‘To say that Deronda was romantic would be to misrepresent him; but under his calm and somewhat self-repressed exterior there was a fervour’
As Daniel Deronda opens, Gwendolen Harleth is poised at the roulette-table, prepared to throw away her family fortune. She is observed by Daniel Deronda, a young man groomed in the finest tradition of the English upper-classes. And while Gwendolen loses everything and becomes trapped in an oppressive marriage, Deronda’s fortunes take a different turn. After a dramatic encounter with the young Jewish woman Mirah, he becomes involved in a search for her lost family and finds himself drawn into ever-deeper sympathies with Jewish aspirations and identity. ‘I meant everything in the book to be related to everything else’, wrote George Eliot of her last and most ambitious novel, and in weaving her plot strands together she created a bold and richly textured picture of British society and the Jewish experience within it.
In his introduction, Terence Cave examines the ways the novel stands apart from earlier and contemporary works in its romance and realism, in its characters’ search for identity and in its defiance of prejudice.