Daniel Deronda: Novel by George Eliot - Summary & Analysis

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      Daniel Deronda, the last novel of George Eliot, was published in eight monthly installments, beginning February, 1876. It is the question of race and heredity which interests George Eliot now. According to Leslie Stephen, “the story is really two stories put side by side arid intersecting at intervals. Each gives life embodying a principle and each illustrates its opposite by the contrast. Gwendolen Harleth, a young lady with apparitions in a latent state, is misfed into a worldly marriage, and though ultimately saved, is saved “as by fire”.


      Daniel Deronda is throughout true to his higher nature, and is, in George Eliot’s works, what Sir Charles Grandison is in Richardson’s—the type of human perfection. The story of Gwendolen’s marriage shows undiminished power. Here and there, perhaps, we have a little too much psychological analysis; but after all the reader who” objects to psychology can avoid it by skipping a paragraph or two. It is another version of the old tragic motive: the paralyzing influence of unmitigated and concentrated selfishness, already illustrated by Tito and Rosamond. Grandcourt, to whom Gwendolen sacrifices herself; is compared to a crab or a boa constrictor slowly pinching its victim to death: to appeal to him for mercy would be as idle as to appeal to “a dangerous serpent ornamentally coiled on her arm”.

      This young gentleman is a model from the first. He has a “seraphic face”. There is “hardly a deli cay of feeling” of which he is not capable—even when he is at Eton. He is a very angel. A family is created expressly to pay homage to him. They are supposed to have a sense of humor to make their worship more impressive; but they certainly keep it in the background when speaking of him. To Gwendolen this peerless person naturally becomes an “outer conscience”; and when he exhorts her to use her past sorrow as a preparation for life, instead of letting it spoil her life, the words are to her “like the touch of a miraculous hand”. She begins a “new existence,” but it seems “inseparable from Deronda,” and she longs that his presence may be permanent. Happily, she does not dare to love him, and hopes only to be bound to him by a “spiritual tie”. That is just as well, because by a fortunate accident he has picked a perfect young Jewess out of the Thames. Moreover, by another providential accident—Providence interferes rather to excess — he has walked into the city and stumbled upon a virtuous Jewish pawnbroker; and at the pawnbroker’s has met the Jewess’s long lost brother Mordecai. who turns out to be as perfect as Deronda himself’ Mordecai is devoted to the restoration of the Jewish nationality. It gives, a chance to Deronda, however. For a perfect young man in a time of “social questions”, he has hitherto been rather oddly at a loss for an end to which he can devote his powers. Then comes the discovery, strangely delayed by a combination of circumstances, that he was a genuine Jew by birth. Now he can accept Mordecai for his prophet and take “heredity” for his guide.


      A.C. Ward is all praises for the novel and Says, “Duniel Deronda now takes, after long neglect, a higher place among, her ‘novels than at any time before, partly for the interest of its Jewish theme and partly for the character of Harleth, an unadmirable character so minutely studied as to become completely fascinating”. But Hugh Walker is critical of the novel and writes, “She failed to impart to others the interest she herself felt in Jewish nationality, even though she showed herself as a pioneer in so far as, since the publication of Daniel Deronda, some serious steps have been taken towards the replanting of the Jews in Palestine. However, the Jewish characters depicted by George Eliot are abstract and unreal and there is no vital bond; of union between the Jewish and the English parts of the novel.

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