Recently some people and I have just talked about all the possibilities in life, all the people we could have turned out to be if we had made a different decision, chosen a different path.
So, reading Daniel Deronda, I'm following the plot but at the same time, for whatever reasons, thinking of other possibilities.
Now imagine that Gwendolen Harleth rejected Mr Grandcourt. Would she become a governess, or try to become a singer? If she chose the governess's life, how long could she stay in that job? No, she has to make that decision, to marry Mr Grandcourt, because she has been brought up a spoilt child who cannot bear hardship and misery. If she said no to Mr Grandcourt then and there, later she would try to find another wealthy man to lift her out of poverty. It's also because she doesn't have strong morals that she can break her promise with Mrs Glasher. No, let's imagine that Mrs Glasher never approached Gwendolen, and nobody else told her about the illegitimate children, what would happen? She would of course marry him, but there would be no guilt, no bad conscience. Would they be happy? In that case her marriage wouldn't be as she imagines, because she couldn't have her way, but she wouldn't be tormented by guilt and could still enjoy luxury and Mr Grandcourt's generosity. Would they be happy?
Or, let's say, Gwendolen killed Mr Grandcourt. George Eliot tells us that she's not a cruel, bad-natured person, but who knows, really. She's desperate, she's miserable, unhappy, she feels suffocated, she abhors her own husband, she's tormented by guilt, she's in a rage at the moment and angry people don't think. Suddenly there's an opportunity. We would have a more horrible Gwendolen, selfish, immoral, cruel, harder to sympathise with, but that would be interesting.
Contemplate the idea that Daniel Deronda loved Gwendolen. That's not possible, you say, and I agree, Adam Bede may be blind and fall in love with Hetty Sorrel, but there's no way that Daniel Deronda, the unrealistically perfect, the eternally good Daniel Deronda, may love Gwendolen. He might be a bit attracted to her at the beginning, but that's all. Consider another possibility then: Daniel not in love with Mirah. Concern, sympathy, pity, understanding, but not love. How's that? Mirah is the most tedious character in the book- the only thing that makes her human is her jealousy. If not her, Daniel would probably have nobody to love here, but let's forget that for a moment. Or maybe the other way around: Mirah not in love with Daniel. Gratitude, admiration, but not love. That would be fun. Perhaps I am too human to understand these 2 saints. Perhaps I'm a sadist who doesn't want a happy ending.
It would be fun, too, if Daniel and Mirah still love each other but it turned out that he's not Jewish. That's something.
Of course, there's no point in any of this. The 2nd strand of the story is about Jews, and Daniel has to be Jewish. That's the pattern of the book, and it has a purpose. And all the things that happen in Daniel Deronda happen because they have to, because it's a fictional world created by George Eliot, because that's what she wants.
But I can't help it, messing around with this book. Maybe if I were a different person, I would have appreciated Daniel Deronda better.