Daniel Deronda: Openness

His nature was too large, too ready to conceive regions beyond his own experience, to rest at once in the easy explanation, ‘madness,’ whenever a consciousness showed some fullness and conviction where his own was blank. It accorded with his habitual disposition that he should meet rather than resist any claim on him in the shape of another’s need…

The more exquisite quality of Deronda’s nature—that keenly perceptive sympathetic emotiveness which ran along with his speculative tendency—was never more thoroughly tested. He felt nothing that could be called belief in the validity of Mordecai’s impessions concerning him or in the probability of any greatly effective issue: what he felt was a profound sensibility to a cry from the depths of another soul; and accompanying that, the summons to be receptive instead of superciliously prejudging. Receptiveness is a rare and massive power, like fortitude; and this state of mind now gave Deronda’s face its utmost expression of calm beningnant force—an expression which nourished Mordecai’s confidence and made an open way before him. He began to speak.

—George Eliot, Daniel Deronda

I just can’t get over Eliot’s ability to put words to such subtle and ineffable human qualities, qualities which I think are quite out of fashion these days. Condescending charity is certainly popular enough, but that is not what is going on here. Deronda is putting himself at the service of a near total stranger, about whom he knows little, and who even repels him slightly. He doesn’t give hand-outs; he gives his hand, open.


7 comments on “Daniel Deronda: Openness

  1. びっくり says:

    Yay Daniel! Entertaining strangers has a long tradition in certain circles.

  2. verbivore says:

    Out of fashion is quite right – we're mostly afraid of strangers nowadays.

  3. びっくり says:

    Here's my oblique reference to long traditions in some circles:
    Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. – Hebrews 13:2 NKJV
    Verbivore – resist fashion!

  4. JCR says:

    Hello friend, sorry I haven't been around for a while… good to see your blog going strong still. I was away doing NaNoWriMo. How are things North of the border? How's your reading list going for the year? I am behind on mine and probably won't make it by three books. Oh well, nothing loss. Come visit some time.

  5. Sylvia says:

    Hey JCR. Congratulations on finishing NaNoWriMo! Oh please don't ask about my reading list! I'm afraid to look. Well, there's always next year…

  6. feather says:

    The way she evokes characters is incredible. I fell in love with Daniel when I read the book — I'm still working on manifesting a real-life version of him.

  7. Sylvia says:

    Hi Feather! I'm still waiting for Mr. Darcy to show up. If only Daniel could be interested in a goy girl…

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