Cranford by Elizabeth GaskellIt is very pleasant dining with a bachelor...I only hope it is not improper; so many pleasant things are!
A portrait of the residents of an English country town in the mid nineteenth century, Cranford relates the adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women. Her wry account of rural life is undercut, however, by tragedy in its depiction of such troubling events as Mattys bankruptcy, the violent death of Captain Brown or the unwitting cruelty of Peter Jenkyns. Written with acute observation, Cranford is by turns affectionate, moving and darkly satirical.
In her introduction, Patricia Ingham discusses Cranford in relation to Gaskells own past and as a work of irony in the manner of Jane Austen. She also considers the implications of the novel in terms of class and empire. This edition also includes further reading, notes, and an appendix on the significance of Fashion at Cranford.
North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell - Audiobook ( Part 1/2 )
Cranford started out not as a novel, but as a series of related stories published in Household Words , a magazine published by Charles Dickens. Compiled as a book, Cranford lacks a cohesive plot but is filled with a few memorably funny moments the tale of the cat and the lace collar springs immediately to mind and a lovely scene that shows the power of female friendship. It also describes idyllic domesticity in a quiet English village at a time when industry, filth, and poverty ran rampant in England's larger cities which were, ironically, the subjects of many of Dickens' works. Cranford is unusual because it focuses on a world where there is no room for men, and where marriage is considered more of a nuisance than a blessing. The few male characters appearing in this novel are generally regarded either with suspicion or scorn. The bulk of the novel focuses on the life of Miss Matty Jenkyns, an aging spinster who takes in a frequent guest from a nearby town: unmarried Mary, who narrates the story. Miss Matty lives in the small town of Cranford, which is full of unmarried or widowed women.
This review will focus only in Cranford. For more information about Mrs. Gaskell, click here. When I was negotiating which book to choose for my project with my literature professor, I realized that I had the opportunity to read something fantastic that was not in the program. Our professor wanted us to focus on an author we had not previously read and doing some research on the web I came across Elizabeth Gaskell and Cranford.
The ladies of Cranford are full of human foibles that make them so dear. They are survivors, preserving their town with the codes of their gentile society and trying to keep it from too much change. Rowena Fowler mentions how even the inheritor of the famous red silk umbrella, frail as she sounds has outlived her family:. I can testify to a magnificent family red silk umbrella, under which a gentle little spinster, left alone of many brothers and sisters, used to patter to church on rainy days …the poor little lady—the survivor of all—could scarcely carry it. Miss Deborah Jenkyns is the pillar of their society, establishing the rules of behavior.
Before looking at Ruth , we have a novel very different from Mary Barton in Cranford. While Mary Barton is a novel of the poor people's struggle to survive in a changing society which needs them as workers yet turns a blind eye to their suffering, Cranford is concerned with the struggle of an old-fashioned society against the changes being forced upon it by the new industrialism. In Cranford there are two main characters who grow and change together: a young woman called Mary Smith, and her older friend Matilda Jenkyns. Through their friendship, these two women symbolize the union of the new England with the old Victorian values. It is apparent that industrialism is making it difficult for the old ways to continue, especially the "code of gentility" which is a major force in the lives of the women, and men, of Cranford.