Study Guide

Daniel Deronda Gender

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Lady Shmoopers: just be glad you are with us in the digital age and not in the Victorian era. Sure, it might be fun to sit around and play the piano and embroider things – maybe for like a day – but Daniel Deronda shows us that the Victorian world wasn't always that nice to women. Rules of inheritance gave property and money to male heirs, and the ways in which women could inherit property was severely limited. This means that families full of daughters (think of Gwendolen's family and the Mallinger family) get totally, well, screwed over when it comes to the passing down of family property and wealth. Furthermore, the ways in which women could make money were totally limited, as we see when Gwendolen appeals to Klesmer for help hitting the big stage in an effort to avoid being a governess. Marriage was often the only way to make it in society.

Questions About Gender

  1. Which female characters seem to be empowered? Which ones lack power?
  2. What do the experiences of the novel's female characters tell us about opportunities for women in nineteenth-century England?
  3. Are there any happy women in this novel?
  4. When it comes to the rules that society seems to have for women, does Mirah go against the grain, or does she play by the rules?

Chew on This

The women of Daniel Deronda have a very limited number of roles available to them.

The female characters in Daniel Deronda are on the cusp of breaking down the barriers that society imposes on them.

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