chapter  4
18 Pages

Poor Hetty

Poor wandering Hetty, poor M r Casaubon, poor Gwendolen: George Eliot’s readers are familiar with that note in her narrator’s voice, ex­ pressing no lightly assumed or casually dispensed sympathy, but rather a pity as attentive and informed as it is generous. Her readers are famil­ iar, too, with the often harsh destinies assigned these characters, not by the compassionate narrator, but by whomever one holds responsible for the plotting of the novels-Gwendolen abandoned and all but crushed by Daniel’s withdrawal, Casaubon dying, shrunken and unful­ filled, and Hetty, poor wandering Hetty, whom Raymond Williams has described as “the g irl. . . the novelist abandons in a moral action more decisive than Hetty’s own confused and desperate leaving of her child.”1 A t such moments it may seem as though the best advice to give someone on the receiving end of George Eliot’s narrator’s sympathy would be: “Duck!”