Literature Study GuidesDaniel DerondaVolume 3 Book 5 Chapter 35 Summary

Daniel Deronda | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Daniel Deronda | Volume 3, Book 5, Chapter 35 : Mordecai | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 35 opens at the Abbey, the grand Mallinger estate, a few days before the New Year, with the family expecting the Grandcourts for a visit. When Deronda thinks about Gwendolen, he speculates she married Grandcourt out of ambition or had been urged into a union by her impoverished family. He finds it difficult to imagine a woman wanting to marry Grandcourt: "One might be tempted to horsewhip him for the sake of getting some show of passion into his face and speech." When the Grandcourts arrive in the drawing room, Gwendolen is wearing white silk and Grandcourt's diamonds. As the guests converse, the reader learns Catherine Arrowpoint has married Herr Klesmer and her parents have accepted the match.

When Gwendolen catches a moment alone with Deronda, she asks him if he would hate someone who deliberately injured him for their personal gain. Deronda answers he would rather be injured than injure. After this conversation, Deronda resolves to stay away from Gwendolen lest his actions be construed as flirtation. But Gwendolen has fastened upon him and cannot help but seek him out. This behavior is not lost on Grandcourt, who sees it as a challenge to his mastery.

In a short flashback, the reader learns Gwendolen burned Lydia's letter and doesn't tell Grandcourt about it since she would have to admit she married him with knowledge of his previous attachment. But Grandcourt already knows, of course, and he uses this knowledge to subdue her by scourging her with her own pride. When Gwendolen refuses to wear the diamonds to their first party, he demands to know why—but of course, she cannot respond. She returns to her dressing room instead and allows him to fasten the hated gems. She is shivering and he says, "Pray put plenty of furs on ... If you are to appear as a bride at all, appear decently." Gwendolen experiences the terrible words of Lydia "crawl[ing] about the diamonds," but she nonetheless "answer[s] to the rein," since her master "touched the quick of [her] pride and forced her to rally."

While Grandcourt continues to provide for Mrs. Davilow to stay at Offendene—for which Gwendolen is grateful—she is nevertheless miserable in her new life. Deronda provides "a sense of novelty ... his influence had entered into the current of that self-suspicion and self-blame which awakens a new consciousness." She wishes he could know of her troubles and help her become better. The narrator notes, "Her feelings had turned this man, only a few years older than herself, into a priest."

Analysis

Despite the fact Deronda is involved in Mirah's life, he still has a strong interest in Gwendolen and her fortunes and can't help but think about her. At this point, both women are unobtainable. Mirah is Jewish and Deronda knows enough about her at this point to realize she will never marry a non-Jew. And Gwendolen is married but has reached out to him for help, and it is difficult for him to turn away from another's need, especially someone as beautiful as the young bride. When Deronda first sees Gwendolen, he notices the same "demonic force" that was present at the gaming table in Leubronn. This is one of many instances where Gwendolen is referred to as a demon. Gwendolen wears the white diamonds of Grandcourt's mother, which have now become a symbol of her marital oppression. They announce to the world that she belongs to Grandcourt, while privately they have become a device through which he tortures her. The fact Grandcourt can make Gwendolen wear the jewelry that has been tainted by Lydia is a great pleasure to him. "He delights in making the dogs and horses quail," Gwendolen thinks. Gwendolen is also in the wrong, however, since she is still attempting to play a power game with her husband. She thinks Grandcourt does not know her great shame—that she chose to marry him despite his having a ready-made family—and her pride will not allow her to confess this to him or bring it out in the open. However, if she confronts Grandcourt about his previous liaison with Lydia, she has the chance to change the power relations between them because at least he will no longer have the shame to hold over her head.

Despite her great pride, Gwendolen is able to turn to Deronda because he emanates compassion. She feels he will not judge her so harshly, and she needs this reassurance because at this point she sits in judgment of herself. Unlike Grandcourt, Gwendolen does have a conscience, and the pain her husband is putting her through has tapped a well of feeling she has previously been unaware of. Deronda appears to Gwendolen as an alternative to the way she has approached life thus far, and his great kindness provides a rest from the emotional brutality of her husband.

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