for her? Better, then, to return to the other land (Stonyshire and the self-contained world of childhood). There is at least no risk is run. If Hetty was incapable of growing up, Dinah is afraid to”. —(Creeger)
Her Growth and Maturity Through Love
We are not permitted to see the process by which Dinah is enabled to overcome her fear, and it is a serious flaw in the novel that it is so. All, we learn is that having been told by Adam of his love for her and having admitted in turn a love for him, Dinah once more retreats to Stonyshire, not staying even long enough to participate in the Harvest Supper. Adam, after waiting for several weeks, is no longer able to endure the strain and sets out for Stonyshire to find her. As he leaves the Loamshire world and enters gray treeless Stonyshire, he is reminded of the painful past, but in an altered light, for now he possesses what George Eliot calls a “sense of enlarged being”, the consequences of the fuller life brought about by his suffering. He sees Stonyshire now through Dinah’s eyes, as it were, and if his vision includes the barren land, it also includes the wonderful flooding light and the large embracing sky.
Adam waits for Dinah to return from her Sunday preaching not at her home, but on a hill top. Here, in the midst of her world, he discovers that Dinah has undergone a change, the power of her love for him has in a sense overcome her fears; she feels like a divided person without him, and she is willing to become his wife. He, therefore, takes her back to Loamshire whence she had so fled. It is not, however, to the green and golden world of June with which the book began; rather to an autumnal mature world. Here, “on a rimy morning in departing November”, when there is a tinge of sadness in the weather as well as in the joy which accompanies the wedding, Adam and Dinah are married. And it is fitting that the hint of sorrow should be present, for in the world which George Eliot reveals to us, life not only contains sorrow, it needs sorrow in order that there may be love. It is in the fitness of things that they should so come together, for they are bound together by their common suffering for Hetty and by their painful memories. Suffering gives rise to sympathy, and love based on such sympathy alone can be fruitful and lasting.
Dinah is domesticated in the end. It is not to be regretted. It is not a reduction of her exceptional destiny to mere commonplace domesticity. Rather it is the giving up of an impressive but rather an eccentric role for the higher destiny of full participation in the common lot of humanity.