1. Despite Leavis’s assertion that his judgment of the bad part of the novel is based on Eliot’s “diffusely ponderous and abstract” style, can Leavis be read as favoring the Anglican character over the eponymous Jewish character, since he names the good part Gwendolen Harleth? (This question might have to wait for later.)
2. Very early into the good part of the novel, after pawning the necklace that was once her father’s, Gwendolen remarks, “these Jew dealers were so unscrupulous in taking advantage of Christians unfortunate at play!” (19). Daniel Deronda will purchase this necklace and anonymously send it to her. What are we to make of the novel’s opening focus on Gwendolen gambling?
3. The novel’s narrator states that Gwendolen, “it must be owned, was a deep young lady” (36). How might the lines of the poem that preface the novel relate to her character?
4. If Daniel Deronda is “a woman’s creation,” what is Herr Klesmer? For that matter, what is Gwendolen?...What do you make of Eliot’s depiction of women, and her general comments on them—for example, on p. 124.
5. Leavis asserts, “it is quite plain that the ‘duty’ that Deronda embraces—‘ “I considered it my duty—it is the impulse of my feeling—to identify myself . . . with my hereditary people”’—combines moral enthusiasm and the feeling of emotional intensity with essential relaxation in such a way that, for any ‘higher life’ promoted, we may fairly find an analogy in the exalting effects of alcohol. The element of self-indulgence is patent” (84). What about this second attribution of self-indulgence? Prima facie, what do you make of Leavis’s criticism of Deronda’s commitment to Judaism? Is he simply favoring a secular world over a religious (religion=opiate of the masses) or what else is behind this statement?
6. Is it really a problem of the novel that “There is no equivalent of Zionism for Gwendolyn, and even if there were—: the religion of heredity or race is not, as a generalizable solution of the problem, one that George Eliot herself, directly challenged, could have stood by” (84-5). What does this comment mean? Do we judge novels because of the solutions they offer?
7. Interestingly, Leavis finds that elements in Daniel Deronda “seem to come from Dickens rather than from life" (85). Oliver Twist was published in 1837-8, while Daniel Deronda was published in 1876. Could Eliot’s adoption of a Dickensian tone be part of her metacritical response to his hostile handling of the Jew? What about Dickensian elements in Deronda’s prevention of Mirah’s suicide?
8. How might Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy inform the reading of Daniel Deronda so far?