Literature Study GuidesDaniel DerondaVolume 3 Book 5 Chapters 36 37 Summary

Daniel Deronda | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Daniel Deronda | Volume 3, Book 5, Chapters 36–37 : Mordecai | Summary



Chapter 36

In the present, Deronda has been buttonholed by Mr. Vandernoodt, an acquaintance of Sir Hugo from his Leubronn trip. A gossip, Vandernoodt tells Deronda of Grandcourt's relations with Lydia. Glasher. He now wonders if "Mrs. Grandcourt, under all her determined show of satisfaction, [was] gnawed by ... self-reproach, disappointment, jealousy?" But rather than feel judgmental, Deronda feels pity and solicitude. He joins the ladies in the drawing room to tell them Mirah is available to give music lessons and sing at private parties. Lady Mallinger pipes up to recommend Mirah, although she regrets she is "a bigoted Jewess." Gwendolen and Deronda have another chance at conversation, and he tells her about Mirah's difficult childhood and how she was able to pull back from "drowning herself in despair." When Gwendolen chides him for admiring Mirah because she is perfect, Deronda assures her his sympathy would extend to someone who had awakened to remorse.

On New Year's Eve, Sir Hugo holds his traditional ball, which Grandcourt finds a bore. Gwendolen is wearing the necklace Deronda saved from the pawnshop in Leubronn. She contrives to show it to Deronda and alludes to someone else's loss and her gain. When Deronda leads her back to her husband, Grandcourt says telegraphing Deronda with the bracelet is "damnably vulgar." He doesn't care if she talks to Deronda, but says, "You will either fill your place properly—to the world and to me—or you will go to the devil." Gwendolen is mortified but finds another opportunity to speak with Deronda privately, and he advises her to "take the present suffering as a painful letting in of light." Gwendolen says she has fear, mainly of herself, and Deronda advises her to use it as a "safeguard ... to take hold of [her] sensibility." He feels somewhat helpless toward her. When Sir Hugo steps into the library after Gwendolen leaves, he warns Deronda not to play with fire.

Chapter 37

When Deronda returns to town the first week of February, he finds Hans Meyrick painting in his room. This is a new vocation for Hans, and he has been using Mirah's face for his studies of Berenice, the Jewish lover of a Roman emperor. Deronda informs him this is inappropriate, especially because Mirah will be working as a teacher. Hans confesses his love, and Deronda tells him he is being unrealistic since Mirah will never marry a Christian. Deronda is surprised about the personal feelings that arise from Hans's declaration. When Deronda visits the Meyricks, he hears from Mirah that Hans compared him to the Buddha who, according to one legend, gives himself up to a hungry tiger. Deronda assures her he is no Buddha and has needs of his own. Nonetheless, he defends the story as a fable about "the transmutation of self." Mirah decides to keep Lapidoth as her stage name (the name her father gave to himself and his daughter many years ago) rather than her real name, since Deronda tells her Cohen is "inadmissible for a singer."


When Deronda hears about Lydia Glasher from Vandernoodt, he realizes the source of Gwendolen's change in demeanor and her private sorrow. He sees the connection between himself and his private grief—of believing he is Sir Hugo's son but not being acknowledged as such—and Gwendolen's transgression. She too drew this connection when she previously asked him if he would hate someone who deliberately injured him, and perhaps he also understands she is commiserating with him. She continues to seek his counsel and attention, despite the fact she is calling attention to herself and Deronda. With his new knowledge, Deronda reassures her it is not only the morally unimpeachable—like Mirah—who deserve sympathy, but also those who "do something that awakens in them a keen remorse." Deronda says, "Some would never get their eyes opened if it were not for a violent shock from the consequences of their own actions," and such people need more care, not less, than the people who are simply good. This conversation heartens Gwendolen, which is why she determines to wear the turquoise necklace as a symbolic show of the fact she is doing penance. The necklace represents her resolve to become better.

While it is easy enough for Grandcourt to see something is going on between his wife and Deronda, he doesn't understand it. He knows Gwendolen is not flirting with Deronda in a conventional sense, yet she is publicly paying too much attention to this single man, which reflects poorly on her husband. He is too egotistical to actually be jealous, and his own lack of feeling makes it impossible to imagine the emotions motivating his wife. He understands pride but not remorse. Even Sir Hugo is concerned about the scenes playing out between Deronda and Gwendolen and warns Deronda to be careful. He too does not understand Gwendolen's motivation, but he knows Deronda well enough not to suspect low motives on his part.

In these chapters, Eliot takes the opportunity to point out the prejudice of the English upper classes against the Jews. Lady Mallinger thinks to help Deronda in promoting Mirah as a singer and teacher, saying, "She has very good manners." However, in calling Mirah—whom she has never met—a "bigoted Jewess," Lady Mallinger is repeating the stereotype that Jews hated Christians, when in fact the historical record shows quite the opposite was true. When Mirah is thinking about going back to her family name of Cohen in pursuing her professional career, Deronda states unequivocally she must not. This is because he knows a name so obviously Jewish will prevent her from obtaining work. Someone like Herr Klesmer, who is most likely Jewish, does well because he has assimilated. While Mirah has not assimilated, she must not advertise she is a Jew if she wants to get ahead among the bigoted English upper class.

When Deronda gets back to town he realizes what he and Mrs. Meyrick had feared has come to pass—Hans Meyrick has fallen in love with Mirah. Deronda is surprised to find he has feelings of jealousy. Moreover, for the first time he is feeling irritated that others do not see him as a flesh-and-blood man like themselves, with needs and desires. It does not occur to Hans that his friend might be a rival, and this annoys Deronda, even if he has ruled himself out because of his role as Mirah's mentor.

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