The Superiority Complex of the English Gentry and the Lifting of the Jewish Other in Two versions of George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda
Chonghaile Åbacka, Jennifer (2014)
Chonghaile Åbacka, Jennifer
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This study examines two central themes in Daniel Deronda, both the 1876 novel by George Eliot and the 2002 BBC film adaptation based on the novel. The two themes are interconnected and are defined as the superiority complex of the English gentry and the lifting of the Jewish subordinate Other. The dual statement which this study reads in the narrative is firstly: a critique of imperial attitudes of arrogance and prejudice amongst the English gentry, and particularly the English gentleman, which results in a dis-enthroning of the English gentleman as an iconic ideal; and secondly, a dignifying treatment of Jewish characters and Jewishness which lifts the Jews as a group from the position of marginalized subordinate Other which they held in 19th century European society. This study asserts that the public reception of the adaptation was more positive than the initial reception of Eliot's novel and examines whether or not the more positive reaction is the result of some mitigating change in the treatment of these two themes. The findings are that the controversial statement has not been softened in the adaptation, but slightly accentuated. The concluding discussion suggests that the statement of the narrative is less offensive today because of a widening of audience and a significant change in prevalent social and ideological attitudes in the early 21st century. The study adopts a postcolonial theoretical approach to the material.