Gaskell Rough DraftThere are ideal goals and realistic goals in life that both lead to progression.
Elizabeth Gaskell exemplifies the different goals of both genders in her works Mary Barton and North and South. In her novels, Gaskell focuses on the working classes along with romance and its hardships during the Industrial Revolution. Through the troubles of gender roles, external conflict between the social classes, and the juxtaposition between those in power and those without power, Gaskell conveys that hardships and deprivation are requisites for progression. Gaskell’s social commentary was highly influenced by observing the working conditions first hand as well as her role models in her lifetime. Gaskell was born in 1810 and grew up in a “century that was riddled with change” and thus her works act as “responses to changes…in her lifetime” (Al-Haj).
Her childhood household was composed of females and led by a “competent single mother” which gives the audience a sense of why there is an independent factor in many of her works (Al-Haj). Once married, Gaskell “witnessed at firsthand the distressing conditions of workers in Manchester’s mills and factories, and the contrast between the dirty industrial city and the bucolic charm of Knutsford,” her hometown (“Elizabeth Gaskell”). Through the use of her “own labor” and “how her presence fosters solutions to labor conflicts,” Gaskell managed to compensate her eeriness, by “providing repeated assurances of the public value of her work” when she published her novels (Starr). Another close influence to her works was her husband, a unitarian minister who often encouraged her to write about the tragedies that occurred to her (Johnson).
In 1847, she finished Mary Barton and then in 1855, she “returned to the social-problem novel with…North and South..where she compares and contrasts directly life in the city versus in the country” (“Elizabeth Gaskell”). Because she was one of the first few writers to address female victorian lifestyles, she also managed to intertwine her public and private life together.
With an emphasis on women’s roles, Gaskell shows the complicated emotions portrayed in her novels through the female protagonists. Most of Gaskell’s criticism has “overlooked the subtle contributions that she made to the Victorian novel, specifically the ways that gave her female characters voice and credibility, a daunting task in the nineteenth century” (Al-Haj). After observing the town and its movement, Mary, female protagonist in Mary Barton, asks “Errands of mercy – errands of sin – did her father ever think where all the thousands of people he daily meets are bound?” (Gaskell, Mary Barton). Mary has the habit of voicing her thoughts often without needing an approval of anyone.
On the other hand, Margaret Hale, female protagonist in North and South, “did not mind meeting any number of girls, loud spoken and boisterous though they might be. But she alternately dreaded and fired up against the workmen, who commented not on her dress, but on her looks, in the same open fearless manner” (Gaskell, North and South 72). Her actions show that although she appreciates compliments, she dislikes too much attention. Gaskell “links women’s work with their empowerment” through the way her female characters explore “the process by which they choose a direction for their lives” (Al-Haj). In North and South, Margaret is “able eventually to influence the local economy through her marriage to the industrialist Thornton, but only after she has developed her courage through exposure to the dying” (Hotz). Likewise in Mary Barton, Mary is “far from helpless in her normal life” because she has been able to cope “with sorrow, shortage of money, death, illness, overwork, sleepless nights and her own personal dilemmas, all over a long period, during which she has also had to act independently without help or confidante” (Al-Haj).
Both protagonists face several challenges and manage to overcome all situations self-reliantly. Through the external conflicts between the social classes, Gaskell elaborates on the consequences of the industrialization. During a stroll in the town, John Barton converses with Mr. Wilson claiming that as long as the poorer classes “work, they pile up the fortunes of the rich…and yet they live as separate as if they were in two worlds” (Gaskell, Mary 10). This division is created because industry should attempt to “adopt a system in which the relationship between employee and employer closely resembles the one between servant and master” which is one of Gaskell’s arguments (Nash).
Without that type of relationship the social classes would continue to create a bigger gap as time progressed. Had “workers and owners…simply come into one-on-one contact and be enabled to understand each other’s problems..
. the dislocations of industrialization could be avoided” (Schaub). In order to deal with these “class relations and show how the old ways of thinking about industrialists and works and their roles in society are no longer valid,” Gaskell depicts her male characters as more comprehensive (Johnson). For example, Mr. Hale, Margaret’s father in North and South, “treated all his fellow-creatures alike; it never entered into his head to make any difference because of their rank” (Gaskell, North and South 222). Gaskell’s novel suggests that the both the working and middle class “struggle” with the process of development…and are dependent on the growth of others in society for its success” (Johnson).
If more characters acted like Mr. Hale, the circumstances might improve so that the poor receive value and dignity suggesting that both the working-class and the middle-class work hand in hand (Hotz). Through the juxtaposition between those exercising power and those without power, Gaskell implies that progress is accomplished with acceptance of actions.
