Daniel Deronda

I'm back. I've still been reading, just slacking in the blogging department, which, let's be honest: isn't of much consequence. At any rate though, I've had a few people tell me I've gotten them interested in classic literature, score! Up next, George Eliot's splendid Daniel Deronda.

There's so much to be said about this novel, but I'll just touch on a few important points. Instead of making Daniel an impetuous youth, Eliot introduces a deep thinking, strong principled, handsome Englishman. Also immediately introduced is the exasperatingly spoiled yet beautiful Gwendolen Harleth.

Now, although Gwendolen is presented as a potential heroine who can become a better person, you’ll find yourself hoping desperately for a more worthy woman for dear Daniel. Enter Mirah Lapidoth. Mirroring Daniel in many aspects, she adds a touch of pathos and innocent sweetness to the love triangle.

But don’t be fooled, Daniel Deronda isn’t merely a romantic novel, George Eliot used her beautiful story as a way of conveying her frustration with English prejudices which focused strongly on the Jewish faith and culture. At a time when many English authors penned stories which included terrifying Jewish characters, Eliot saw the injustices and strove to correct people’s misconceptions. As much as I love Charles Dickens, think about the seedy, horrific Fagin of Oliver Twist (which it seems he tried to right with Riah’s character in Our Mutual Friend)… So, in George Eliot’s true brilliant fashion, she attacks social injustice while writing one of the most impressive love stories.

As a side note, the 2002 BBC film version of Daniel Deronda is certanly worth a watch.

Here are a few great quotes:

“No- no- it shall not be. It may be- it shall be better with me because I have known you.”

And while there is warmth enough in the sun to feed an energetic life, there will still be men to feel, ‘I am lord of this moment’s change, and will charge it with my soul.’

I know very well what love makes of men and women – it is subjection.

Yet when Deronda entered, the sight of him was like the clearness after rain: no clouds to come hinder the cherishing beam of that moment.

Among the blessings of love there is hardly one more exquisite than the sense that in uniting the beloved life to ours we can watch over its happiness, bring comfort where hardship was, and over memories of privation and suffering open the sweetest fountains of joy.

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