Study Guide

Daniel Deronda Marriage

By George Eliot

Marriage

"Why did you marry again, mamma? It would have been nicer if you had not."

Mrs. Davilow coloured deeply, a slight convulsive movement passed over her face, and straightway shutting up the memorials she said, with a violence quite unusual in her—

"You have no feeling, child!"

Gwendolen, who was fond of her mamma, felt hurt and ashamed, and had never since dared to ask a question about her father. (3.5-8)

Gwendolen doesn't learn this until later, but sometimes people marry for reasons other than love. We get the vibe that Mrs. Davilow didn't really want to marry her second husband, but may have done so to help Gwendolen.

"Well, what is the use of my being charming, if it is to end in my being dull and not minding anything? Is that what marriage always comes to?"

"No, child, certainly not. Marriage is the only happy state for a woman, as I trust you will prove." (3. 41-42)

Oh man. Mrs. Davilow seems to think she's comforting Gwendolen and telling her that marriage isn't so bad, but jeez – it's kind of depressing to say that it's the only happy way for a woman to live!

"My dear Nancy, one must look at things from every point of view. This girl is really worth some expense: you don't often see her equal. She ought to make a first-rate marriage, and I should not be doing my duty if I spared my trouble in helping her forward. You know yourself she has been under a disadvantage with such a father-in-law, and a second family, keeping her always in the shade. I feel for the girl. And I should like your sister and her family now to have the benefit of your having married rather a better specimen of our kind than she did." (3.92)


Mr. Gascoigne is willing to spoil Gwendolen because, so to speak, he expects a good term on this investment. That is to say, he figures by spending money on Gwendolen, it'll be easier for her to make a "match" that's good for her family.

But [Gwendolen's] thoughts never dwelt on marriage as the fulfillment of her ambition; the dramas in which she imagined herself a heroine were not wrought up to that close. To be very much sued or hopelessly sighed for as a bride was indeed an indispensable and agreeable guarantee of womanly power; but to become a wife and wear all the domestic fetters of that condition, was on the whole a vexatious necessity. Her observation of matrimony had inclined her to think it rather a dreary state, in which a woman could not do what she liked, had more children than were desirable, was consequently dull, and became irrevocably immersed in humdrum. (4.2)

Gwendolen can be kind of a breath of fresh air sometimes. Sure, everyone likes to be sighed over (we do, for sure), and Gwendolen is no different. Still, she realizes that she wants more than just to be a wife.

"You don't mean you would never be married?"

"No; I didn't say that. Only when I married, I should not do as other women do."

"You might do just as you liked if you married a man who loved you more dearly than anything else in the world," said Rex, who, poor youth, was moving in themes outside the curriculum in which he had promised to win distinction. "I know one who does." (7. 38-40)

Poor Rex. He totally wants to Gwendolen, and she has no idea. And he really doesn't stand a chance. He's willing to give her whatever she wants.

This unfair resentment had rather a hardening effect on Gwendolen, and threw her into a more defiant temper. Her uncle too might be offended if she refused the next person who fell in love with her; and one day when that idea was in her mind she said—

"Mamma, I see now why girls are glad to be married—to escape being expected to please everybody but themselves." (9.31-32)

This is an example of that old phrase, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Women who just suck it up and get married don't have to worry anymore about pleasing their family through a good marriage.

"I quite agree. Most things are bores," said Grandcourt, his mind having been pushed into an easy current, away from its intended track. But after a moment's pause he continued in his broken, refined drawl—

"But a woman can be married."

"Some women can." (13.39-41)

Oh, Gwendolen. There she goes again, playing hard to get. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether she acts so anti-marriage because she doesn't want to marry, or because she enjoys the power rush she gets by telling other people that she doesn't care if she gets married or not.

"My dear Gwendolen," [Mr. Gascoigne] said, rising also, and speaking with benignant gravity, "I trust that you will find in marriage a new fountain of duty and affection. Marriage is the only true and satisfactory sphere of a woman, and if your marriage with Mr. Grandcourt should be happily decided upon, you will have probably an increasing power, both of rank and wealth, which may be used for the benefit of others. These considerations are something higher than romance." (13.102)

It isn't hard to tell which decision Mr. Gascoigne wants Gwendolen to make, is it? He really tries to make both marriage to Grandcourt and marriage in general sound as awesome as possible.

"It is useless to discuss the question," said Mrs. Arrowpoint. "We shall never consent to the marriage. If Catherine disobeys us we shall disinherit her. You will not marry her fortune. It is right you should know that."

"Madam, her fortune has been the only thing I have had to regret about her." (22.92-93)

Marriage isn't just about hearts and flowers; it's also about transferring wealth. Catherine's parents really don't want her to marry Klesmer, and so they try to withhold her inheritance from her. This action suggests that they think he's marrying her for social position instead of love. Luckily, Klesmer actually does care about Catherine.

"The very daylight has often been a punishment to me. Because—you know—I ought not to have married. That was the beginning of it. I wronged some one else. I broke my promise. I meant to get pleasure for myself, and it all turned to misery." (56.30)

Maybe Gwendolen had good instincts when she used to insist that she didn't want to get married. She feels personally damned because of it – not only does she think she made a gain from Lydia Glasher's loss, but she also feels responsible for Grandcourt's death.