The novel follows four characters' rural lives in the fictional community of Hayslope—a rural, pastoral, and close-knit community in 1799. The novel revolves around a love "rectangle" among the beautiful but self-absorbed Hetty Sorrel; Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the young squire who seduces her; Adam Bede, her unacknowledged suitor; and Dinah Morris, Hetty's cousin, a fervent, virtuous and beautiful Methodist lay preacher. Adam, a local carpenter much admired for his integrity and intelligence, is in love with Hetty. She is attracted to Arthur, the local squire's charming grandson and heir, and falls in love with him. When Adam interrupts a tryst between them, Adam and Arthur fight. Arthur agrees to give up Hetty and leaves Hayslope to return to his militia. After he leaves, Hetty agrees to marry Adam but shortly before their marriage, discovers that she is pregnant. In desperation, she leaves in search of Arthur, unwilling to return to the village on account of the shame and ostracism she would have to endure.