by George Eliot
Daniel Deronda Theme of Foreignness and 'The Other'
Some characters in Daniel Deronda just don't seem to fit in. The novel mostly takes place in an upper-class English world of drawing rooms and high society. We definitely know when there are characters who don't seem to fit the general mold. Klesmer, for one, is described as having pretty exotic looks (just check out his flowing hair). Mordecai doesn't just look different; his intense spiritual beliefs distinguish him from both Christian and Jewish characters alike. The ideas of "foreignness" and "otherness" are central to Daniel's self-discovery too; unlike many other characters who seem to fear people who are different from them, Daniel seems to embrace foreignness. He wants to leave the British university system so that he can go learn about the ways that other people live. It seems that Daniel's appreciation for people who aren't exactly like him is a crucial quality in his search for his own mysterious identity.
Questions About Foreignness and 'The Other'
- What are some of the ways in which Eliot portrays "foreignness" or "otherness"?
- Are there any examples of "foreigners" who fit in with the rest of society, or do they tend to remain separate from everyone else? Why?
- What examples do we see of characters demonstrating prejudice against others?
- The narrator tells us repeatedly that Daniel is interested in learning about and understanding different cultures. Do we see any other characters show a similar kind of interest? If so, who?
Chew on This
Daniel Deronda portrays its Jewish characters in a sympathetic and flattering way.
Daniel Deronda plays upon the same stereotypes of Jewish people that we see in other novels from the 1800s.