Daniel Deronda

ISBN: 037576013X
ISBN 13: 9780375760136
By: George Eliot Edmund White

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About this book

George Eliot’s final novel and her most ambitious work, Daniel Deronda contrasts the moral laxity of the British aristocracy with the dedicated fervor of Jewish nationalists. Crushed by a loveless marriage to the cruel and arrogant Grandcourt, Gwendolen Harleth seeks salvation in the deeply spiritual and altruistic Daniel Deronda. But Deronda, profoundly affected by the discovery of his Jewish ancestry, is ultimately too committed to his own cultural awakening to save Gwendolen from despair. This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the 1878 Cabinet Edition.

Reader's Thoughts


** spoiler alert ** Utterly conventional in its romantic elements and unconvincing in its foray into Zionist politics. The strange doubling of unlikely family discoveries and terminal illnesses at first seems rife with emotional implications but upon reflection seems more like a failure of imagination on the author's part, an obsessive repetition of themes. (Mirah discovers her long-lost brother Mordecai only when he's at death's door; Deronda reunites with his long-lost mother only when she's about to die: but what do their confrontations with death mean? It never becomes clear, and the tragedy lies not in their deaths but in the original separations.) The novel is ultimately anti-romantic and bourgeois, punishing those who choose love or art as the highest value (Gwendolyn, Hans) and rewarding those who choose family and community, especially if that community is based on ethnicity (Mirah, Daniel). Grandcourt's death seems like a blow for justice, but his evil is pervasive enough to drain the complexity out of his sadistic relationship with Gwendolyn, and we are allowed to sympathize with neither character but only to pity them. Even Gwendolyn's hard-won journey from selfishness to concern for others is really just a sacrifice of her high-spirited individualism to the more banal needs of the community (no matter how much it looks like a conversion of prideful arrogance to Christian charity). An unsatisfying inversion of the typical tropes of Romantic literature, despite all of the supposedly moral lessons we learn.


Discussion is being held at the Victorians group. This is the story of Daniel Deronda and his search for his true identify. In this book Eliot show her best of style of writing: in the first two chapters, in a flashback point of view, Deronda met Gwendolyn at a Casino but she is forced to go home due to financial duties with her family. Apparently, a romantic relationship is established between these characters. However, as the plot develops, one learns the true story of Daniel Deronda and his search for his true identity. In the meantime, Gwen accepted the marriage proposal made by Lord Grandcourt thus avoiding her probably future as a simple Governess.Then Eliot introduces a Jewish component into the plot: Daniel met Mirah who is trying to find her own mother and brother and then we have the feeling of Daniel's Jewish parentage. Eliot describes in a very sensitive way in which Jews were perceived during this Victorian period.There is other turmoil into the story but I prefer to avoid spoilers here.I haven't read all the books by George Eliot but it seems to be Daniel Deronda is her masterpiece work as a writer. Now, I must read Adam Bede, Silas Marner and Romola in order to get a true vision of her whole work.


I found this book to be a fascinating portrayal of the Industrial Age in England and the emergence of the Zionist movement. A thought-provoking novel that provides a clear insight into an unusual era.


"It is true," said Deronda, "that the consciousness of having done wrong is something deeper, more bitter. I suppose we faulty creatures can never feel so much for the irreproachable as for those who are bruised in the struggle with their own faults. It is a very ancient story, that of the lost sheep--but it comes up afresh every day.""That is a way of speaking--it is not acted upon, it is not real," said Gwendolen, bitterly. "You admire Miss Lapidoth because you think her blameless, perfect. And you know you would despise a woman who had done something you thought very wrong.""That would depend entirely upon her own view of what she had done," said Deronda."You would be satisfied if she were very wretched, I suppose," said Gwendolen, impetuously."No, not satisfied--full of sorrow for her. It was not a mere way of speaking. I did not mean to say that the finer nature is not more adorable; I meant that those who would be comparatively uninteresting beforehand may become worthier of sympathy when they do something that awakens in them a keen remorse. Lives are enlarged in different ways. I dare say some would never get their eyes opened if it were not for a violent shock from the consequences of their own actions. And when they are suffering in that way one must care for them more than, for the comfortably self-satisfied." Deronda forgot everything but his vision of what Gwendolen's experience had probably been, and urged by compassion let his eyes and voice express as much interest as they would."