Margaret makes a stand when she declares that “loyalty and obedience to wisdom and justice are fine; but it is still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly used–not on behalf of ourselves, but on behalf of others more helpless.” (Gaskell, North and South 105). Later on in the novel, since Margaret acts a bridge between the middle class and the working class, her “most dramatic intervention in the social debates of the novel is indisputably caused by her impulsive decision to stand as a shield between a mob of desperate workers and the resolute John Thornton” (Starr). Margaret is a representation of the “aristocratic, Southern paternalism” while Thornton represents the “aggressive Northern Capitalism” (Johnson). So, the relationship of Margaret and Mr. Thornton also acts as a “Victorian happy ending” because “the marriage of John Thornton and Margaret Hale resolves all the novel’s thematic oppositions: northern and southern culture, economic progress and social tradition, masculine and feminine, even masters and men” (Gerard). Some critics stated that Gaskell may have “exaggerated the conflicts between mill owners and workers,” and others criticized that it “flattered both the prejudices of the aristocracy” but Gaskell defended herself by stating that she envisioned her novel as a “tragic poem” not a “political platform” (“Elizabeth Gaskell”).
Gaskell was mostly attempting to employ that her novels have several changes, each painful, and reoccurring, but that their “effects are advantageous” and the audience should understand that there should not be a gender biased of an author (Johnson). One disclaimer acquired that Gaskell was “not qualified (either by experience or gender) to write” a novel full of industrial consequences but Gaskell refuted his disbelief by continuing to connect social and economical relations in her works (Starr). Although the business sector is strongly defined, the world of the home often overlaps with the economic aspect and both affect one another (Nash). But by showing the “evolution of new social forms” in North and South, Gaskell “criticizes and then discards ideologies that no longer accurately reflect the new social realities” (Johnson). By using a middle-class and poor workers’ point-of-view, Gaskell gives insight to the lives of characters. Not only are the perspectives different, the settings of both vary as well, Mary Barton has one primary location while North and South switches back and forth between two primary locations; North and South also has more “hurry on events” (Starr). In North and South, Gaskell is not one to moralize, instead she focuses on unhappiness and frustration (Al-Haj).
In fact, even “hunger and dirt are translated out of bodily realm and into the verbal and emotional realm;” this way the “sympathizing character has to divine the suffers’ feelings by translating their words into emotions and hence into sensations” (Schaub). During the strike scene, the working class “forgot that the strike was in that instance the consequence of want and need, suffered unjustly, as the endurers believed; for, however insane, and without ground of reason, such was their belief, and such was the cause of their violence. It is a great truth that one cannot extinguish violence by violence” (Gaskell, Mary Barton 177). Instead of the violent reactions, Gaskell suggests that through community, more “humane modes of social behavior can emerge” (Johnson). Communication may difficult but only because the language has “not caught up” and it “reflects the outmoded prejudices impeding the growth of new ways of thought” that is expanding at a rapid rate (Johnson). In Mary Barton, the narrator commented that “people admire talent and talk about their admiration; But they value common sense without talking about it, and and often without knowing it” (Gaskell, Mary Barton). Some communication is not spoken yet it is subtly understand by both of the working and middle class and serves as respect at times (Johnson). Furthermore, in the last chapter of North and South, Gaskell prints “those who are happy and successful themselves are too apt to make light of the misfortunes of others” implying that the values of people are often mistaken with materialistic matters (Gaskell, North and South 424).
Because of this way of thinking “the problem with class relationships does not begin and end with Northern industrialism, but affects Southern paternalists as well,” as if it were a non-ending cycle (Johnson). A true “combination of antagonistic, conflicting points of view…
result in…a full, accurate picture” meaning that there are more ways than one to approach a destination (Starr). Through North and South, both Margaret and Thornton have brought “awareness of the class values that they had previously simply unconsciously assumed” of (Johnson).
Her style allows the audience to engage in her novels by providing an interior perspective.Through the novels Mary Barton and North and South, Gaskell shows the working conditions of the workers and employers during the industrial revolution and their relationship. Along with a bit of romance, Gaskell demonstrates the impoverishment of the working class as well as the lens of the higher classes and their mutual growth of understanding. Theses class societies create a barrier between each other but then build a bridge to have access to one another.
Their results were an effect of their rightful actions but the two seemed worlds are intertwined afterall .Ideal and realistic goals are not much set apart when there is progression amongst the levels of society.