Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The mysteries surrounding the eponymous Daniel Deronda
The mysteries that surround the eponymous Daniel Deronda as we finish section V (?), "Mordecai": most of all his parentage - he is troubled that he does not know who his parents are, he suspects he may be an out-of-wedlock son of his so-called uncle, but we get the hint that just maybe he's Jewish by birth? That would tie together the strands of the novel and explain his sudden, overwhelming love for the Jewess Mirah as well as his near obsession with Judaism and London's Jews. Is he in fact related to Mirah? That would be too much of a coincidence even for a Victorian novel, but still - it's possible. And that's the 2nd mystery: Who are her parents? DD suspects that he's discovered her mother and brother, Ezra Cohen, pawnbroker - and his evidence is in part that the mother declines to talk at all when asked if she has (or had) a daughter. So is she mourning the loss of Mirah, and will it be a miracle if DD can reunite mother and daughter? That seems too pat and simplistic for George Eliot - if she's the mother, Eliot has given far too much away. We can't be that much smarter than the characters, that is. So maybe the silence of the Cohens conceals another mystery. Leading to: who the heck is Modecai? He seems to think of himself as some kind of poet-prophet, and he seems to have settled on DD as the one to convey his prophecies to the next generation. But, hey, this is not normal human behavior; does DD recognize that he's dealing w/ disturbed and disillusioned man? Some readers may remember a old man much like Modecai who haunted Broadway and 116th across from Columbia in the late 60s - Columbia students called him the Yumkey Man (he called himself Nuc Nulb = New Concept, New Language-Bringer); Paul Auster included a character much like him in one of his novels (I have written about him, too - unpublished): the point is, I can see that DD might feel pity for Mordecai, and curiosity, but he also must realize that Mordecai is not a well man.