Adam Bede is about five hundred and sixty pages of budding Victorian realism staged in a rural England thickly colored by the peak of Romanticism. Though Eliot claims to paints her characters with real human complexity, the virtuous maid, sinful hussy, upstanding workingman, and careless rich boy all make their respective appearances in such worn out ways that the reader may outline the entire plot after meeting all the characters.
I think this book was assigned because of its inter-textuality. Hetty is surely informed by Hester, and Donnithorne by Dimmesdale. I am not sure of any other reason why anyone would want to study such a tired and tiring novel.