Adam Bede Revisited: Social Stigma and the Formation of Deviant Identity


In Adam Bede, George Eliot explores the way a society divides its members into categories and how these categories contribute to the formation of an individual’s identity. In the mid-nineteenth century authors in the naturalist tradition often discussed this dialogical relationship between individual and society, the specific roles for social gaze, the labeling and degrading. Eliot shows an acute of these labels that no one shapes identity without their influence. According to Nancy Anne Marck, Adam Bede introduces the theme of “emerging social consciousness” where the characters gain broader awareness of human interdependence through an experience of suffering (447). This is particularly evident when examining Eliot’s characters of “lesser fortune.” Once we’ve investigated how Eliot portrays these negative social forces throughout the novel, the labeling and the stigmatization, we will return to how Eliot addresses the larger question permeating her novel of education: how one judges another against the backdrop of community values.


stigmatization; social identity; gaze; realism/naturalism; ethics in narrative style

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Published : 2015-06-30

Bonner, N. and Shayegh, E. (2015) “Adam Bede Revisited: Social Stigma and the Formation of Deviant Identity”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (8), pp. 4-10. doi: 10.15290/cr.2015.08.1.01.

Nora Bonner 
Nora Bonner - Miami University of Ohio  United States
Elham Shayegh 
Elham Shayegh - Miami University of Ohio  United States