George Eliot a Zionist? That's more than surprising: it's almost as amazing as the fact that she seems to have come to her Zionism by way of the Kabbalah. Like Eliot's earlier novels, this, her last work of fiction, is filled with gentle yet sharply ironic observations and a sublimely lofty sense of the potential of extraordinary individuals. The moral education of an egotistical English beauty runs parallel with the self-discovery of an English gentleman who serves as her spiritual lodestar, particularly during her brief but hideous marriage. Most if not all plot twists were spoiled for me by reading the introduction, but anyone who tackles the novel divines from the moment the first Jewish character is introduced that Mr. Deronda will ultimately find both true love and his place in the world (and this is not meant metaphorically) when he discovers his Jewish birthright. One does read this book to learn what becomes of the characters, but what makes it so intensely rewarding is the wealth of Eliot's intellect. In its day, this novel was considered as much essay as story, though at the time that was attributed as a fault. Eliot's sense of Jewish destiny seems strikingly prescient, while her idealistic belief in the ultimate good that would result elicits a sigh. This is a long novel. It demands total attention. But you won't be able to read the entire thing without becoming, however briefly, a better person.


** spoiler alert ** Daniel Deronda is a powerful novel which carries an amazing message. It is also heartbreaking. Gwendolyn's spoiled but naive character changes throughout the novel in a way that makes you feel for her a lot at the end. Mira's longing to find her mother and her brother connects magically to Daniel's desires and brings them together in a moving ending. Ezra's dream of Israel made a huge political statement, a famous popular author writing a novel about the Jewish dream for Israel angered many anti-semites who wanted her to stick to romance and the Gwendolyn story. Ezra's story was the most touching part of the book and when Gwendolyn decides to live you feel that the message the book tells is to find your path and follow it to the end. As Daniel, Gwendolyn, and Mira move through their lives we walk with them and hope their path will be quick and safe.


What is so curious about this book is the opposing narratives between Gwendolyn and Daniel. It is like a book sliced in half between its Gwendolyn's Gothic elements and Daniel's "new" quest. So cut in half is the narrative, that in Israel the book is only published with Daniel's chapters. No one notices? or no one cares? Strange it is also as a work of Victorian literature centering around Jews. Usually the usurperous shopkeeper or the evil begger, Jews are suddenly people who are just trying to get by in London. Previously having written against Jews early in her career, Eliot did a complete 180 by the end of it. She's also seemed to have mastered the elements of Kabbalah and mysticism, giving authenticity to Mordecai's speech and the legacy he passes on to Daniel. Poor Gwendolyn. The sensitive, well-read man in her life decided to be a proto-Zionist.


This is one of my favorite books. George Eliot probably has to be one of the best authors that I have ever read. Her psychological insight into each character is so amazing and her analysis of human nature is quite profound. Gwendolen Harleth, much as you despise her, is very vividly portrayed and there is an interesting reality in all of her words and actions. She is a revealing character and, though most people do not have her outright selfishness, yet I think most could relate to some of her characteristics to a greater or lesser degree. Daniel Deronda, on the other hand, though he is sometimes considered "too perfect" is actually another very well done character. His compassion and kindness are balanced hand by his indecisive, rather vacillating nature throughout the book. The plot is interesting and has several twists to it. I love this book and was sorry to be finished with it and look forward to reading it again.


