Daniel Deronda: Book One

Serial Reading Guide for Daniel Deronda: Book One (chs. 1-10)
Page numbers are indicated for the Barnes and Noble edition (2005) and the Penguin Classics edition (1995). For example, “107bn/123p” refers to page 107 in the Barnes and Noble edition and page 123 in the Penguin edition.

1. Take note of any paragraphs, passages, or even single words that seem particularly interesting or striking to you. Use a mark in the margin, a sticky note, or even an electronic bookmark to record them for adding to next week’s discussion. The novel is filled with many opportunities:
– Plot turns
– Character names and character traits
– Cultural references
– Suggestions of foreshadowing
– Striking phrases or comments you find particularly interesting, thoughtful, inspirational, or poignant. FYI, an entire book was once compiled of quotes drawn from George Eliot’s works: The Wise, Witty, and Tender Sayings of George Eliot, first compiled by Alexander Main in time for Christmas 1871 (even before Middlemarch) and subsequently revised and expanded with quotes from new works.

2. Beginning with chapter 3, the story moves into a flashback and explores some of Gwendolen’s earlier life—and this flashback will continue even beyond the end of Book One. As readers, then, we all have to wait a while to “return” to the plot line that begins the novel.

3. As you read key scenes, take a moment to consider how the narrator is guiding our reading. That is, ask who is thinking and feeling in any given scene, and how does the narrator control what we know of those thoughts and feelings?

4. Consider the narrator’s exploration of Gwendolen’s character in chapter 4. What themes are raised or reinforced? How does Gwendolen feel about marriage (32bn/39p, in particular). Finally, how do you feel about Gwendolen by the end of Book One?

5. How does Catherine Arrowpoint compare to Gwendolen?

6. Notice how carefully Eliot arranges two important aspects of the realist novel—lines of dialogue and comments from the narrator—in the scene involving Gwendolen and Klesmer near the end of chapter 5.

7. Who’s going to get married first, and to whom?!

8. Archery—why archery? What can you do with archery, symbolically speaking?

Next – Daniel Deronda: Book Two (chs. 11 – 18) >

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© Steven J. Venturino 2018