Degree Year

1986

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Keywords

Daniel Deronda, Middlemarch, Price and Prejudice, Narrative, Eliot, Jewish, English, Judaic

Abstract

Readers of Daniel Deronda have long noted the tension in the novel between the so-called "Jewish" and "English" halves, and understandably so. Not only are the lives of Gwendolen's carefully drawn psychological portrait contrasts strongly with the air of myth and prophecy in Deronda's discovery of his heritage and destiny. Critics, following Leavis in The Great Tradition, have considered Deronda's story vastly inferior to Gwendolen's, an unbelievable moral fairy-tale peopled with flat characters. But if we consider the novel, ans the Deronda story especially, as constructed with an awareness of a characteristically Judaic narrative style we can see both as resonant with each other, if not fully unified. Eliot's effort to incorporate new ideas into the novel by means of the "Jewish" plot may not be an entirely successful one perhaps, but it is wrong to suggest as some do that Deronda's story is unnecessary and unlikely dead weight because it is not marked by the same kind psychological style as Gwendolen's. Instead the key to seeing the two as less disjointed than some have thought is to recognize that in order to write about the search for a new life and a better world, Eliot is experimenting with a new fictive mode, based on an entirely different tradition of narrative, one better suited to her Judaic theme. It is unrewarding to judge Daniel Deronda with a set of standards drawn almost entirely from Pride and Prejudice, or even from Middlemarch. By examining in that ways the novel is rooted in the unique narrative world of the Jew, we will find that truth in Daniel Deronda is the province of the imagination, and that the system of moral imperatives Eliot constructs is intimately wound with the fictive vision that many have found unpalatable. This style of active vision, that is times appears to draw events along in resonance with it, is the key to a new perspective on the widely perceived disjunction between the two plots, and since an understanding of it tends to redefine for the reader what in the novel is truly real, it may help to counter charges of woodenness of character and unlikeliness of plot in Deronda's story.

Share

COinS