HomeLiterature Study GuidesDaniel DerondaVolume 2 Book 4 Chapters 30 32 Summary

Daniel Deronda | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Daniel Deronda | Volume 2, Book 4, Chapters 30–32 : Gwendolen Gets Her Choice | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 30

Chapter 30 provides the backstory on Mrs. Glasher and Grandcourt. Ten years prior, he had eloped with the wife of an Irish officer. His passion for Lydia Glasher "had been the strongest and most lasting he had ever known." Although the passion is spent, Grandcourt is still well disposed enough toward Lydia to consider marrying her after her husband dies. On Lydia's part, she had been treated with such "marital rudeness" by her husband that Grandcourt gave her a sense of relief disproportionate to what he actually offered. Now she has four children and is willing to "endure anything quietly in marriage" for their sake.

Grandcourt provides for Lydia and his children, although he seldom visits. Today he intends to tell Lydia he is getting married and to ask her for his mother's diamonds. She has previously refused to give them back, saying she would hand them over only if he married another woman. Now he asks again, and she creates a slight scene until he finally agrees to allow her to have the diamonds delivered to Ryelands, his estate where the couple will be on their wedding night. In exchange she promises not to harry him again.

Chapter 31

Gwendolen is happy on her wedding day, although Mrs. Davilow has been crying half the night. The new bride is lively on the wedding journey, while Grandcourt is "ecstatically quiescent." After he shows her around the house and leaves her in her boudoir, he kisses her hand, "more in love than he had ever expected to be." Soon after the housekeeper hands her a packet containing the diamonds with a poisonous note from Lydia, reproaching Gwendolen for breaking her promise and cursing her marriage: "The man you have married has a withered heart. His best young love was mine; you could not take that from me when you took the rest." When Grandcourt comes in to get her for dinner, Gwendolen comes out of her horrible reverie and begins screaming "with hysterical violence."

Chapter 32

Deronda returns to London, having successfully planted a seed in Grandcourt's mind. Sir Hugo plans to follow up by inviting the newlyweds for Christmas. Deronda is now free to visit the Meyricks and learns Mirah is well loved and has begun attending the synagogue. While he was on the continent a few months earlier, Deronda had begun searching out Jewish culture to better understand Mirah. In Frankfurt he enters a synagogue and finds himself moved by Jewish prayers in the form of chant. At the end of the service, he is approached by a man who seems to recognize something about him and asks his mother's family name. Deronda shrinks away, saying, "I am an Englishman."

Visiting now with the Meyricks, Deronda is privileged to hear Mirah's exquisite singing. She has recovered and is giving music lessons. Deronda and Mrs. Meyrick determine Hans will stay with Deronda when he comes home for Christmas, as both fear Hans will become enamored with Mirah. Deronda thinks "no man could see this exquisite creature without feeling it possible to fall in love with her." He surmises that even if Mirah fell in love with a non-Jew, "she would never be happy in acting against that strong native bias which would still reign in her conscience as remorse."

Analysis

While some critics have called Grandcourt evil, critic Badri Raina has identified him as the personification of Arthur Schopenhauer's malevolent will acting on the world. But a psychological interpretation might better serve in understanding Grandcourt while avoiding both religion and philosophy. As Raina points out, Eliot preaches in her fiction that characters are transformed by their imaginative sympathy with others, but this is not the case with Grandcourt, even though he can imagine what other people may be feeling when their egoism is involved. For example, he understands Gwendolen's pride and fear of ridicule. Unlike other immoral characters in Eliot's fiction, Grandcourt has nothing good about him.

One way to look at Grandcourt is as a sociopath—one who does not kill people or otherwise break the law but has no ability to feel in any meaningful way. This is at the bottom of his extreme boredom. He is also the epitome of what is worst in decadent aristocrats who come from a long line of privilege. While Eliot has created other sociopathic characters (for example, Rosamond Vincy, Doctor Lydgate's selfish wife in Middlemarch), none exhibit as many character traits of a sociopath as Grandcourt, and none are so completely irredeemable.

Like all sociopaths, Grandcourt possesses superficial charm, high intelligence, and is incapable of irrational thinking. He can rarely be ruffled (perhaps the only instance of this comes before his death), and he has no shame or remorse about lying. His behavior is antisocial in the extreme, and he is incapable of even liking other people for any period of time. On his wedding night he feels more than he had expected, but no doubt what he is feeling most is the anticipation of possessing Gwendolen sexually for the first time. The narrator does not let the reader know what happens on that night after Gwendolen gets the diamonds and then begins screaming in horror. Most likely Grandcourt did not try to soothe her but likely told her to pull herself together and not ruin their evening.

Key to Grandcourt's sociopathy is his inability to love. No doubt his feelings for Lydia Glasher were primarily sexual, and when he grew weary of her novelty he moved on. While he has some insight into selfish motivation, he cannot imagine the inner life of someone like Deronda, who puts aside his egoism for the sake of others. Grandcourt has also lost interest in Lydia because she has become too needy, and there is no challenge in thwarting her. "What friend have you besides me?" he asks, when she makes a fuss about his marriage and he warns her to back off. "Quite true," she answers, and "the words [come] like a low moan." Grandcourt provides for Lydia now, not out of love, compassion, or even duty but because he sees himself as an English gentleman who can do no less without looking ridiculous.

On Gwendolen's wedding day, two local people gossiping about the couple foreshadow Gwendolen's future life. "Squire Pelton used to take his dogs and a long whip into his wife's room, and flog 'em there to frighten her," one woman says. The tailor replies it is "unlucky talk for a wedding" and opines that a quarrel "may end wi' the whip, but it begins wi' the tongue, and it's the women have got the most o' that," demonstrating the patriarchal view that if a woman gets whipped it is because she deserves it for having too sharp a tongue. The tailor says Grandcourt is known to say little and expect people to do his bidding "dummy-like." The woman answers Gwendolen no doubt has tongue enough for both of them. This ominous conversation prefigures Grandcourt's sadistic domination, although Gwendolen's tongue will do her no good against him. The first sign of Grandcourt's domination comes when Gwendolen receives the diamonds from Lydia and collapses. The reader doesn't see Gwendolen with the diamonds again until Chapter 35, when the party at Brackenshaw Castle is recalled by the narrator. On this occasion Grandcourt forces Gwendolen to wear them despite her protests.

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