Rachel's blog

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

05 Bibliography

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 4:32 am on jueves, mayo 23, 2013

Web. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/janeeyre/governess.html

Web. https://sites.google.com/a/cheshire.k12.ct.us/victorian-era/influential-authors/the-bronte-sisters/biography/jane-eyre-analysis/literary-anlysis-of-jane-eyre

Web. http://www.britainexpress.com/History/Georgian_index.htm

Web. http://www.erasofelegance.com/history/georgian.html

Web. http://www.janeausten.org/regency-period.asp

Web. http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/social-customs-and-the-regency-world/

Web. http://www.litcharts.com/files/pdf/printer/janeeyre-LitChart.pdf

Web. http://www.victoriangothic.org/margaret-hale-the-morbid-homemaker/

Book. Brontë, Charlotte. “Jane Eyre”, Oxford University Press 1998

Book. Austen, Jane. “Pride and Prejudice” edited by James Kinsley, Oxford University Press 1998

Book. Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn. “North and South” Ware, Hertfordshire : Wordsworth, 1994

Book. Allott, Miriam. “Elizabeth Gaskell” Harlow (Essex) [etc.] : Longman Group, 1975

Book. Emsley, Sarah Baxter. “Jane Austen’s philosophy of the virtues” New York : Palgrave Macmillan, c2005

04 Conclusion

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 4:23 am on jueves, mayo 23, 2013

To conclude, I have to say that I chose this issue to understand a little bit better my favorite books and their contexts. In the 01Introduction, I say why I have chosen these particularly novels, North and South, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice,  and explain a little about the authors’ biographies.

Then, in the 02 The society, I divide the two different eras that are in contact with the novels: the Georgian era, the Regency is the time period between them, and the Victorian era, the most large period with the same monarch.

Besides of the difference of the time periods, there are the several kind of society seeing inside the stories, Pride and Prejudice has the most high class one, then North and South focus with the industrialization and the different classes in an industrial city like Milton; and in Jane Eyre, we are taught that poverty can be respectable.

The third part is 03 The role of women, I started with the nineteenth century woman, and after that focus on the different principal women in the stories, such as Margaret Hale, the Bennet girls, above all Elizabeth, and Jane Eyre.

In our society, they are seen as classical and romantic heroines, but they are just showing how a woman has to act in depend on the situations. But it is true that, the novels are written by women and these have put their secretly “feminist” points of view in their main characters.

I tried to deal with the women paper, because I am a woman and I believe that, we have always had a separated treat we do not deserve, because women have always had to hold the same as men, but with less admiration. Futhermore, in the history we have been paid a huge percentage less than men, although we worked the same or more.

So, even though we like our feminist rights and all that stuff, we really love to read these kind of books, because they show an idealistic way of life, where women only have to have fun, take care of their image, buy beautiful dresses and then go to balls, and so on.


03 The role of women

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 4:22 am on jueves, mayo 23, 2013

In the mid-nineteenth century, a woman would have carried the burden of “staying in her place.” In other words, she was subject to the generally accepted standards and roles that society had placed upon her, which did not necessarily provide her with liberty, dignity or independence. A woman’s place was in the home, as domesticity and motherhood were considered by society at large to be a sufficient emotional fulfillment for females. The transformation of Britain into an industrial nation had profound consequences for the ways in which women were to be idealized in Victorian times. The role of women was to have children and tend to the house in contrast to men, according to the concept of Victorian masculinity.

How Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and North and South deal with the role of women.

Although Jane Eyre contains a number of sharp criticisms of the treatment of women and the social roles assigned to them, it also demonstrates that women can live their lives on equal terms with/ or independent of men. The book is in favor of women without being against men; but all the most sympathetic and important women characters are married by the end of the novel, Jane included.

If Charlotte Brontë’s character Jane Eyre had truly existed in that time period, she would have defied most of these cultural standards and proved herself a paradigm for aspiring feminists of her day. Jane’s commitment to dignity, independence, freedom of choice, unwillingness to submit to a man’s emotional power and willingness to speak her mind were fostered by some female characters in the novel.

