Daniel Deronda: Revelations

This book starts out with some much needed explanation of why Daniel was willing to listen to Mordecai. Daniel is “dissatisfied with his neutral life” and wants a special duty or purpose. Into this vacuum comes Mordecai’s ardour and certainty. And then, there must be many people with ideas, “on the look-out for the man who must hear him”, immovable in the face of indifference or incredulity — “like Copernicus and Galileo”. In order to avoid rejecting good, “nothing will do but a capacity to understand the subject-matter on which the immovable man is convinced”. “[W]e are the beginning of the ages” which shall “try the spirits, and see what they are worth”. This line of thinking keeps Daniel from a “contemptuous prejudgment of Mordecai”, in addition to his natural sympathy with suffering and readiness to acknowledge any claim on himself. His contempt for “those who were deaf to Columbus” compels him “to see that I don’t adopt their mistake on a small scale”. On the other hand, Daniel does not want “his course determined by mere contagion, without consent of reason” (ch. 41).

In this frame of mind, Daniel fulfills his promise to visit Mordecai. Together they go to a club of which Mordecai is a member. These people assume that Daniel is familiar with “Mordecai’s way of thinking” and Daniel is “all ear” for any “hints of Mordecai’s opinion”. And it is here that Mordecai finally gives an idea of just what his “vision” is, giving Daniel a clearer picture of what he could be getting into. Mordecai is a Zionist. He has grand ideas of the good having a Jewish nation will do, not only the Jews, but the whole world. He says, “[T]he world will gain as Israel gains. For there will be a community in the van of the East which carries the culture and the sympathies of every great nation in its bosom: there will be a land set for a halting-place of enmities, a neutral ground for the East as Belgium is for the West.” (ch. 42). Obviously, Mordecai’s vision has not been wholly fulfilled. While the State of Israel was established in 1948 (about 70 years after the publication of Daniel Deronda), the idea of it as “a halting-place of enmities” or “a neutral ground for the East” is almost ludicrous nowadays. Daniel is moved by Mordecai’s passion and promises him, “Everything I can in conscience do to make your life effective I will do” (ch. 43).

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Mordecai’s vision was the first major revelation of book six. It leads to the second. From Mordecai’s story, Daniel learns that Mordecai is Mirah’s brother. After telling Mordecai about Mirah, Daniel persuades him to accept a new home closer to the Meyricks, with the view that Mirah will eventually wish to live with him. He leaves Mrs. Meyrick to tell Mirah of the discovery, as he wishes to avoid seeming to make himself important or giving himself the character of a benefactor. Mirah and Mordecai meet and, of course, love and properly appreciate each other.

Another revelation is Gwendolen’s discovery, which comes as a shock to her, that her husband knew that she had met Lydia and heard her story before they were engaged. Grandcourt makes no similar discovery about Gwendolen. He understands only part of her dread of him. He understands her pride, but not her remorse. He thinks she is only jealous of Lydia and cannot imagine her actual feelings.

Unlike Gwendolen, Grandcourt does not repent of his marriage. It has given him an aim in life and “new objects to exert his will upon” (ch. 48). He takes satisfaction in mastering her inward resistance. When he breaks his first promise to her by bringing Lush back, she dares not quarrel. He goes further, and requires her to hear from Lush the details of his will. “‘She is in a desperate rage,’ thought [Grandcourt]. But the rage was silent, and therefore not disagreeable to him. It followed that he turned her chin and kissed her” (ch. 48).

As Gwendolen grows more desperate, she turns again to Daniel and expresses to him her fears of becoming more wicked with hatred. Grandcourt interrupts them before Daniel, feeling helpless to save her, can speak his thought: “Confess everything to your husband; have nothing concealed” (ch. 48). Grandcourt decides to take Gwendolen away yachting in the Mediterranean. He would have denied that he was jealous of Gwendolen’s relation to Daniel, but he is determined not to be fooled.

ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre - Daniel Deronda

The book ends with one final revelation. Daniel receives a letter from his mother who now wishes to see him and he finally learns that Sir Hugo is not his father.

__________________________

This is part of the Eliot Project which “Sophie” of A Reasonable Quantity of Butter and I are doing. Read “Sophie’s” notes on the sixth book of Daniel Deronda here: “Revelations”.

Screencaps from the 2002 adaptation of Daniel Deronda with Hugh Dancy as Daniel Deronda, Daniel Evans as Mordecai, and Romola Garai as Gwendolen Harleth.

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