Of note: for someone who's my favorite author, I haven't 5-starred a George Eliot book since the first one that I read. Tough crowd, I guess. But tough books, too. And while I'll possibly never love anything as much as The Mill on the Floss, this book did incredible things and opened up dozens of doors in my mind.What made it most incredible to me was the thematic currents that kept coming in doubles. I started keeping a list too late to remember everything I felt was there, but so many things in the book silently depend on each other, and are left for comparison without being presented explicitly. It all looked intentional to me, because every reminder of something that had come before (usually on the other side of the novel) tightened the cord around it and made me gasp. It was an ideas book more than a feelings book, to me. Some of these repeating ideas: (view spoiler)[* The subjection of marriage: Gwendolen wishes she didn't have to marry because she sees all women made inferior by it (but she fails to escape the same), Daniel's mother's speech is about her victory over same being the focal purpose of her life (but exemplifies the "monstrosity" of what that sacrifices).* Legitimacy and the manipulation of inheritance: Grandcourt's and Gwendolen's responses to the claim of his children and his will, and Daniel being presumed to be Hugo's natural heir but having to cede his claim to Grandcourt. Daniel's mother removed him from his Jewish inheritance, but he becomes Mordecai's spiritual heir in the end.* Acting/singing/performance and renown: Daniel's mother treasured her celebrated career above all, Mirah failed at the same one but remains beloved, Gwendolen relied on this kind of performance to appear perfect (though she is only valued for it artificially), and Daniel is unashamed of his own "mediocrity".*Gwendolen empowers keys over the things she existentially fears: the strangely grotesque painting in the drawing room at Offendene that she locks up (until the key is stolen and it's exposed), and the dagger she keeps locked away behind a key she drops in the ocean to escape her murderous thoughts.* Gwendolen's various gambles and the lesson of other people's losses. (hide spoiler)]Those are all five stars, right there.I did a very elementary bit of critical reading after I finished. Mostly I was spurred to by the totally unsatisfactory Introduction, which is pretty much RIYL other George Eliot books. However, it did point me to a jaw-droppingly weird blip of literary history in which Henry James reviews the book via fictional dialogue in The Atlantic Monthly in 1876. It's frankly crazy. And though, mainly, those "characters" compliment the book, what "they" really seem to need to say is, WTF did she have to write about Jews for?, in the most acceptably impolite ways possible. (There's talk of noses, and dirtiness. A horrible, valuable picture of what Eliot's audience actually was.)I was astonished to find, though, that apparently this is still what most critics feel about the book (at least, if I'm to believe the Introduction, which must be something of an endorsed opinion). Scholars still think this Jewish plot is uncomfortable, for one reason or another: because it's just plain weird, or because even the most conscientious Victorians were not 21st-century politically-correct so it doesn't seem very "right" now, or because they just like Gwendolen's plot better. There is, in fact, a whole argument that the book as is is a mistake, and Gwendolen's story standing alone would be a better novel.WHAT ARE THEY, STUPID?!*(* Would you like to read a whole article of speculation about Daniel's penis? What? It's not stupid, IT'S SCHOLARLY!)But, so, in this novel there's Daniel's story and there's Gwendolen's story, and then there's their story together. Gwendolen is a selfish creature who gets punished enormously with a transformative, tormenting marriage. Daniel has neither a future nor history of his own, and rescues/reunites/becomes the savior (?) of a pair of Jewish siblings instead. He also, by accident, becomes Gwendolen's confidant as she searches for a moral compass for the first time in her life. He is it.To begin with, this third portion of the story would be all but meaningless if Daniel's own portion didn't exist, and it is here that the book's most significant meaning comes from. Another author could have written this book, but instead of what happens here, Gwendolen would simply have fallen in love with Daniel once her marriage is unhappy, because that's what happens in novels. Here, Eliot does something completely unique (as always!) by instead giving them a strangely urgent ethical connection: the woman so horrified by submission becomes unable to do anything, anything at all, without asking Daniel's directions, worrying about Daniel's opinion, or repeating Daniel's advice like a mantra. Is this because she loves him? Maybe! But it doesn't matter at all. The sheer tonnage of her need for him is heaped only on her monumental effort to cope with doing harm, and she clings to him as a spiritual guide like a drowning person who almost drowns the person saving her.People also seem to think that Deronda is not much of a character -- that he's too good, he's unflawed, a boring vessel for enlightenment. He does represent these things thematically, but as an individual, I guess these readers skipped the days where Daniel judges people ungenerously (and anti-semitically), keeps information from his friends, becomes super resentful of the way others think, and wishes dearly for Gwendolen to leave him alone. He is not always right when he does these things, but he is always understandable. We have sympathy for him the whole time, and in the large view he