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Cover First Edition Danial Deronda

Daniel Deronda (1876), George Eliot's final novel, explores highly unusual territory for Victorian fiction: the title character, raised as a Christian, discovers and embraces his Jewish heritage. The novel has two main plots. In one, Daniel Deronda transforms from a serious but rootless young man, convinced that he is the illegitimate son of his guardian, Sir Hugo Mallinger, into a man of purpose, committed to the welfare of the Jewish people. He is inspired along the way by Mirah Lapidoth, an innocent Jewish singer whom he rescues from an attempted suicide, and by Mordecai, a Jewish mystic. In the other plot, the lovely but chilly (and self-involved) Gwendolen Harleth rescues her family from ruin by marrying the sadistic Mr. Grandcourt--even though she knows perfectly well that Grandcourt has fathered two children with his mistress, Lydia Glasher. As the novel progresses and Gwendolen sinks further and further into despair, she desperately turns to Daniel for moral support.

Tropes used:

  • Accidental Murder: Grandcourt's drowning.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Alcharisi, who wants to pursue her successful theatrical career, gives up her son to do it; when she thinks her voice has been wrecked, she makes an aristocratic marriage. The result: misery and an agonizing death from cancer. Mirah Lapidoth, however, enjoys singing, but she loathes public performance. The result: she is reunited with her brother, freed from her horrible father, and married to Daniel.
  • Asshole Victim: Grandcourt.
  • Bait the Dog: Grandcourt, both literally and figuratively. He rapidly veers into Kick the Dog, however.
  • Bald of Evil: Grandcourt has lost most of his hair.
  • Betty and Veronica: Gwendolen and Mirah.
  • Bittersweet Ending: It's not actually clear what's going to happen to Daniel and Mirah, let alone whether any of Daniel's and Mordecai's plans are going to come to fruition. Gwendolen, meanwhile, ends the novel widowed, abandoned by Daniel, and suffering from recurring fits of hysteria.
  • Break the Haughty: Gwendolen, who has already treated one suitor badly, marries Grandcourt to avoid having to work for a living--even though she knows what this will mean for Grandcourt's mistress, Lydia. This turns out to be a bad, bad idea.
  • Character Tics: Grandcourt. Speaks. Slowly.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Soon subverted. Although Gwendolen initially jumps at Grandcourt's proposal on account of the lovely things he can buy her, she suffers a mental breakdown when Lydia Glasher sends her the diamonds that Grandcourt had once given to her.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mirah Lapidoth; averted, however, when Daniel manages to rescue her.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Star Trek has Vulcans who laugh more than Grandcourt.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Sternly subverted by Klesmer, the musician who itemizes all of Gwendolen's faults as a potential actress. Similarly, even though Mirah has The Gift, she nevertheless has spent her life in training for performance.
  • Hates Being Touched: Gwendolen's aversion to anything sexual.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Massively averted. Grandcourt's supposed "love" for his dogs reveals the manipulative side of his nature.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Gwendolen thinks she can handle Grandcourt well enough. Oops.
  • Karmic Death: Mr. Grandcourt
  • Long Bus Trip: Daniel and Mirah exit the novel by going to Palestine, with no assurances that they will ever return to England.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In Daniel's case, mother and father.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Mirah and Mordecai.
  • Meaningful Name: the Biblically-inspired Daniel and Mordecai.
    • "Harleth" is suspiciously close to "harlot."
    • And, of course, Grandcourt's sidekick, Lush.
    • How did I forget Grandcourt himself?
    • A musician named Klesmer (Klezmer is a Jewish style of music)
  • Missing Mom: Daniel's absent mother; Mirah's and Mordecai's dead mother.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Grandcourt suspects that Gwendolen is trying to have an affair with Daniel. Or something of the sort.
  • Mysterious Parent: Alcharisi.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted as a plot point.
  • Parental Abandonment: Alcharisi wanted Daniel to be kept entirely ignorant of his Jewish heritage.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Catherine Arrowpoint's parents try this when she announces that she is going to marry Klesmer. They don't get very far.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Grandcourt is a brutal parody of this.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Observe how Grandcourt treats his dogs. Now, see how he treats his wife...
  • Secret Other Family: Grandcourt's mistress, Lydia Glasher, and their children. The whole problem is that Gwendolen knows they exist, and yet marries Grandcourt anyway.
  • Shrinking Violet: Mirah (who particularly loathes her stage career).
  • Stage Mom: Or, in this case, Stage Dad--Mirah's father.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Gwendolen. Whether or not she actually murders Grandcourt, as opposed to accidentally letting him drown in a moment of shock, is left deliberately ambiguous.
  • The Atoner: Alcharisi.
    • By the end of the novel, arguably Gwendolen as well.
  • The Gambler: Gwendolen, in the novel's famous opening.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Gwendolen and Daniel have their own, clearly-defined plots, although they repeatedly cross paths.
  • Write Who You Know: Eliot partly modeled Mordecai after her friend, Immanuel Deutsch.
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