Sunday, October 30, 2016
Character, didacticism, and the narrative consciousness in Daniel Deronda
As part 1 of Daniel Deronda builds and concludes, we find ourselves definitely in Austen territory - in fact it's almost impossible not to think of Pride and Prejudice, as Eliot unfolds the narrator of the new rich young guy coming into the area where he's bought a mansion to use as his outpost for hunting and sports - and everyone in the area wondering who's going to catch him in marriage. The difference here tho is that instead of the wise Liz Bennet and her beautiful and kindly sister, Jane, we have the sharp-tongued, superproud Gwendolen Harleth who's sure she's better than everyone else (she probably is) in everything but fortune (and lineage) - two big things. Her cousin Rex falls in love with her and she rebuffs him, sending him into a terrible depression - he more or less drops out of Oxford and plans or at least threatens to head off for the wilderness of Canada (his sister Anna, Gwendolen's only friend, says she'll go w/ him); his father wisely suggests he not do anything rash - he's obviously very immature and inexperienced regarding women and love. The section ends with the town-wide archery competition - of course Gwendolen wins, showing up the music teacher who dared to criticize her singing - she definitely holds a grudge - and the new guy in town notices her beauty and bearing and asks to be introduced to her, and there the section ends. Friend WS (not Will Shakespeare) suggests that I read Leavis on Eliot, which I will after I finish DD: apparently he argues it's a great but flawed novel, a terrific character study but at times entirely didactic. Haven't gotten yet to the didactic part, but agree that at least the character of Gwendolen is vivid, a "round" character, as Forster would have it - but all that said I think I probably read Eliot as much for her aphorisms, for her own authorial intelligence, which none of her characters can quite match - they all are her consciousness in part, but the narrator's consciousness supersedes all.