is indeed a marvelous person. That doesn't make a bad character at all, and most importantly, Eliot makes his marvelous nature the main currency of all the stories in the book. He does hold the novel together and (like Gwendolen) it is better for knowing him.As far as Gwendolen is concerned, I often think it's a shame that as an upstanding (though comparatively sexually-liberated) Victorian, Eliot is unable to write about sex in her novels. I believe she often had it in mind, but with writing about it being so out of the question, who knows. Of the four novels I've read, though, three (and really I just don't remember Romola well enough to count it) have arcs that are supremely relevant to sexual circumstances between the characters. And it isn't like, Elizabeth and Darcy are super hot for each other, I bet they were happy to have sex. In Eliot it's serious heart-punches, like: these people ran away together in order to have sex but can't do it and this is their downfall; these people got married but he might not have any sex with her at all and this is their downfall; and in this book, Grandcourt makes such a project of total dominance in his marriage to Gwendolen, it must have been the ugliest wedding night ever and I almost want to cry thinking about it. (The this-century BBC movie hints at unwilling sex in this way, but it of course is not referenced in the text.) These sexual situations matter deeply, though existing barely even in subtext, and as soon as the Grandcourts' marriage became about power and breaking each other's will, it's what I thought of. It is a pretty unsexy sex plot, but I really think it is one. Gwendolen's misery is made apparent, but I think there is a whole other horror show here that we don't even see.The subject of Jewish people does stand out in the book. What other book is like this? It's a truly unusual choice for a novel at this time. And, I've been trying to read some things to indicate the range of opinions about Jews that George Eliot put forward herself at various times. It was not always good (1848). Though by the time she wrote this, she was reaching for something good (1876). And this reach is what makes it a George Eliot novel: this is her one big cosmopolitan work that depicts the world she lived in as an adult, the learned upper class that led cranky, fractured lives in the country and in town and abroad. How did she choose to write about this? By turning her "gentle" characters upside-down inside prejudice, regret, and subjection. It makes the novel big like the world, and it stuns you into paying attention.While I looked up sources for Eliot's views on Judaism, I also looked for some criticism of the book that touched on Benjamin Disraeli, and only found a little. But the connection was pointed out to me and now seems really important, though I only know a few things about him: he was Prime Minister when the book was published, he was born in a Jewish family but raised Anglican, and he was a novelist as well. Did he and George Eliot know each other? Were they friends or rivals? What did she think of his politics, and did she model Daniel's ambitions to greatly serve the world after him? The novel was (intentionally or not?) seen as inspiration/propaganda for Zionists of both the Christian and Jewish kind, and this troublesome, impenetrable essay (?) in Impressions of Theophrastus Such (Eliot's final book which I don't quite understand what it is?) is on the subject of cultural homelands. There are streets in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa named after her! BECAUSE OF DANIEL DERONDA. THAT'S CRAZY! And, in my opinion, is proof that this theme is not meaningless.There are some troubles. There is some racism, try though she does. Mirah is overcompensation for this, though once she stops getting rescued she finally sounds like a real person and not a simply-sweet Dickens character. I never really loved Gwendolen, although her development is strong and passionate and unflawed except maybe (view spoiler)[that I didn't really believe she was harboring murderous wishes, and was put off when she confessed to having them (hide spoiler)]. That was also a little melodramatic, I guess, since the end events are strong enough. They always are. (And jiminy cricket do not get in one of George Eliot's little boats 3/4 through the book! Crazy shit ensues, every time! Oh, but I love it.)I also think there's a loose end in not hearing Mrs. Glasher's response to the end events. If I were an editor I might have suggested that she and Gwendolen needed to connect one more time. It might not have made things any better for Gwendolen, but a change in the situation undeniably occurred. How did it leave them?Weirdly, at the end I actually wished that this book had a sequel. Then I read a little more about it (this great review in particular) and learned that this HAPPENED. This 1878 version of fanfiction was published as a sequel to "remedy" its "chief defect," which apparently means the Jews. So, instead of editing an abridged version to accomplish this, we just have a ret-conning follow-up novel. … I am so perplexed, I think I am actually going to read it someday. (The reviewer also mentions a Jewish adaptation by the contemporary children's author Marcus Lehman, which may be this one? But I haven't found a lot to confirm it.)Anyway, perhaps I wish that this book was simply 1200 pages long instead of 600. I might not have minded, because in the end Daniel and Gwendolen go to such places finally that their lives are wholly beginning again. I think that ending is unlike any of Eliot's others, and I wish she could have had all of time to tell us what she thought.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


