Portrayed by: Michiel Huisman
Film: Netflix’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Dawsey Adams is the kind of quiet romance hero dreams are made of—the only person worthy of anyone leaving their life behind to stay where he is. And that sentiment is true strictly because he understands the importance of agency and would never force such a fate on anyone if it was not their truest desire. He might be a pig farmer, but at his core, he is an intellectual with the kind of heart of gold everyone dreams of.
While the love story between Juliet Ashton and Dawsey Adams makes The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society an absolute treasure of a film, the beauty is discovered in the individual characters and how much they contribute to making the love story as comforting as it is. And much of that beauty is found directly in Dawsey’s gentle spirit. He is all things good and kind in a world that has stripped far too much from him, forcing him to an admirable humility in how earned it feels. His spirit is that of a fighter, but Dawsey’s means of understanding where resilience matters and where it doesn’t is amongst the best parts of the character.
Writer’s Note: This deep dive will focus specifically on Netflix’s film adaptation.
Dawsey Adams, The Gentle Spirit
When the society was formed, Dawsey attends as an extended form of kindness, but his choice to stay ultimately reveals more about his character as a man who protects those who cannot do much for him in return. While there is a loneliness in all the members, as a man, Dawsey could have easily left where need be—abandoned it all to follow his own bliss, except that was never in the cards for him because his giving spirit is what makes him the hero that he is. Dawsey chose to stay behind because he found the kind of companionship that gave him the serenity necessary after loss and simultaneously because he understands that there is something more significant in being the person who helps as best he can.
So few would take a friend’s child and raise them as their own without a single complaint. So few would love as profoundly as he does without resenting the life that he is left with. Instead, Dawsey Adams understands that standing still and being present is an earned luxury, and he chooses to embrace it. And this is why there’s such a pull to literature because that understanding doesn’t equate to never wandering, but it simply results in gratitude that allows his best to come to the surface.
As mentioned in our relationship deep dive, both Dawsey Adams and Juliet Ashton are risk-takers, and he takes the first considerable risk when he chooses to write to her, searching for more of the laughter he finds in a book. Not many men would admit to how joyous reading can be, let alone appreciate it as fervently as he does, but Dawsey does so, spreading the joys he finds in literature wherever he can. As a man who lived most of his life in isolation, discovering the beauty of reading and acting upon it ultimately reveals his desires for something more prominent in the world. He revels in the understanding that though residing on a small island like Guernsey, there is still magic to be found, pressed, and preserved for future generations.
Dawsey Adams makes everyone’s life easier by existing, and he especially makes Juliet’s life more beautiful by seeing the wonder in her curiosity, disclosing their story to her as she asks, and frankly choosing to trust. After everything he has seen and been through, no part of Dawsey should be trustworthy, but he rises every day, choosing to see the best in people. That is where his gentleness comes to play because everything that he does is clothed in genuine sincerity to see someone else’s best come to the surface.
Wars damage and break people—loss especially leaves a horrific mark. Dawsey sits with his grief by choosing to surround himself with people whose hearts are in need of goodness. He picks flowers on his way to a society meeting because even if he was picturing an older woman, he is clearly a man who believes that a small act of kindness can leave a monumental mark on people. He apologizes, he helps, and he loves with such a tenderness that the decision to see someone like Juliet in all her glory directly results from his understanding that there is something special in people.
Though there is so much more that the book tells us about Dawsey’s personality, his parents, and his life before the society, Michiel Huisman shows us plenty through his performances in the film. Where a shy persona is more often than not directed in media negatively, Dawsey’s is a strength. Through him, we see the kind of man who listens carefully and pays attention not only to what people want but what they need. His character showcases that quiet people are often observing, they are taking notes, and they are doing everything in their best efforts to be of use. They aren’t just lonely pig farmers, but they are so much more. When given the safe space to give all they are, they will give the world if they can reach it. They will go the extra mile with arms outstretched, even if it’s out of their comfort zones.
In a world where many would never dare to befriend the enemy, Dawsey’s ability to listen to people and look carefully into who they are results in his friendship with Christian—the trust and honesty built between them that later allows him to love every part of Kit. His willingness to meet people halfway and walk wherever they’d like in order to get to know them a little bit more reveals his heart more than anything else. Gentle spirits have more resilience than the world believes, and Dawsey Adams is proof of the fact.