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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Why Daniel Deronida differs from most British fiction of its era

No surprise really that Gwendolen Grandcourt who collapsed and was found "crushed" on the floor at end of section did not actually die - just goes into a deep depression on the death of her husband, not because she loved him or misses him but our of guilt for not trying harder to save him from drowning, a perverse fulfillment of her barely suppressed desire to kill her abusive (mentally) husband. We learn in the next section that Grandcourt had pretty much cut her out of his vast estate - unless she bears him a son - so this leaves open a faint possibility: Could she have been pregnant when her husband drowned? If there's no son, all of the Gandcourt money goes to the son he had out of wedlock w/ Mrs. Glasher - we haven't even met this young man, but it would seem he's just a child. And by the way never mind his three sisters, they'll just have to depend on the kindness and generosity of their now wealthy older brother - typical of the fate of women in this novel and in the culture of the time. The sudden death of Grandcourt revives another passion: Gwendolen's cousin Rex had been broken-heated when she showed no interest in him years back; now, restored to health (he dropped out of Oxford for a year he was so depressed, and talked about going to Canada with his sister Anna), he's a rather boring law student, and he begins to wonder whether he might be back in the picture with Gwendolen. The poor young guy has no idea of the strength of the forces he's confronting - she's a strong and independent woman who would crush him. The one person who might enter into her life, the eponymous Deronda, is still traipsing through Europe and trying to learn more about his ancestry: he goes to Frankfort to recover the chest with records and documents that his long-lost mother has secured for him. I don't know what secrets are left to reveal here, unless he has some odd and unexpected relationship to the young woman, Mirah, whom he thinks he loves. He vows to continue with his interest in Judaism and, it would seem, in his commitment to advancing Zionism. We see by this point, near the end of the novel, how unconventional Eliot can be - quite different from most 19th-century British novelists: there are no happy reunions or marriages or incorporations into the social order on the horizon, it would seem - just characters wiser, more experienced, more committed to their unique path and vision: Deronda's Zionism is a reversal in a way of Huck Finn's heading "out for the territories" - another version of alienation from the accepted, rigid social order and from the world's expectations.

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