Daniel Deronda

The Soul in the Jewish Marriage, as Embodied by Daniel Deronda College

The first few books of Daniel Deronda focused on Gwendolen Harleth, who shines as a self-centered, domineering young woman. In becoming trapped by marriage to Grandcourt, she develops growing fascination with Daniel, an attraction that began with their encounter in the opening pages of the book. Daniel’s influence on Gwendolen causes her to evolve her ego and become a better woman, and Gwendolen ultimately falls in love with him. Unfortunately for Gwendolen, Daniel realizes that despite his attraction to her, his loves lies with the Jewess, Mirah, and Gwendolen’s fate is left undecided.

Eliot had begun the novel with Gwendolen and then portrayed many scenes of Gwendolen’s dependent relationship on Daniel, so naturally both readers, and characters within the story, can imagine an eventual love story between the two. However, Eliot clearly indicates in Book VIII that a romance with Gwendolen is incompatible with Daniel’s discovery of his Jewish background. Using language that equates marriage to a spiritual union, Eliot emphasizes that Daniel’s soul has a distance to Gwendolen’s that precludes any satisfactory marriage between the two, and furthermore, she suggests that for Daniel and Mordecai, the faithful Jewish characters,...

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