Literature Study GuidesDaniel DerondaVolume 4 Book 7 Chapters 56 57 Summary

Daniel Deronda | Study Guide

George Eliot

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Daniel Deronda | Volume 4, Book 7, Chapters 56–57 : The Mother and the Son | Summary



Chapter 56

Deronda stays at the hotel for Gwendolen's sake, and the next morning she tells him how she wished to be rid of her husband, calling herself a murderess. She cannot wish Grandcourt were alive, yet she is haunted by his dead face. She confesses how she hid a small knife in her dressing case, thinking to kill him. When Grandcourt turned the sail to return, he was knocked into the water. He called for the rope, and she hesitated in throwing it, and Grandcourt sunk again. Then she jumped into the water to save him.

Chapter 57

Deronda tells Gwendolen she need not tell anyone else this story: "There is no injury that could be righted in that way ... no retribution that any mortal could apportion justly," he says. Gwendolen thinks if she had thrown the rope immediately, Grandcourt might have been saved, but Deronda says, "With your quickest, utmost effort, it seems impossible that you could have done anything to save him." Gwendolen cries that he must think her wicked, but Deronda feels nothing but compassion. "I believe that you may become worthier than you have ever yet been—worthy to lead a life that may be a blessing," he says with feeling. Gwendolen begs him not to forsake her. She says he has saved her from being more wicked than she might have been for not meeting him.


Mirah is not wrong to be concerned about Gwendolen's claims on Deronda, and she calls on him once again to help her through the untimely death of her husband and her terrible feelings of guilt. So far the reader has only been given glimpses of Gwendolen's hatred for her husband, but now she confesses to Deronda she has gone as far as taking possession of a deadly knife. She fears the isolation of being alone on a yacht with her tormenter might be enough to incite murder. The reader cannot help but remember the beginning of the novel when the narrator relates how Gwendolen wrung the neck of an annoying canary. Is Gwendolen responsible for Grandcourt's death? Deronda doesn't think so, saying her hesitation in throwing Grandcourt the rope made no difference. But if Grandcourt is yelling at her to throw him the rope, it is doubtful he could swim. The fact that she hesitates, allowing him to go down into the water again, probably makes the difference between life and death. She describes how Grandcourt calls for the rope the first time he comes up from under the water, and Gwendolen goes for the rope and then hesitates to throw it to him the second and third time: "He was gone down again, and I had the rope in my hand ... and I held my hand, and my heart said, 'Die!'" At that point, Gwendolen jumps into the water to save him, but it is too late. It appears Deronda is interpreting what has happened to leave Gwendolen with as little guilt as possible. After her initial hesitation, she tries to do right and save him, and she clearly expresses remorse. Further, Deronda believes she can be saved. The reader cannot help but side with Deronda, feeling glad Grandcourt is dead because he doesn't have one redeeming quality and is a malevolent force in the novel. Still, Gwendolen seems to have taken the law into her own hands, releasing herself from her abusive husband.

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