Daniel Deronda is the rare male protagonist who is self-aware, mature, and searching. He's probably the most admirable male character I've read in a novel. But Eliot doesn't just write about saints; a lead female character, for example, undergoes a brilliantly described, painful learning curve as she comes becomes acquainted with Daniel and comes to understand that his motives are far superior to hers.

Haythem Bastawy

Daniel Deronda is an over-written excessively expansive book that would have made the same point and stressed on the same themes in just half its size. I give Eliot though the credit of immense research and maybe she just wanted to translate it all into this which subsequently deemed it out of focus.Daniel Deronda discusses a lot of the themes of its day, illegitimate children, pre and post-marriage relationships, filial duty and how far it should go, anti-semitism, Judaism and more than anything else Zionism.Zionism explained though unnamed takes the biggest place in the book. Daniel Deronda is occupied throughout the book with the question of his parenthood. He eventually discovers that he is a Jew, born to two Jewish parents. He also befriends Mordecai who teaches him Hebrew and gives him a purpose for his life, which is to fight for establishing a home land for the Jews in the East, in other wordsto become a devoted Zionist.Zionism, controversial as it is, does not require much commentary. It's complete disregard for Palestinians, the inhabitants of this so called homeland is utterly as disgusting as the antisemitism Jews have been subjected to in Europe.I also disagree with the notion of classing Jews in general no matter where they come from as a race. Religion does not make a race. It is the physical and cultural traits that make a race. European Jews have different religious habits from Middle-Eastern ones, Russian Christians are different from Coptic or Greek Christians and Egyptians moslems celebrate Eid differently from Saudis, Pakistanis or Indonesian. Religion is not good enough to call the people who belong to it a race, hence not good enough for founding a state upon it.


Another book I know I read in college - I even wrote a paper on it - yet my memory of it is hazy at best. But since Middlemarch remains probably my favorite book, I thought I'd give Eliot's final novel and treatise on Judaism another try. Again, I find it much more compelling now. Eliot is just SO DEEP! Her books take those central principles of Austen (see above catalogue of my recent reading, nonexistent reader) - by which I mean, the immovable facts of wealth and birth and beauty and wit except for that brief, fluid period of matrimonial musical chairs; the only time, as far as I can see, that women had any opportunity of changing their birth status and situations (which, incidentally, has given me new insight into the difference between the English class system and our American ideas of mutability) - and adds about 900 pages of depth and insight and, yes, some heavy Christian symbolism stuff. There are no Casaubons in here - that is, I think Eliot loves all her characters in this book, even those flawed. Except maybe Lush. Maybe the lesson here is that I shouldn't have taken a 10:10 class when I was 21. Or maybe college is wasted on the young. I'm not done yet but this is a great, great book.


