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Eliot explores marginalization and Jewish identity

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message 1: by Kristen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kristen There are so many layers to this book and I feel I am missing half of them, even with the endnotes from Oxford. I think this is one of the richest "Classics" that deals with marginalization, probably one of the only in the Western European Canon that deals with Jewish identity. George Eliot obviously took a lot of pains to research all of the ways Jewish people were portrayed in her world. I propose exploring some of the references to Jews she makes in the text (ie: Berenice banished from Rome, which makes Deronda so upset with Hans and later with Mirah) as a way of illuminating a reading of the book as a whole. I think that as a woman, she may have been looking for commonality in marginalization as a major theme of the book.


Kressel Housman Actually, the story of Berenice is from the Christian Bible, not the Jewish, but Mirah's reaction is very Jewish.


Kressel Housman Here's my favorite Mirah quote:

“But I could not make myself not a Jewess,” said Mirah, insistently, “even if I changed my belief.”

“No, my dear. But if Jews and Jewesses went on changing their religion and making no difference between themselves and Christians, there would come a time when there would be no Jews to be seen,” said Mrs. Meyrick, taking that consummation very cheerfully.

“Oh, please not to say that,” said Mirah, the tears gathering. “It is the first unkind thing you ever said. I will not begin that. I will never separate myself from my mother’s people. . . I will always be a Jewess. I will love Christians when they are good people, like you. But I will always cling to my people. I will always worship with them.”

As Mirah had gone on speaking she had become possessed with a sorrowful passion – fervent, not violent. Holding her little hands tightly clasped and looking at Mrs. Meyrick with beseeching, she seemed to Deronda a personification of that spirit which impelled men after a long inheritance of professed Catholicism to leave wealth and high place, and to risk their lives in flight that they might join their own people and say, “I am a Jew.”


Kressel Housman Kristen wrote: "There are so many layers to this book and I feel I am missing half of them, even with the endnotes from Oxford. I think this is one of the richest "Classics" that deals with marginalization, proba..."

Kristen, if you want to understand some of the Jewish context, I recommend my own review here on GoodReads, and a selection of my favorite quotes here.


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