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Themes

Many novels in George Eliot's time had a tendency to romanticize marriage. In Daniel Deronda, however, we get a pretty diverse mix of examples of what marriage can look like. Marriage is one of the key tools through which women could assert their place in society in the nineteenth century, so it wasn't just the two people getting married who had interests at stake; often, the whole family was involved. The Arrowpoints totally flip out when Catherine decides to marry Klesmer out of love; they threaten to disinherit her. Gwendolen marries Grandcourt to save her family from financial ruin. Hans realizes that Mirah will never marry him because he's not Jewish. Marriage isn't just about hearts and flowers in this book; it also provides a reflection of the way society at large tends to work.

Questions About Marriage

  1. Do you think marriage is the only real option for women in the society we see in this novel? How come?
  2. Over the years, a lot of critics have rooted for Daniel to end up with Gwendolen instead of Mirah. Do you think there was ever a chance that Daniel would marry Gwendolen? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think Mirah would have eventually married Daniel even if he weren't Jewish?
  4. Do you think the novel portrays marriage as a mostly negative or mostly positive thing? Who, if anyone, is happily married?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Daniel Deronda shows us how marriage is a trap for women.

As unfortunate as it might seem to the modern woman, Mrs. Davilow is right: in Daniel Deronda marriage is the only good option for women.

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