Literature Study GuidesDaniel DerondaVolume 3 Book 6 Chapters 41 43 Summary

Daniel Deronda | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Daniel Deronda | Volume 3, Book 6, Chapters 41–43 : Revelations | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 41

Deronda is surprised by the strong feelings aroused in him by Mordecai and thinks he should not be ashamed of them just because he "lived among people who might laugh at his owning any conscience in the matter, as the solemn folly of taking himself too seriously." If he were reading about a young man from centuries past who was "dissatisfied with his neutral life" and wanted a cause he could put his heart into, he would not be surprised that the intense Mordecai would have made an impression on him. He is glad he has not completely succumbed to Mordecai's monomania and "preserved himself from the bondage of false concessions." Yet he is intrigued by the "bare possibility" he has a Jewish heritage that might spur him to new thoughts as well as actions.

Chapter 42

Deronda is reading a Jewish historian who speaks about the "National Tragedy" of the Jews, lasting 1,500 years. He thinks about Ezra Cohen, who hardly seems to be a martyr of the Jewish religion but rather a successful and somewhat greedy pawnbroker. Deronda returns to the Cohens to retrieve his ring as well as keep his promise to Mordecai. He can't help but temper his "sense of repulsion at the commonness of these people" with a "kindlier feeling" because of their "treatment of the consumptive workman." Deronda and Mordecai head out for the neighborhood club, although they won't have privacy because "The Philosophers"—a small group of "poor men given to thought"—are meeting that evening.

At the club are a half dozen Jewish men, although the narrator describes them as having varied features—some clearly identifiable as Jews and others who could "easily pass for Englishmen." The men are talking about whether the concept of nationality will remain a viable force in the world, and Mordecai turns the conversation to a discussion of Jewish identity. One secularist holds for keeping Jewish identity but getting rid of "superstitions and exclusiveness" and sees no reason why Jews shouldn't gradually melt into the populations in which they find themselves. Mordecai holds the opposing viewpoint. He talks about how, despite their persecution, the Jews have excelled in all lands in which they found themselves. He alludes to a homeland for the Jews in the East, although he doesn't specifically name Palestine. While Mordecai faults Spinoza—a 17th-century Dutch-Jewish philosopher—for not keeping "a faithful Jewish heart," even the great philosopher thought "Israel should ... again be a chosen nation."

Chapter 43

After the other men leave, Mordecai again raises the doctrine of the Cabbala with Deronda. He explains how "a soul liberated from a worn-out body may join the fellow-soul that needs it, that they may perfected together, and their earthly work accomplished." Mordecai expects his "long-wandering soul" to join with Deronda's upon his death. Mordecai also tells Deronda his other name is Ezra and recounts his old life: he was bound for the Middle East, then called back by his mother after his father absconded with his sister Mirah, leaving his mother in debt. Mordecai cared for his mother until she died four years later. Deronda now knows Mordecai is Mirah's brother. He is both overjoyed and sad—happy because Mordecai is a worthy brother and sad because he has a terminal disease. Deronda now embraces responsibility for both Cohens, brother and sister, and thinks about how he will move Mordecai to some quarters near the Meyricks and engineer a reunion.

Analysis

Chapter 41 continues to parse Deronda's motivations for continuing in his strange relationship with Mordecai. The narrator calls Deronda a romantic, and his relations with Mordecai have taken on a heroic cast, providing an alternative to his dissatisfaction "with his neutral life" and holding out the possibility of some "special duty to give him ardor for the possible consequences of his work." Deronda is a man looking for a vocation, and Mordecai is asking him to take on worthy work. Deronda begins to think perhaps Mordecai's "demand of discipleship" was a "foreshadowing of an actual discovery and a genuine spiritual result." He might receive from Mordecai an "ideal shape of ... personal duty and citizenship which lay in his own thought like sculptured fragments certifying some beauty ... but not traceable by divination." Moreover, he has another reason for looking favorably on the idea he might be a Jew, which are his feelings for Mirah. At the same time, Deronda cannot rejoice in the idea that his heritage might be other than English, given his love and loyalty toward Sir Hugo, whom he considers to be his father.

Eliot breaks with her usual use of the epigraph in Chapter 41 by translating the chapter lead-in into English and putting the words of the epigraph into Deronda's mind. The author of the epigraph says Israel leads all nations in suffering. Eliot recalls here and elsewhere in the novel the European history of the Jews—a people hounded, killed, and marginalized. Eliot takes pains to point out the Jewish men assembled at the club carry a mixture of ethnicities from the various nations of Europe. These men are Ashkenazi Jews whose people had spread across the European continent during the Jewish dispersions centuries ago. The men have physical characteristics showing their ancestors mixed with Germans, Scots, Celts, and so forth. The men are also assimilationists in their views, in varying degrees, except for Mordecai, who argues assimilation "drain[s] away the sap of special kindred that makes the families of man rich in interchanged wealth." He eloquently speaks about the persecution of his people and how they held onto their religion and traditions in spite of their trials, a treasure to be passed on to subsequent generations. The author herself is arguing—using Mordecai as a mouthpiece—for the value of maintaining one's ethnic and religious identity, a major theme of this novel, or what Joseph Kalonymos will later call "separateness with communication."

Deronda is astonished to learn Mordecai is the Ezra Cohen he has been seeking, and he clearly sees how he is a worthy brother to Mirah. In Deronda's eyes, Mordecai has the "elements of greatness." Although he desired to become a leader of his people, Mordecai put his ambition aside to care for his mother in her time of need. More so than ever, Deronda's "imagination mov[ed] without repugnance in the direction of Mordecai's desires." When juxtaposing Mordecai's values with the decadence and carelessness of the members of the upper class Deronda generally associates with—and who are generally depicted negatively in the novel—it's easy to see how Mordecai offers Deronda a breath of fresh air.

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