Literature Study GuidesDaniel DerondaVolume 2 Book 4 Chapters 28 29 Summary

Daniel Deronda | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Daniel Deronda | Volume 2, Book 4, Chapters 28–29 : Gwendolen Gets Her Choice | Summary



Chapter 28

Gwendolen's mother and sisters, as well as the Gascoignes, rejoice in Gwendolen's good fortune, and she is happy to be rid of the "horror" of becoming a governess. Nonetheless, she lies awake that night "appalled by the idea that she was going to do what she had once started away from with repugnance." Grandcourt sends her an engagement ring the next morning, along with 500 pounds for her mother's expenses. She begins to engage in some mental gymnastics, in which she imagines leaving one of the Mallinger estates to Mrs. Glasher's boy. At the same time her repugnance fades into the background the more she sees Grandcourt as a man "over whom she was going to have indefinite power."

Grandcourt pensions off Lush, although they agree he will remain on call and out of sight. Once Lush leaves, Grandcourt falls into a lazy reverie. He knows Gwendolen doesn't love him but is egotistical enough to believe she will fall in love with him eventually. Lush now writes to Sir Hugo, advising him Grandcourt will be marrying the penniless Gwendolen. He suggests he send Deronda to visit and make an offer for Diplow Hall, which Grandcourt might eventually accept. Sir Hugo discusses the matter with Deronda, and he agrees to go. On his part Grandcourt is happy "his cousin under the rose" will witness him with "a splendid girl whom the cousin had already looked at with admiration."

Chapter 29

Grandcourt woos Gwendolen carefully, respecting her modesty in maintaining physical boundaries between them. "He was almost charming; and she felt ... it was not likely she could ever have loved another man better than this one," the narrator says.

Gwendolen is nervous about Deronda's visit. She finds his "gravely penetrating" gaze more difficult to bear than either his "ironical smile" or "Klesmer's judgment." She learns about the rumor of Deronda's parentage and the speculation that he has been deprived of Sir Hugo's estates on this account, which reignites Gwendolen's concerns about Mrs. Glasher's son. She rationalizes she is not responsible for what other people have done, and nothing will change if she now refuses to marry Grandcourt.

The next day, Gwendolen attends the hunt with Grandcourt and Deronda and privately asks Deronda why he thought it wrong for her to gamble. He explains, "There are enough inevitable turns of fortune which force us to see that our gain is another's loss." Since this is an ugly aspect of life, it is better to reduce it as much as possible rather than "get amusement out of exaggerating it." What is more, where women are concerned men hope they will be better than themselves.


Gwendolen cannot be easy about her decision and must continue to rationalize it, now thinking she will right Grandcourt's wrong by providing an estate for his illegitimate son. She is tortured by her nightly thoughts: "It did not signify what she did; she had only to amuse herself as best she could." Alternatively, her "lawlessness" frightens her, and she cannot shake the sense "something awful and inexorable" surrounded her and that power would be avenged. When Gwendolen receives money for her mother from Grandcourt, her fears are temporarily dissipated. Grandcourt can hardly be bothered with presenting her with an engagement ring, and he is asserting his domination by sending it and requesting she wear it rather than offer it in person. He is hardly the man to get down on one knee.

The narrator describes Grandcourt sitting for hours without doing anything or even thinking in any proper sense of the word, demonstrating that his inner life is empty. His satisfaction in winning Gwendolen is that she is not in love with him, despite the considerable attention he has lavished on her. He realizes she probably would not have accepted him without the impetus of the sudden poverty of her family. In his egotism, he also imagines she will develop some affection for him over time since other women have found him irresistible. On the whole Grandcourt has no interest in women who are tender with him and willingly obedient. Rather, "he meant to be master of a woman who would have liked to master him, and who ... would have been capable of mastering another man." Grandcourt has a sadistic streak, and while he is careful not to violate Gwendolen's physical boundaries in any way, the modern reader cannot help but think he will bring his sadism into their sexual relationship once they are married, although this is territory Eliot scrupulously avoids.

In Chapter 29 Gwendolen has her first meeting with Deronda, inaugurating him as her informal spiritual guide. When she asks him why gambling is so bad, he explains it is a game of power relations, with winners and losers. While power relations between people are inevitable, people ought to avoid creating them when they are unnecessary. This motif of gambling—both in a literal and metaphorical sense—is threaded through the novel. Gwendolen is now getting ready to take the biggest gamble of her life. She is about to marry Grandcourt and believes he will treat her better than he has treated Lydia and she will win in a game of domination. Gwendolen finds out in this chapter that Deronda might be the illegitimate heir of Sir Hugo, and this makes her associate his misfortune with the one she will be bringing on Grandcourt's boy. Once again, she justifies to herself her decision to marry Grandcourt. "Things would not come right if I were to turn round now and declare that I would not marry Mr. Grandcourt," she thinks. It is too late to turn back.

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