** spoiler alert ** My sister wrote her senior thesis on this book, so I figured if I was going to stand half a chance at understanding but a quarter of that thesis, I would have to read it. Still haven’t gotten to the thesis (80 pages Ak?! C’mon!), but I did finally polish off the book, and am not sorry that I did. Much like Middlemarch this book is packed with long, intricate, sometimes movingly ornate, oftentimes completely hilarious (and not in a self-conscious way), frequently ultranerdy sentences that somehow seem even more absurdly arcane/wonderful than other 19th century Brits. If Austen fired a word pistol, Elliot preferred the lexical two-decker broadside.As with Middlemarch, Patrick O’Brian and Jane Austen did not prepare me to fully interpret a book of Deronda’s sweep and complexity, so my only real point of reference is Middlemarch itself. Like the characters in that book, most of the protagonists in Deronda struggle with deliberately crafting their own lives, but unlike the focus on vocation in Middlemarch, these characters seemed more concerned with morality. Deronda himself wasn’t seeking a job so much as a crusade, and Gwen spent almost the entire book watching her ego eroded by both circumstance and her husband only to find she barely even knew what good meant if it couldn’t mean pleasing herself. I suspect the fact that many of the protagonists had lost parents plays into this somehow, perhaps severing them from strong religious and cultural norms and forcing the characters to question and then assert moral positions. The Meyricks, the Gascoignes, Grandcourt, and perhaps Sir Hugo rarely seemed to question their own codes, whereas Gwen and Dan were constantly revisiting them. I guess that falls a part a bit with Mordecai and Mirah, but perhaps we just met Mordecai long after he’d settled many of these internal debates (he certainly had a code, albeit a long-winded possibly delusional one).Ultimately I found Gwen to be the most interesting and appealing character, mostly because I’m a traditionalist and I like it when characters change in profound but believable ways (yes, Ak, I’m am looking forward to reading about how narrative is just a myth Elliot was trying to lay bare with this book, or something, right?), and Gwen went from back-of-the-hand-cackling-anime-villainess to having her will entirely crushed. She was the only appealing character with any wit in the book (I wasn’t a fan of Hans, and Daniel’s mom, while awesome, was really just a guest star). Actually, part of the tragedy for me was seeing that verve brought down not just by Grandcourt’s weird dominance, but also by her submission to Deronda’s moral authority. Gwen’s smart, willful, and clearly possesses the kernel of morality in her love for her mother. Why can’t she figure this shit out herself?! I found Deronda himself a bit boring. He was always good and always right. Dull. Keeping with the anime theme, he was just sad Pikachu, all the time. The way his constant deliberation always seemed to border on passivity bugged me too. His public attitude was more like Grandcourt's than anyone else’s, even though his inaction was usually due to deliberation rather than indifference.Anyway, long but good, glad I read it. Bring on the thesis.Oh, and you know there were words:prebendary (n): a stipend given to a clergyman from the revenues of a church or cathedral. (p. 33)fidus Achates: in the Aeneid, Achates was Aeneus's bff. (p. 37)euphonious (adj): sounding good. (p. 43)spoony (adj): foolish, silly, particularly when in love. It always drove me nuts that this was in the Scrabble dictionary, but I guess it does have meaning beyond "of or pertaining to a spoon" (p. 58)antigropelos (n): waterproof leggings for riding or walking, aka spatterdashes. (p. 70)burthen (n): archaic form of burden, which is pretty obvious, but I don't recall this word coming up so much with other 19th century authors. (p 90 and just about every other page in the book)monody (n):: a solo lament. (p. 90)"It was impossible to be jealous of Juliet Fenn, a girl as middling as mid-day market in everything but her archery and her plainness, in which last she was noticeably like her father: underhung and with receding brow resembling that of the more intelligent fishes."Amazing how cruel and bigoted she could be. Ak tells me she believed in physiognomy. (p. 121)uncial (n): a form of all-caps (or majuscule) script that is very rounded. Now, what exactly Elliot meant by handwriting "of the delicate kind which used to be esteemed feminine before the present uncial period" I have no idea. Did people write in all-caps all the time in her day?perrugue (n): alt. form of peruke, which is a man's wig from the 17th and 18th centuries. (p. 179)"...impaling the three Saracens' heads proper and three bezants of the one with the tower and falcons argent of the other..." Only now that I am looking things up do I realize she was talking about heraldry. Behold, a Saracen's head, bezants, and falcons argent. I was very, very disappointed to learn that Saracens bear no relation to the genus of carnivorous pitcher plants, Sarracenia, which were apparently named after an 18th century botanist named Michel Sarrazin. How does that even work?! (p. 180) "But for God's sake, keep an English cut, and don't become indifferent to bad tobacco!" Sir Hugo Mallinger's advice to Danny Boy on learning that the latter wishes to go abroad. Another winning epitaph. I'm gonna need, like, 30 graves when I die. (p. 200)"I could not bear memories any more: I could only feel what was present in me – it was all one longing to cease from my weary life, which seemed only a pain outside the great peace that I might enter into." I found this conclusion to Mirah's autobiography somewhat remarkable for the extent dedicated to her thoughts of suicide. Granted I haven't read that broadly, but I don't recall many 19th century brits dwelling on suicide too much, particularly in protagonists. (p. 241)"The self-delight with which she had kissed her image in the glass had faded before the sense of futility in being anything whatever – charming, clever, resolute – what was the good of it all?" And in addition to suicide, we have all this depression, not just sadness but an acute sensation of pointlessness. (p. 248)"Outsiders might have been more apt to think..." This paragraph is just hilarious: essentially about the triumph of personality over physicality, it just descends into this pedantic mess about the Odyssey, which she concludes by admitting that the Odyssey was just a terrible analogy. Oh George Elliot. This whole chapter is just amusing for being the only traditionally romantic passage in the entire book ("I am afraid of nothing but that we should miss the passing of our lives together." Queue the Tchaikovsky). Kind of like she was saying, "Look, I will give you guys one happy romance. One. Ok? But it will only last a single chapter. A short chapter. And I am going to talk about the Odyssey." (p. 259)chignon (n): style of hair where the hair is tied in a knot or bun at the back of the head or the nape of the neck. Never knew this had a name. Definitely better than "cockernonnie" and "cock-up." (p. 358)rinderpest (n): viral disease affecting cattle. (p. 360)"...that mania of always describing one thing while you were looking at another..." My God I hate this, and I am always catching myself about to do it, particularly while eating. The only motivations I can think of are to belittle the present meal, thereby making everyone consider it inferior, or boast about your own taste, both of which seem horrible. (p. 461)cynosure (n): something that attracts attention. Constantly forgetting this word. (p. 487)"What sort of earth or heaven would hold any spiritual wealth in it for souls pauperized by inaction?" It seems ridiculous that Deronda would deliver this line, as he is almost entirely inert for half of the book. (p. 499)persiflage (n): banter (p. 512)caliginous (adj): misty, dark. (p. 512)Melusina: a figure in Celtic and northern European legend, beautiful woman above the waist, serpent below, but apparently only on Saturdays. (p. 689)murrain (n): another infectious cattle disease. (p. 707)Supralapsarian (n): honestly even after reading the Wikipedia article I have no idea what this really means, and Hans' joke is sadly lost on me. Absurd doctrinal stances like this just make me think of Life of Brian. (p. 712)