Even though, we are talking Jane Eyre as a feminist, she did not take the streets with her feminist ideals, but she expressed her view of women’s equality almost subconsciously, through word and deed. An example could be, when Mr. Rochester’s attempts to lavish her with jewels and expensive garments for her wedding. In fact, she says that “the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation”.

The character of Jane is not the traditional heroine of the time. In many romantic novels of the Victorian era, the heroine was beautiful. Jane is described by Charlotte as “simple and plain”. She also differs from the traditional heroine in her strength as a woman. Charlotte created a woman character that was equal to the male character. Jane is not equal in status or class, but in emotional strength and maturity. This went against society’s beliefs of the time, because Victorians traditionally believed that women were not capable of strong emotions.

Pride and Prejudice begins with the anonymous figure of a rich, single man, the novel is actually concerned with the plight of the poor middle-class, single woman. Most of the women we see here like the Bennet girls or Charlotte Lucas are caught in a bind. These girls are too high class to get jobs, jobs are not really an option for proper young ladies in early 19th-century England, but not high class enough to inherit wealth to support themselves. Basically these women have two options: wedding bells or penny-pinching old maidhood. Pride and Prejudice offers us a look into this rather intensely feminine world of courting, marriage decisions and social realities.


As we know, women in England in 1800’s, which is when Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is set, had one primary function, which was to marry, and marry well. The Bennet girls have  a temporarily comfortable life, because in the absence of sons, when their father dies his property will be inherited by their cousin, Mr. Collins. For this reason, the Bennet’s mother is usually  in a frenzy trying to orchestrate the marriage of her daughters. Elizabeth, her second of four girls, is a delightful young lady who refuses to lose her individualism and personal identity in a society that encourages women to do exactly that.

However, much like her father, Elizabeth does not take too seriously her mother’s flighty schemes to get her married. The role of women, especially upper crust women in England at the time is to look beautiful, speak only of pleasantries, and marry quickly, preferably to someone with some wealth at his disposal.

On this eve of the Industrial Revolution, this world stands in stark contrast to the one that will soon evolve in Britain, where women’s roles will transform into something completely different. As we could notice in North and South;

The dismissal of Gaskell’s work as no more than charming and pretty is typical of the kind of criticism that would devalue a writer simply by referring to her femininity.

As if to challenge this type of attitude herself, Gaskell shows how Margaret Hale in North and South ends up having a lot more to her personality and character than the “ladies’ business” Henry Lennox speaks of in the opening chapter.

As a sensible and balanced person she is quite able to do both, playing the part of a lady when she is in London, and playing the part of a responsible decision maker when she is back with her parents in Helstone, or in a dispute between the workers and their master in Milton.

So, one of the very issues Gaskell tackles in North and South is the role of women. Nothing is further from the truth, therefore, than Lord David Cecil’s assertion that Gaskell accepted the limits imposed on her. Margaret Hale proves to be a very responsible person, and shows great strength of character and judgement in all her decisions regarding the relocation of the family’s life. She knows exactly where they should stay, and is willing to say the ‘right’ things for the sake of her parents, even when she is unsure herself.

Margaret Hale is an archetypal pro-feminist heroine who challenges some of the constraints that are imposed upon her sex, but only from within the overarching context of existing gender roles. She prefers to discuss politics with men than fashion with women, asserts her right to attend a funeral, travel alone and ultimately, to visualize and confront an independent destiny for herself. At the same time, her influence upon the story is consistently in keeping with the Victorian woman’s role as homemaker. She is a gentle and motherly peacemaker, who know when has to behave in different situations.

After being faced with the most important women in the novels, we realize that the heroines are above all high class or middle class women. Because of this, we cannot see all the points of view, like the working class women. The only poor women who appeared in these stories are, Bessy Higgins in North and South, but almost the end she dies; Jane Eyre herself, comes from a poor life, but then she marries Mr. Rochester and becomes rich; and in Pride and Prejudice, we do not know about the servants, because they are occupied of celebrating advantageous marriages.

