Study Guide

Daniel Deronda Foreignness and 'The Other'

By George Eliot

Foreignness and 'The Other'

Those who were taking their pleasure at a higher strength, and were absorbed in play, showed very distant varieties of European type: Livonian and Spanish, Greco-Italian and miscellaneous German, English aristocratic and English plebeian. Here certainly was a striking admission of human equality. The white bejeweled fingers of an English countess were very near touching a bony, yellow, crab-like hand stretching a bared wrist to clutch a heap of coin—a hand easy to sort with the square, gaunt face, deep-set eyes, grizzled eyebrows, and ill-combed scanty hair which seemed a slight metamorphosis of the vulture. (1.4)

One way that Eliot demonstrates "otherness" is through appearances. Here, we see a person's "yellow, crab-like hands" in contrast with a "white, bejeweled" English hand. By defining what seems English, the narrator helps us identify what is absolutely "not English," or foreign.

Gwendolen's dominant regret was that after all she had only nine louis to add to the four in her purse: these Jew dealers were so unscrupulous in taking advantage of Christians unfortunate at play! (2.5)

We see a lot of instances of prejudice towards "the other" in this novel, particularly Jewish people. By the way, this is a great example of the narrator's use of free indirect discourse, which is when the narrator directly tells us what a character is thinking without saying "she was thinking this."

Fancy an assemblage where the men had all that ordinary stamp of the well-bred Englishman, watching the entrance of Herr Klesmer—his mane of hair floating backward in massive inconsistency with the chimney-pot hat, which had the look of having put on for a joke above his pronounced but well-modelled features and powerful clear-shaven mouth and chin; his tall thin figure clad in a way which, not being strictly English, was all the worse for its apparent emphasis of intention. (10.11)

Once again, we get an example of someone being different because they do not look typically English. Here we see Herr Klesmer dressed like everyone else but looking different – from his sexy hair to his facial features.

"Catherine will be very glad for others to win," said Mrs. Arrowpoint, "she is so magnanimous. It was entirely her considerateness that made us bring Herr Klesmer instead of Canon Stopley, who had expressed a wish to come. For her own pleasure, I am sure she would rather have brought the Canon; but she is always thinking of others. I told her it was not quite en règle to bring one so far out of our own set; but she said, 'Genius itself is not en règle; it comes into the world to make new rules.' And one must admit that." (10.24)

Mrs. Arrowpoint can't imagine that Catherine might have invited Klesmer out of anything other than charity – he doesn't seem to belong with the proper British crowd. We say, how could Catherine ever help falling for those flowing locks?

Then Grandcourt said, "What men are invited here with their wives?"

Lush drew out a note-book. "The Captain and Mrs. Torrington come next week. Then there are Mr. Hollis and Lady Flora, and the Cushats, and the Gogoffs."

"Rather a ragged lot," remarked Grandcourt after a while. "Why did you ask the Gogoffs? When you write invitations in my name, be good enough to give me a list, instead of bringing down a giantess on me without my knowledge. She spoils the look of the room." (12.11-13)

Not only does Mrs. Gogoff look different, but she also has a distinctly Russian last name.

In hours when his dissatisfaction was strong upon him [Daniel] reproached himself for having been attracted by the conventional advantage of belonging to an English university, and it was tempted towards the project of asking Sir Hugo to let him quit Cambridge and pursue a more independent line of study abroad. The germs of this inclination had been already stirring in his boyish love of universal history, which made him want to be at home in foreign countries, and follow in imagination the travelling students of the middle ages. (16.59)

Daniel doesn't want to only belong to the Anglo-centric (that is to say, British-centered) world that he lives in; he wants to experience other cultures. Lucky for him he meets Mirah and Mordecai…

[Daniel] was received with even warmer kindness than usual, the failure was passed over lightly, and when he detailed his reasons for wishing to quit the university and go to study abroad, Sir Hugo sat for some time in a silence which was rather meditative than surprised. At last he said, looking at Daniel with examination, "So you don't want to be an Englishman to the backbone after all?"

"I want to be an Englishman, but I want to understand other points of view. And I want to get rid of a merely English attitude in studies." (16.70-71)

In contrast with the people around him, Daniel doesn't think that the British way is the only way. He wants to see the world, and he wants to know how other people think and live.

"You want to know if I am English?" she said at last, while Deronda was reddening nervously under a gaze which he felt more fully than he saw.

"I want to know nothing except what you like to tell me," he said, still uneasy in the fear that her mind was wandering. "Perhaps it is not good for you to talk."

"Yes, I will tell you. I am English-born. But I am a Jewess."

Deronda was silent, inwardly wondering that he had not said to this before, though any one who had seen delicate-faced Spanish girls might simply have guessed her to be Spanish. (17.41-44)

Mirah points out that people see a difference between English people and English people who are Jewish.

Mirah looked down at her own feet in a childlike way and then smiled at Mrs. Meyrick, who was saying inwardly, "One could hardly imagine this creature having an evil thought." (20.3)

We see Mrs. Meyrick display some pretty anti-Semitic thinking throughout the text. Here, she's kind of surprised that Mirah, who is Jewish, could be a normal, kind, and, uh, not-evil human being. Mrs. Meyrick seems to have a lot of learning to do.

Mr. Bult was not surprised that Klesmer's opinions should be flighty, but was astonished at his command of English idiom and his ability to put a point in a way that would have told at a constituents' dinner—to be accounted for probably by his being a Pole, or a Czech, or something of that fermenting sort, in a state of political refugeeism which had obliged him to make a profession of his music. (22.9)

While we're on the subject of 'The Other,' check out Mr. Bult's fascination with Klesmer. He seems amazed by him, but he also looks down on him – look at how he talks about Eastern Europeans as "that fermenting sort." Mr. Bult comes up with a whole story about who Klesmer is, but he doesn't actually know him.