The plot starts in Germany, in an autumn in a wealthy social circle.
Gwendolen is a young girl who chooses to spend her time gambling and during an unlucky day, she loses her money while being watched by an English gentleman named Deronda.
During the same day, Gwendolen receives a letter from her mother telling her that their family lost all their money and that she asks her daughter to return home as soon as she can. Regretting that she gambled all her money, Gwendolen decides to pawn one of her necklaces and thinks about gambling once more, believing that she will be able to win and help her family.
She decides not to gamble her money and return home after she receives a parcel with the necklace she pawned.
The plot then goes back in time, during the time Gwendolen moved with her family in Offendene, in an old house. A few biographical elements are given about Gwendolen and her family and the reader is let to know that Gwendole’s father died when she was really young and that her mother remarried. Gwendolen’s step-father rarely lived with them and after his death, the family was forced to constantly move from one place to another.
They settle in at Offendene and Gwendolen and her mother start talking about marriage. While Gwendolen’s mother sees marriage as the only was a woman can be happy, Gwendolen doesn’t agree with her and thinks that she can be happy is she doesn’t get married.
That night, Gwendolen meets Mr. and Mrs. Gascoigne and their daughter, Anna. Mr. Gascoigne is a clergy man and Gwendolen thinks about the differences between Mrs. Gascoigne’s marriage and her mother’s marriage. Her cousin Anna, even if she is not as beautiful as Gwendelen or as tall, she is beautiful. The Gascoigne family also have two sons and one of them, Rex, was supposed to come home for Christmas.
Gwendolen asks her uncle for a horse but Mrs. Gascoigne tells her that they can’t afford it. Mrs. Gascoigne promises her however to think about it, believing that in that way she will be able to help her niece find a suitable husband. Mrs. Gascoigne however fears than one of her sons will end up falling in love with Gwendolen.
Gwendolen quickly becomes the main attraction in the little society she enters. She is invited often to parties at Quetcham Hall. There, her piano skills are harshly criticized by Klesmer and Gwendolen dwells on the fact that she is seen by him as ordinary. Gwndolen likes to act but she isn’t as talented as she thinks she is and her mother tells her so when Gwendolen tries to compare herself with a popular actress of her time,
Rex comes and he falls in love with Gwendolen much to Mr. Middleton horror who liked to believe that he had a chance with Gwendolen. Rex falls in love with Gwendolen more and more each day and Anna worries that Gwendolen will never be able to properly love her brother. She tells Rex what she thinks but he doesn’t want to believe her.
One day,Rex and Gwendolen go together to ride after the hounds but Rex is left alone by Gwendolen. Rex falls off his horse and dislocates his shoulder and returns home but continues to worry about Gwndolen. Rex’s father plans to send Rex away after he finds that he plans to confess his feelings to Gwendolen and ask her to marry him.
Mr. Gascoigne goes to look after Gwendolen and he is sadden to see that she makes fun of his son’s accident and that she talks negatively about marriage. The next day, Rex returns home and Mr. Gascoigne decides to send him away. Rex confesses his feelings to Gwndolen but she rejects him.
Rex falls into depression and Anna resents Gwndolen for it. Rex tells his sister that he plans to move to Canada and Anna tries to convince him to take her too. They both talk with their father but he refuses to let them go, saying that Rex can’t miss a whole semester from college.
Eight months after Gwendolen moved to Offendene, Grandcourt, the heir of Sir Hugo moves to Diplow Hall. Everyone at Offendene hopes that Grandcourt will fall for Gwendolen and thinks that he will be a perfect match for her mostly because of his financial status.
When Gwendolen goes to Brackenshaw Park for an Archery Meeting, she is noticed by Grandcourt.and they decide to meet later at the ball. At the ball, Grandcourt dances with Catherine and Gwendolen dances with Klesmer. Gwendolen is invited to dance by Gradcourt and they start flirting.
Grandcourt expresses his desire to marry with Gwendolen but Lush disagrees. It seems that there was a possibility of Grandcourt not inheriting his uncle’s money so it was a safer option to marry Catherine, a girl with a large fortune, instead of marring Gwendolen, who was financially unstable.
Gwendolen is uncertain on whether to accept Grandcourt’s imminent marriage proposal or not but she is convinced by her uncle to accept it, even if that meant abandoning everything she believed in regarding marriage.
The next day, another archery event takes place and Gwndolen is sure that Grandcourt will propose to her. Before he has the chance, Gwendolen receives a letter asking her to meet a stranger as the Whispering Stones to talk about Grandcourt. Gwendolen goes there and she meets with Lydia, Grandcourt’s mistress with whom he has four children. Gwendolen promises that she will not accept Grandcourt’s proposal and then leaves.
Gwendolen tells her mother that she was going to refuse Grandcourt’s proposal and that she plans to leave and join some of her friends in Dover.
The plot then shifts to Daniel Deroda and Mr. Hugo. Grandcour and Lush also go to Leubronn where they meet with Daniel and Mr. Hugo. They talk about Gwendolen and Lush lets it slip that Grandcour wanted to marry her. Daniel however is not interested in marrying her at all and says that he would sooner run away from her.
We find a few things about Daniel Deronda. He has been raised by Sir Hugo and to that day, Daniel still hasn’t found who his true parents were. At one point, he even believed that he was Sir Hugo’s illegitimate son.
Daniel is Grandcourt’s complete opposite. He is kind and wants to help those around him even if that meant he was going to be at a disadvantage.
For example, he helped a young girl named Mirah. Daniel meets Mirah one day when he was walking along the river Thames. He realizes that she is upset and that she plans to drown herself so he convinces her not to do it and then takes her to some of his friends to take care of her.
Mirah is a young Jewish girl who used to travel with her father and work as a singer since she was young. Her father had a gambling problem and because he accumulated a large debt, he planned to sell Mirah to a European nobleman as a mistress. When Mirah found about his plans, she ran away and searched for her family but was unable to found them. It was then when she tried to kill herself but was stopped by Daniel.
Meanwhile, Gwendolen returns to her family and finds them ruined. She tries to find work as a governess but then asks Klesmer for help hoping that she will be able to make it as a singer. Klesmes tells her that her changes of becoming a singer or actress are slim so she decides to accept Grandcourt’s marriage proposal despite her adversity towards marriage in general.
Gwendolen is unhappy in her marriage and constantly thinks about Lydia and her children. She starts to become rude towards Gradcour and Lush tells her details about Gradcourt’s will and how she will receive little financial support if Gradcourt dies. Grabdcourt blackmails Gwendolen into going on a cruise with him on the Mediterranean Sea and she is left with no other choice than to accept.
During this time, Daniel becomes intrigues by Judaism and the Jewish community. He meets Mordecai in Frankfurt and after a brief conversation with him, Daniel realizes that Mordecai is Mirah’s brother. Daniel reunites them and shortly after, Sir Hugo tells Daniel that his birth mother wants to meet him.
Daniel meets with his mother in Genoa and he finds that his mother is dying. His mother reveals to him that he is Jewish and that he was raised by Sir Hugo because she was a singer and Sir Hugo felt in love with her. Thinking that he will be able to provide a better life for him, she asked Sir Hugo to raise Daniel and he accepted.
When Daniel returns to London, he finds that Gradcourt drowned while he was off sailing so he tries to comfort Gwendolen. He reveals to everyone his Jewish origins and then he proposes to Mirah. She accepts to marry him and together they decide to try and carry on Mordecai’s dream of creating a Jewish nation.