Daniel Deronda A HEROIC LIFE

What we feel in our souls is the vital thing, let us forget about the looks.

By Nevin Ulusoy

What do we live for? One of the basic questions in our minds. To have pleasure, to try to get out of life whatever it has in store for us, to laugh and to forget, to take all the good things? What are the good things? Hollywood parties as mentioned in “The Sirens of Titan”? Peace, quiet, calmness in mind, being happy with the things we do, having a clear heart? Where do we find happiness, in taking or giving? Literature and all kinds of art try to answer these questions basically and give a fuller meaning to the human existence in this world. We do not have to do heroic actions of course, but benefit from heroic examples is a perfect way of nourishing our existence and give it a fuller meaning.

We do not have to do heroic actions of course, but benefit from heroic examples is a perfect way of nourishing our existence and give it a fuller meaning.

“Daniel Deronda” is a very good example of shaping one’s life for a good cause and living for others as well. We have a Jewish hero and the prejudice for Jews in the Victorian England, along with other nations. In Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, the Jews are people to be ridiculed only and they can be taken into consideration as they convert to Christianity. Things are taken very seriously and realistically here, mentioning in a way that we may be different but we are all valuable as human beings, having our places in this brilliant world to give it its brilliancy. This is George Eliot‘s last novel, the product of a life-long reading and writing woman, distilled from her powerful observation and amazing writing talent. She was a self-educated and very clever woman, a real intellectual. She was also a poet, a translator and a journalist. She was taking her job very seriously. George Eliot is the pseudonym of Mary Ann, later Marian Evans. She was very pious in her younger days, but became an agnostic later. She lived with George Henry Lewes, one of the most sophisticated journalists of that time, until his death. He was married, but had serious problems with his wife. Later she got married with John Walter Cross, her banker. She died in 1880, aged 61. She was a realist writer and went deep down her characters psychologically. Her depiction of rural scenes are also wonderful. She published “Adam Bede” in 1859, “The Mill on the Floss” in 1860, “Silas Marner” in 1861, “Middlemarch” in 1871-72 and “Daniel Deronda” in 1876. There is also a BBC serial of the same name.

We see Gwendolen Harleth, our heroine, gambling at the beginning of the book and the subject with Gwendolen will be about gambling. A gambling of love, marriage and being prosperous. This is also the first time we see Deronda and his seeing Gwendolen. She is predominated by her beauty and very much interested in having admiring eyes around her, want to be encircled with those eyes. Marriage is a very serious business for her, which she thinks her mother could not manage, but is sure she will do perfectly. Her father died when she was little and her mother married again , a stepfather she never liked, who also died. She has sisters from her mother’s second marriage she looks down upon and the girls think she is a princess. Gwendolen wants a husband whom she can play with, under her hands, willing to do anything she wishes to do, but also strong so that her conquer will be complete and satisfactory.

We see the hypocrisy of the society, how superficial things are. When Gwendolen is proposed by Grandcourt, a rich and noble man nobody likes, society believes it is a brilliant match for her. Nobility and riches make everyone forgive everything they suspect Grandcourt may have done. They do not even feel the need to investigate about some of the suspicions of his misbehaviour everybody heard of. Her aunt’s husband, Mr. Gascoigne, the rector especially is very eager on this marriage. Gwendolen learns about that misbehaviour at the “whispering” of the “stones”, but in the end goes on gambling. This is a Medea and Creusa case, as mentioned in the book as well, Grandcourt’s mistress sending her diamonds just to burn her heart. Grandcourt is a man who has dogs just to be their masters and when he is bored of one of them, he does not hesitate to torture the dog by caressing a new favorite of him in front of the poor creature, makig it howl in bitterness. He wants to be a master to be obeyed in life, nothing else and as Gwendolen’s eyes are blind with the sparkling of her future life, she does not see it until it is too late.

Deronda has been taken care of by Sir Hugo Mallinger, whom he calls uncle and who is also Grandcourt’s uncle, opposite of Grandcourt in every way. People, including Deronda think he is Sir Hugo’s illegitimate son. In one of his lessons, when he was 13, as he was reading a book, he asked his tutor the reason of the popes’ and cardinals’ having so many nephews. The tutor answered:

-“Their own children were called nephews… Priests don’t marry and the children were illegitimate.”

Daniel knows in his heart he is not the only one who suffers, so he does not complain about his pain and thinks trying to ease other people’s pain, he can be happier. Buddha and the tigeress, Buddha consenting to be eaten by the tigeress to feed her hungry little ones, to be useful for others, even if it will give him no benefit, maybe will be difficult for him. Mirah, a poor Jewish girl he helps find her family, and the family she stays with, Daniel’s best friend’s family are happy with what they have, a working, little bur cheerful, contented life, very much opposite with Gwendolen’s way of life. Mirah’s brother, Mordecai, is a person who forgets completely about himself for his case and becomes a perfect example for Deronda, in whose character and way of life, sees the true path for himself, the path that he has been looking for all through his life. He meets his mother, who abandoned him to be a singer, opposite her father’s wishes, a free woman, untied by the rules of society and not believing it to be a mother a woman’s most important role. We are face to face with a woman who has lived her life fully, as she wanted it to be, rejecting being shaped by her father’s or other people’s demands. She does not like it much when Deronda is very excited about being a Jew and his decision on working for the good of his people. All these things do not mean anything for Gwendolen, everything is for the outlook, how they are seen by the others; full of superficiality, looking wonderful, but crying inside, feeling hatred for everything and everybody around. It was all she wished for, living in all luxury that can be imagined, dining in the best possible manner, but they are all lies, lies deep down and Gwendolen only wants to cry in hatred, hatred in a degree to commit a crime, if only she could.

Finding peace in sharing, being happy with what we have and knowing how wonderful it is to have them.  This might be the answer to the questions raised above, on the meaning of our lives. We cannot have happiness all the time, but turn our sorrow into an experience of understanding our fellow species better and working for everybody’s happiness. What we feel in our souls is the vital thing, let us forget about the looks.


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