02 The Society

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 4:21 am on jueves, mayo 23, 2013

Between these three books, we have two time periods: the Georgian era and the Victorian era.

The first one, is the a period of the British history that equates with the time spent on the throne of the ruling dynasty of the Electorate of Hanover (1692-1837), with George I and then followed by Georges II, III and IV.

The period was culturally vibrant, with the appearing of famous writes including Henry Fielding, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen, as well as the Romantic poets like Lord Byron, Robert Burns, William Blake, John Keats, and others.

The Georgian period was also a time of social reform, that encompassed three generations of royalty in England, and was torn by wars and rebellions in Britain and abroad.

The second one, begins in 1837 (the year Victoria became Queen) and ends in 1901 (the year of her death). The common perception of the period is the Victorians are “prudish, hypocritical, stuffy and narrow-minded”. This description applies to some large segments of Victorian English society, particularly amongst the middle class, which at the time was increasing both in number and power. Many members of this middle class aspired to join the ranks of the nobles, and felt that acting properly, according to the conventions and values of the time, was an important step in that direction. That is what we can see in North and South, with Mr. Thornton’s sister, in Jane Eyre, in the character of the Mr. Rochester’s first wife, and also in Pride and Prejudice, in many characters as George Wickham or Miss Bingley.

After having a general vision of the society in real life, we are going to see this society but inside the novels, to begin with Pride and Prejudice.

Let us take an excerpt from Pride and Prejudice that show how different the  word was and to give some idea of approaching a reading of Austen’s works intruding on an understanding of what she was doing.

Sir William and Lady Lucas were speedily applied to for their consent; and it was bestowed with a most joyful alacrity. Mr. Collins’s present circumstances made it a most eligible match for their daughter, to whom they could give little fortune; and his prospects of future wealth were exceedingly fair. Lady Lucas began directly to calculate with more interest than the matter had ever excited before, how many years longer Mr. Bennet was likely to live; and Sir William gave it as his decided opinion, that whenever Mr. Collins should be in possession of the Longbourn estate, it would be highly expedient that both he and his wife should make their appearance at St James’s. The whole family in short were properly overjoyed on the occasion. The younger girls formed hopes of coming out a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done; and the boys were relieved from their apprehension of Charlotte’s dying an old maid. Charlotte herself was tolerably composed. She had gained her point, and had time to consider of it. Her reflections were in general satisfactory. Mr Collins to be sure was neither sensible no agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. (Pride and Prejudice, I, 22, p.106)


Pride and Prejudice upholds reasonably conservative views on class. Darcy’s character arc is to become the ultimate gentleman, he starts out wealthy, aristocratic, and good-hearted, and learns to add good manners and sociability to the mix. Conversely, although Wickham seems to have the outer polish of an aristocrat, he is proven to be thoroughly ungentlemanly. It is the same with the female characters, whose behavior and decorum immediately marks them as either upper or lower class. Although both Jane and Elizabeth cross class lines to get married, the general idea is that they are almost aristocratic already.

Jane Austen uses irony and satire to criticize aspects of the society. Jane Austen uses her satire to marvelously bring out the ridiculous characters. These characters symbolize her criticism on the society. Through her use of characters, she reveals her concerns towards the law, government, and each one’s own social value in the society.
Social status is an important part of the 19th century English society and the Bennet family is no different from any other family in their attempt to improve their social status or to give the impression that they have a high social status. So Austen criticizes this hierarchical structure that divided social groups into classes, and social class is obviously significant in the novel as both the theme and Austen’s criticism on the society.

Now, we are going to see society reflected in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre:

The prose fiction novel “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte published in 1847 is representative of the struggle between the individual and society, as it presents a narration from the female protagonist’s point of view about the gender roles and autonomy of women, the domestic economy, the social class structures and also the basis of love in marriage generally subverting the dominant ideals of the century. Through the characterization of Jane Eyre, the unconventional heroine, and her individualistic actions, the struggle for the freedom of the individual is vividly portrayed as she proclaims that “she resisted all the way” to the pressures of conformity from her society. In opposition to the defined roles of women in the nineteenth century, Jane attempts to attain her own individual identity rather than being reliant on the identity of her male counterpart.

