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Written by Braga Lena
Marriage is a central theme in the book, being linked with the fate of the female characters in the book. Because the story takes place in the Victorian time, women had little opportunities apart from being governesses or marring with a wealthy man. Because of this, we see female characters like Gwendolen marrying someone she doesn’t love just because she realizes that only through marriage she will be able to help her family financially. On the other hand, we have Catherine who decides to marry out of love but she is disinherited by her family because Catherine decided to marry someone her family didn’t approve of. What we see in the book is that especially in wealthy families, marriage didn’t concern only those who were getting married, but actually the whole family. We are also presented with different views on marriage throughout the book, from believing that marriage is the only choice a woman has, to the idea that a woman can take care of herself without needing a husband.
Since the beginning of the book, Daniel Deronda is plagued by the idea that he doesn’t know who he is. Sir Hugo provides little information regarding his family and this leads Daniel to create in his mind many different scenarios regarding his parentage. Daniel’s inner turmoil pushes him to search for his family and help Mirah find her family. It is let to be understood that sometimes, a person may feel an instant connection with those from his or her nationality and the reader can see this in Daniel’s case, when he feel an inexplicable connection with those from the Jewish community, connection explained only after Daniel finds that he is also Jewish.
Women and society
The book offers a glimpse into the life of the people living in Victorian England and also on the differences between men and women and their roles in society. We see that men are forgiven for not being chaste and for having sexual relationships with more than one woman while women were supposed to remain pure until marriage. Agreeing to enter an affair meant that the woman was going to have to give up her old life and wait for her lover to either marry her or support her financially. Women had limited possibilities in that society and the only way they could make sure that they are financially stable was either to marry with a wealthy man or try to find work as governesses. Women were unable to inherit their father’s wealth and this sometimes leads to widows and daughters living in precarious conditions or depending on a male relative to take care of them. The women in the book have a very limited number of roles available for them in the society they live in but there are also female characters like Gwendolen who try to break the out of a constrictive society.
The book also focuses on religion, on Judaism in particular. In fact, Daniel Deronda is one of the few novels written in that period that present Judaism in a favorable light and in which the characters that are Jewish are not seen in a predominantly negative light. Religion in the book is seen as a part of someone’s identity so Daniel’s journey towards finding who he really is meant that he also had to go through a spiritual awakening and connect with the religion of his mother.
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