Serial Reading Guide for Daniel Deronda: Book Three (chs. 19-27)
Page numbers are indicated for the Barnes and Noble edition (2005) and the Penguin Classics edition (1995). For example, “107bn/123p” refers to page 107 in the Barnes and Noble edition and page 123 in the Penguin edition.
1. Throughout this installment, notice how often the novel calls our attention to the effects of poetry and romance on the lives of the characters. Characters are shown to be influenced by nearby forces, such as friends and immediate family, as well as far-off and even abstract forces, such as stories, art, and history. Eliot seems to be exploring the very real effects of art, imagination, and ideas on ordinary daily human interaction.
2. Consider the points above another way—what does Mirah’s story tell us about the relationship between art and life?
3. “She had grown up in her simplicity and truthfulness like a little flower-seed that absorbs the chance confusion of its surroundings into its own definite mould of beauty” (197bn/225p). At the end of chapter 20, this is Daniel’s view of Mirah. How might it relate to other characters as well?
4. The epigraph to chapter 21 is famous for its harsh condemnation of ignorance and ignorant destruction.
5. How would you compare the various mothers in the novel so far?
6. Chapter 22 moves along quite vigorously. Will we see a marriage? Be ready for a key scene that begins with the portentous words, “The father took his cigar from his mouth” (216bn/246p).
7. Note another remarkable scene involving Gwendolen in chapter 23, particularly the passage that begins “Gwendolen had never in her life . . .” and continues to the end of the chapter (231bn/262p.
8. What do we know about governesses in novels?
9. In terms of emotion and character analysis, chapter 24 is particularly charged. Consider in particular the very long paragraph that begins on page 239bn/272p. And by the way—What are Gwendolen’s thoughts on marriage at this point?