The most remarkable impression made on me by George Eliot's Daniel Deronda was that which fueled, to a large extent, I'm sure, the nightmare I woke up from yesterday morning. I had and do have a fear of being stifled. Of being figuratively strangled. And, I woke up from my nightmare gasping for air as some man got me in a chokehold, all the while insisting on some relative claim he had to my livelihood. As I read the (fictional) accounts of a Mr. Grandcourt and the father of Miss Mirah Lapidoth later that day, I recall my earlier nightmare and experience chills running up and down my spine knowing that such characters are not altogether impossible figurations of men that can and do exist in this world. And then I reach the part of the book where Daniel Deronda's mother, the Princess Halm Eberstein, pleads with her son to please forgive her for leaving him with another in saying that she had a right to choose her life. "You are not a woman," she says to her son. "You may try - but you can never imagine what it is to have a man's force of genius in you, and yet to suffer the slavery of being a girl." To choose her life was to forsake herself. I like George Eliot, I do, but this book was difficult. It seems almost too devotional a text for she who had steered herself away from such. Duty and responsibilty are two very different things in my mind. And I can hardly acknowledge a duty to my peers and my loved ones where I can embrace a responsibility I take on of my own accord. Maybe this was Eliot's own apology to her father for a duty left unfulfilled. For a life chosen instead of that which was willed. An apology in the form of her progeny. I would deem it most unfair...
Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 3:32PM