Another novel it feels absurd to rate with stars.What an exhilarating and delicious experience. The novel wasn't new to me, but it's been over 20 years since I last read it. How wonderful to be reintroduced to the complexities of Gwendolyn Harleth, the delicately tuned sadism of Henleigh Grandcourt, the benevolent conventionality of Sir Hugo Mallinger, the yearnings of Daniel Deronda. George Eliot allows everyone his or her humanity--even Grandcourt. I revere her for creating some of he most nuanced and robust characters in English literature--not just here but also in Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, and Silas Marner.Oh, yeah, plot. Gwendolyn Harleth is a beautiful young women who is used to commanding the worshipful attention and obeisance of all around her. She suddenly finds herself penniless, and in spite of her reservations (and also an unsavory secret she knows), she marries the wealthy Henleigh Grandcourt, who proceeds to show her that he can go her one better in the arts of mastery. In the meantime, Daniel Deronda, an orphan raised to be a gentleman by Grandcourt's uncle, Sir Hugo Mallinger, rescues a young Jewish woman who is trying to drown herself in the Thames, and through her comes to solve the mystery of his own parentage. The themes of Jewish assimilation and separateness are just as pertinent today as in the 1870s, when Daniel Deronda was written.As described above, Daniel Deronda may sound like just another big English novel, full of Sir So-and-Sos and money issues and orphans. But it's not just another English novel, even apart from the unusual Jewish thread. It's a whole world: above all the world of the human mind and heart.

