Friday, November 4, 2016
Gewendolen makes a big mistake in Daniel Deronda
Developments in Daniel Deronda, as Dernonda heads off to the continent leaving behind the "jewess" whom he saved from drowning - Klesmer, the music maestro who has been giving lessons in the Gacgoigne household (Gascoignes are the cousins of the central character, Gwendolen) falls in love with G's cousin and closest friend, Anna, and the two declare their love - to the complete freakout of the parents who believe he's bounty hunting and that she's throwing herself away on a "jew, a gypsy" - whether he's actually Jewish seems to me doubtful, they just associate him w/ all the invading hordes of foreigners, hmm? - but Anna says she will marry him, even if she's disinherited, and he stands by her honorably. They talk about him being a talent on the order of Mendelssohn or Schubert, but it's not clear whether readers are to take that seriously or as must local pride and exaggeration. At the same time, Gwendolen comes home as her mother and 4 half-sisters (barely characters at all in this novel) are moving into some rundown house - having lost all their money in some kind of weird investment scheme - and she is preparing to go off and work as a governess for a Bishop's daughters - and she can't abide the thought of that, she is definitely no Jane Eyre. She sees herself as proud, beautiful, aristocratic, and brilliant - all true - but she makes a terrible mistake and decides she wants to be singer or actor (believing the polite praise she receives after drawing-room performances at home means she has real talent); she asks Klesmer what he thinks - could she take a few lessons and become a star and solve all the family problems? And he correctly lights into her: you don't just dally in art and become a star, and it isn't a field you enter in order to make money, you have to be completely devoted and willing to face years of failure and penury (he obviously speaks from experience and from the heart) and her sense that she could just take a few lessons and become a star is actually a deep insult to him and to all artists - for such a smart woman, it's surprising that she doesn't recognize this. Whether that's a sign of her desperation, her narcissism, or perhaps of Eliot herself missing a beat, I'm not really sure.