Literature Study GuidesDaniel DerondaVolume 2 Book 3 Chapters 22 24 Summary

Daniel Deronda | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Daniel Deronda | Volume 2, Book 3, Chapters 22–24 : Maidens Choosing | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 22

Herr Klesmer is himself in the midst of a drama and has abruptly left the Arrowpoints. A gifted musician at the height of his profession, he has fallen in love with his protégé, Catherine, but assumes there is no chance for them since she is an heiress and he is a foreigner. Mr. and Mrs. Arrowpoint have invited Mr. Bult, a politician and the last in a steady stream of upper-class men Catherine is in the habit of rejecting. Klesmer heatedly disagrees with Bult during a political discussion, and he is now determined to leave, no longer able to contain his feelings. He confesses to Catherine she is "the chief woman in the world—the throned lady whose colors I carry between my heart and my armor." She then admits she also loves him. When she informs her parents, they say she must marry a gentleman. The Arrowpoints tell Klesmer they will disinherit Catherine if she marries him, but this makes no difference to the happy couple.

Chapter 23

Gwendolen has called Herr Klesmer to Offendene for advice about whether she might have what it takes to become an actress. He tells her as kindly as he can the life of an artist is one of "arduous, unceasing work, and—uncertain praise" that has to be earned and may not come at all. He gently chides her for thinking she would become an artist since she can do nothing else, saying there is no better vocation in the world. But the artist's life is suited only to those who love perfection and are willing to endure hardship for it. Given the fact she has had no serious training, she is already at a disadvantage, and he predicts she would be mediocre, at best, on the stage. However, he mentions he is engaged to Miss Arrowpoint and they would help her get settled and trained in London if she is serious about pursuing a career as an actress or singer. Gwendolen is shocked by Klesmer's assessment of her. She thanks him for his trouble and parts cordially from him, but then sinks into depression.

Chapter 24

Gwendolen tacitly agrees to become governess to the bishop's daughters, and Mr. Gascoigne says he will continue negotiations with Mrs. Mompert, the bishop's wife. Gwendolen continues to be depressed: "What occupied and exasperated her was the sense that there was nothing for her but to live in a way she hated." She asks her mother to sell her jewelry, although she holds onto the necklace rescued by Deronda: "She had a confused state of emotion about Deronda—was it wounded pride and resentment, or a certain awe and exceptional trust?"

Analysis

The Arrowpoints' insistence on thrusting potential suitors on their daughter has finally come to a boiling point when they invite Mr. Bult, "a political man of good family who ... expected a peerage, and felt ... he required a larger fortune to support the title properly." Eliot is using a sarcastic tone to show how the suitor thinks of Miss Arrowpoint primarily as a steppingstone to his political ambitions and generalizes what is good for himself to what is good for the country. Herr Klesmer has been hiding his feelings for Catherine, and now he can't help but put the self-satisfied suitor in his place, berating "the lack of idealism in English politics." The condescending Bult is surprised to hear a mere musician—and a foreigner at that—speak so eloquently and asks if he is a Panslavist (someone who wishes to reunite the Slavic peoples), and Klesmer answers sarcastically he is rather "Elijah ... the Wandering Jew." This is the only reference to Klesmer's Jewish ethnicity, and Miss Arrowpoint is hasty to point out that Klesmer looks forward to the "fusion of races." Thus, it is likely Klesmer is an assimilationist Jew, and critic Alan Levenson points out his Jewishness is much less important than his art.

But Klesmer's origins are enough to disqualify him as a son-in-law, once the happy couple confesses their mutual affection. Here is an example of a fourth woman, Catherine Arrowpoint, who is expected to subject herself to the patriarchy. Her parents are trying to shoehorn their daughter into a match that will raise them socially since their money comes from trade. When Catherine declares she will marry Klesmer, her father says, "It will never do to argue about marriage, Cath ... We must do as other people do. We must think of the nation and the public good." He frames her marriage to a "gentleman" (i.e., a Christian Englishman with some class standing) as a duty to the nation. This is a similar argument Mr. Gascoigne uses with Gwendolen.

While Catherine and Klesmer are busy getting engaged, Gwendolen is trying to wriggle out of the straitjacket of threatened poverty while still retaining her dignity. She thinks she might become an artist and support herself and her family, and it falls to Klesmer to provide her with the unvarnished truth about the unlikeliness of this happening. After Klesmer leaves, Gwendolen faces for the first time her true situation, which is that the world will not bend to her will but instead she must bend to it and go out as a governess. When she asks her mother to sell her jewelry, she holds back the necklace rescued by Deronda because it symbolizes for her a promise either to another path or another way of thinking about life. However, Gwendolen has no clear idea about what this promise may be—she has only an inkling.

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