by George Eliot
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
What's up with all the bling this novel? From Gwendolen's turquoise necklace to Lydia Glasher's diamonds to Daniel's diamond ring, jewelry turns up over and over again in Daniel Deronda. The jewelry isn't just there as details to tell us how glam everyone looks, though. Jewelry seems to take a real front and center role in this book – these are memorable pieces that appear in key scenes. So why all the fuss about everyone's icing?
For one thing, the key pieces of jewelry that we see in this novel tell us a lot about the ways that certain characters relate to one another. In fact, sometimes pieces of jewelry create ties between two characters that didn't even exist before. Let's start with Gwendolen's turquoise necklace, which she pawns off in Leubronn when she finds out that her family has lost all of their money. Up until this point, she hasn't really spoken to Daniel Deronda all that much – as far as she's concerned, he's just that guy who seemed to look at her disapprovingly while she was gambling. Then, he sees her pawn her necklace, buys it from the pawnbroker, and returns it to her with a cheeky little note. Even though Daniel's note is anonymous, his act of returning her necklace makes their relationship way more personal. She can't act casually around him anymore – he knows way too much about her now.
Lydia Glasher's diamonds create a whole bunch of drama for Gwendolen. Grandcourt once gave Lydia his family diamonds as a gift when he was still in love with her. Later, he made her promise to give them back when he got married. Lydia gives Gwendolen the diamonds as a terrifying wedding present, complete with a note telling Gwendolen what a terrible person she is and how she'll never be happy. Lydia's diamonds create a silent drama between Gwendolen and Grandcourt; she doesn't want to wear them because they seem hateful to her. She wants to wear the turquoise necklace instead. What is interesting is how the diamonds cause Gwendolen to think about all the bad things she has done – she gets way more blame for her actions than Grandcourt gets for his. The diamonds reveal a lot about the love triangle going on here. We don't just learn about how Grandcourt relates to the two women in his life; we also see a tense, stressful relationship carved out between the two women themselves.
Daniel's diamond ring, finally, creates a relationship between himself and his birth family that he didn't even know existed. When he goes to visit his birth mother, she tells him that the ring he is wearing once belonged to his father. He has never met his dad before – heck, he always thought Sir Hugo was his father – but all of a sudden he finds out about this relation who is dead and gone, but he still has a ring that belonged to him. So there you have it – jewelry isn't just there to make these characters look good; it ties them to one another in complicated ways.