Gwendolen Harleth gambles her happiness when she marries a sadistic aristocrat for his money. Beautiful, neurotic, and self-centered, Gwendolen is trapped in an increasingly destructive relationship, and only her chance encounter with the idealistic Deronda seems to offer the hope of a brighter future. Deronda is searching for a vocation, and in embracing the Jewish cause he finds one that is both visionary and life changing. Damaged by their pasts and alienated from the society around them, they must both discover the values that will give their lives meaning.
George Eliot's powerful novel is set in a Britain whose ruling class is decadent and materialistic, its power likely to be threatened by a politically emergent Germany. The novel's exploration of sexuality, guilt, and the will to power anticipates later developments in fiction, and its linking of the personal and the political in a context of social and economic crisis gives it special relevance to the dominant issues of the 21st century.
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