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Daniel Deronda | Symbols


Archery and Arrows

Archery and arrows symbolize Cupid's arrows of love. Gwendolen is an excellent archer and one of the best in the archery contest. She first pierces her cousin Rex with the arrow of love, although she does not return his affection. Next, she turns to the eligible bachelor in town: "My arrow will pierce him before he has time for thought. He will declare himself my slave." In fact, she means to win Grandcourt's devotion. Little does she know what is in store for her at her future husband's hands. In truth, she never pierces his heart, which is dead. Later she pierces Deronda's heart: "Her words of insistence that he must 'remain near her—must not forsake her'—continually recurred to him ... Dante has said pierce us like arrows." Daniel by now is in love with Mirah, but he feels obligated to help and protect Gwendolen because she has turned to him in her time of sorrow and despair. He becomes Gwendolen's support in Italy after Grandcourt dies in a boating accident.


Horses symbolize status, power, and control. Gwendolen is a good horsewoman, and she chooses to ride after the hounds, even though it is not ladylike. Horseback riding makes her feel "strong and happy." The narrator notes Gwendolen "wished to mount the chariot [of marriage] and drive the plunging horses herself, with a spouse by her side." During their courtship, Grandcourt sends her a beautiful horse to ride, and when she finally accepts—despite her knowledge of his family with Mrs. Glasher—Grandcourt thinks, "She had been brought to accept him in spite of everything—brought to kneel down like a horse under training for the arena." After they are married, Grandcourt forces Gwendolen to ride out with him on a regular basis, turning what used to be one of her greatest pleasures into another symbol of her bondage to him. Like a horse herself, Gwendolen has been tamed and broken by Grandcourt.


Jewelry in the novel is used as a symbol by both Grandcourt and Gwendolen. The diamonds Grandcourt receives from Mrs. Glasher are used by him as a symbol of Gwendolen's submission. He forces her to wear the diamonds because he knows she is aware from whom they came. He also guesses Lydia Glasher has included some form of communication with the diamonds that makes it even harder for Gwendolen to wear them, which makes it even more of a pleasure to force her to do so. In retaliation, Gwendolen wears the turquoise necklace on her wrist at Sir Hugo's party as a sign to Deronda that she has taken his admonishments to be a better person seriously. He hasn't actually admonished her—other than when he first gets the necklace from the pawnbroker in Leubronn. But Gwendolen projects her conscience onto Deronda, and he becomes her father confessor. Grandcourt doesn't understand any of this—only that his wife and Deronda have some understanding between them about the necklace. He humiliates Gwendolen when she wears the necklace around her wrist, saying she has made a spectacle of herself.

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