by George Eliot
Talk about making an entrance – we first meet Mirah when Daniel notices her trying to drown herself on the riverbank. From the moment we meet her, we realize that Mirah is a deeply unhappy young woman who has had to go through a lot of tough experiences at a young age – way more than most of us could ever relate to. Her father stole her away from her mother and brother when she was only six years old, moved her to America, and made her begin an acting and singing career onstage at the age of nine. Mirah spent her entire childhood under her father's clutches. As a young woman, she realizes that her father intends to foist her off on a man she doesn't love and who isn't Jewish, so she runs away in search of her family.
We should probably stop here for a second to talk about Mirah's relationship to her religion, because it's not only central to her character, but it's also interesting to think about. As a young girl, Mirah wasn't all that in touch with her Jewish identity. Her father never took her to the synagogue and even punished her when she snuck out to attend services. For Mirah, one of the most important reasons for her religious devotion is that it connects her to the mother from whom she was taken. She has fond memories of going to services with her mom and listening to hymns whose words she doesn't understand. Mirah's whole rationale for getting in touch with her religion is so that she can feel like she's still close to her mom.
It's interesting to think about how Mirah's two very different experiences with her parents seem to create two very different sides of her personality. On one hand, we see a childlike innocence in Mirah that seems to echo her troubled childhood. She seems sweet, demure, and pure. Other times, we see her become a strong woman who is firm in her beliefs – and that's when we start to see a resemblance between Mirah and the mother she describes. When Mordecai and Mirah reunite, in fact, Mordecai is amazed by how much Mirah resembles her mother. It seems that Mirah has grown up to be exactly the kind of woman that her mom wanted her to be.Timeline