Thursday, 19 July 2012

Daniel Deronda - George Eliot

Date of Reading: 06/07/2012
Author: George Eliot
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics
Place: Great Britain
Year: 1996

        I have found this book in a list of must read books of English literature. My pride has suffered much, I must say, for how could there be a George Eliot must read work which I haven't even heard about? Anyway I set out to read this and well, its pretty good, I confess. Eliot's second best (haven't yet found a rival for 'Mill on the Floss').
          The novel first appeared as a serial of eight instalments published in 'Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine' from February to September 1876. It explores 19th century Judaism and also examines the oppression of 19th century women in an increasingly imperialist, patriarchal English society.
        There are some things that are confusing though. For instance, why is it titled 'Daniel Deronda'? Both Gwendolen and Deronda has equal parts to play and as Gwendolen's life is far more interesting (at least for a contemporary reader), then why this partiality? All other female characters are shallow, especially Mirah who are nothing but the usual representation of an immaculate woman which exists only in a man's imagination - tender as rose and pure as snow! There is scope for a great sequel concerning Gwendolen's future life; there is no doubt that she can be great, but how?
          Narrative frequently shifts between the two central characters, Gwendolen Harleth and Daniel Deronda. Gwendolen is a brave, pretty girl brought up with high expectations of marriage which will secure the position of her family as it includes her mother and sisters. When Sir Hugo Mallinger's nephew, Mr. Grandcourt, comes to stay in Diplow, the opportune moment arrives.
        Gwendolen is inclined to accept his hand but soon finds out that the suitor has a secret mistress and children. She promises them she won't marry him and goes abroad for a while as an escape from Grandcourt. There she meets Deronda, the ward of Sir Hugo, but no cord of friendship arises then. When news arrives that her mother has lost her entire wealth, she has no choice but to marry Grandcourt. The search for a job was futile as there are no profitable jobs for a woman to do. The guilt of breaking her promise haunted her and she turns to Deronda as a spiritual counsellor. Their relation is often misinterpreted by others.
          Deronda was brought up as a ward of Sir Hugo's unclear of his origins. When he saves Mirah, a charming Jewess from attempting suicide, a new chapter opens up. She was running from her brutal father and is in search of her mother and brother from whom she was forcely separated as a child. Deronda's search leads him to Mordecai who sees in him a new dawn to Judaism. Nothing will persuade him to believe that Deronda is not a Jew. He turns out to be Mirah's brother and her mother was dead.
          Soon revelation comes out of blue; Deronda's mother, appearing for the first time informs about his Jewish birth. His father is dead and as the mother hated their religion, she left the child in the care of Sir Hugo to be brought up as an English man. 
         Meanwhile Gwendolen's life is in decline. She is just a slave to her husband's will and consequently unhappy. But his sudden death through drowning releases her at last though his fortune is bequeathed to the illegitimate son. But Gwendolen is content with her meagre wealth and she decides to live in a more fruitful way taking Deronda's advice.
         Deronda marries Mirah and together they go to east to acquire more wisdom and to awake the Jewish people. 

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