Khadijah Qamar

Spoilers ahead:It's been quite a journey to get through Eliot's Daniel Deronda. Not only is it long, but Eliot's writing can be a bit challenging. She's full of allusions to art, opera, and poetry and quite often she dwells in vague, third-person asides that are supposed to enhance the "feeling" of the situation, but usually end in making it more complex. These add to the richness of the novel, but also make it a slower read. What strikes the reader most in this novel are the characters, particularly the two leads, Gwendolen and Daniel. Seeing as the novel is named after the latter, Daniel is the true hero and has decidedly more layers than Gwendolen, although ironically, he hardly figures in the first 150 pages of the novel. The stories of the two leads are quite separate: Gwendolen is an impetuous and beautiful coquette who, led by financial anxieties, marries a haughty and unfeeling "gentleman" who makes it his primary amusement to dominate her. Daniel, also beautiful, is an intelligent and rich orphan of unknown birth who is, above all, incredibly compassionate, particularly for the downtrodden, which sets his path when he saves a young Jewess from suicide. Although both characters are compelling in the first half of the novel, particularly since Eliot is so gifted in characterization, I found, by the end, both characters to be a bit flat, particularly Gwendolen. For Gwendolen, nothing is quite as important as her pride. That's made clear at the beginning when her sole activity is to gain the praise of others. However even as the novel progresses, and she faces considerable challenges that should expand her character and virtue, she can't seem to get over her pride. It was incredibly frustrating to see her bend to Grandcourt's will when, to me, her character seemed capable of so much more. I believe it was her own pride that trapped her in her marriage, particularly because she couldn't confront Grandcourt about Mrs. Glasher, even after the introduction of Grandcourt's will. And it's her pride that attaches her to Deronda, the only man who didn't give her outright approval or "fall in love" with her. The flatness of the two leads is never more apparent than in their communications with each other. It's always along the lines of "Gwendolen looked at him in silent despair as she pleaded with him to save her, while Deronda could look back at her only in compassionate anguish, feeling her to pull at his soul even as it was forming unbreakable attachments elsewhere". It's always disappointing when a female author creates a strong female lead that, in the end, relies constantly on a male hero to save her.Daniel is, in many ways, Gwedolen's foil, his chief characteristic being selfless compassion. His part of the story deals heavily with Judiasm, the Jewish people and Israel, which can either gratify or grate upon you, depending on your political feelings. Daniel is always admirable and he always feels what is most correct. Even when he meets his cold, estranged mother who wants nothing to do with him except to appease her own guilt, he comes out saying the right things, speaking only from goodness in his heart. I was expecting him to break this shell, if only because this moment struck so deeply and painfully at a life-long wound in his soul. But, Daniel is something of a perfect character and I won't dislike him for it, but only hope that real people like him exist.Although I was occasionally frustrated with the actions of the main leads, I should be careful not to ascribe my feelings to a genuine fault on the part of Eliot - after all, she created the characters so she meant for them to act in the ways they did. This novel is undoubtedly one to savor; it will take a while to finish, but will stay with you a longer while after.

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