Jane Eyre looks down its nose in disgust at the existing Victorian class hierarchy. The characters who are most interested in the trappings of wealth and status are hypocritical or morally misguided, but characters who take poverty on themselves to demonstrate their great moral nature are also mocked. Instead of the normal class structures, Jane Eyre implies that poverty can be thoroughly respectable, as long as it’s accompanied by an earnest desire to better oneself  or at least earn one’s keep. Of course, it’s easy to value poverty and hard work when, in the end, all the right people get the money.

In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, who expresses strong sympathy for the working class and the poor, forcefully condemns both upper-class exploitation and arrogance. Jane’s own struggle makes clear the integral relationship between wealth and survival, though her experience is actually less precarious than other characters in the novel.


And the society from North and South from Gaskell:

This novel examines the nature of social authority and obedience and provides an insightful description of the role of middle class women in nineteenth century society. Through the story of Margaret Hale, a southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skillfully explores issues of class and gender, as Margaret’s sympathy for the town mill workers conflicts with her growing attraction to the mill owner, John Thornton. Gaskell, not only talks about a love story, but also about the Industrial Revolution and the poor conditions the workers had, and the understanding between the masters and the workers.

The injustices of this working life weren’t chronicled to this time by Elizabeth Gaskell. Gaskell’s sympathies were with the poor, North and South‘s central concept is the gradual realization of haughty, scornful southerner Margaret Hale that there is a beauty to the “vulgarity of shop people”. There is also a clever balance to North and South, a certain acknowledgment of the middle-class manufacturers who raise themselves “into the power and position of a master by their own exertions”.

Gaskell uses the form of the typical Victorian romance novel to bring to the fore certain important social issues, such as industry, the role of women, and the differences between our internal and external behaviors in different settings. It is in how she strays from the traditional superficiality of the style, that much of the interest in her novels lies. She sets these novels in a socially acceptable way to the audience of her day, but deliberately turns the work round so that it is by no means a simple romance. Her ability and willingness to do this is a credit to her writing skills, and should not be used to denigrate her work.

Dickens was apparently infuriated by its lack of focus, only for Gaskell to respond by cunningly reintroducing edited chapters later. So, it is not exactly original, either there is more than a doff of the cap to Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley, and suggestions that it is an industrial Pride and Prejudice certainly hold some water. Dickens himself found with Hard Times, marrying social concerns with enjoyable storytelling is far from straightforward, but Gaskell succeeds

01 Introduction

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 4:05 am on jueves, mayo 23, 2013

In this paper I am going to deal three books, from different authors but focusing in the same central theme, the society and the role of women. The books are: North & South-Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Eyre-Charlotte Brontë, and Pride & Prejudice- Jane Austen.

Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë were really closed friends, and their novels are from the same era, the Victorian; but Jane Austen wrote “Pride and Prejudice” in the Georgian era and was published in the Regency period. To begin knowing these glorious writers I am going to show something about their lives.

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was a British novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era, she was born in 29 September 1810, at Chelsea, and she died in 12 November 1865, at Holybourne, Hampshire. Elizabeth had friends like Charles Dickens, where in his journal she started to write her books in chapters like North and South, and Charlotte Brontë, when Charlotte died, Elizabeth wrote a biography about her, but some people said it was not enough impartial.

Charlotte Brontë  (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood, whose novels are English literature standards. She wrote Jane Eyre under the pen name Currer Bell. She was the third of six children, two of her sisters were also writers, as Emily Brontë, who wrote “Wuthering Heights” under the pen name Ellis Bell; and Anne Brontë, who wrote “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”, which is considered to be one of the first sustained feminist novels

Jane Austen (16 December 1775- 18 July 1817) was an Englis novelist too whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature. Her realism and biting social commentary have gained her historical importance among scholars and critics.  Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family, and although she never travelled and she did not get married, Jane Austen wrote some of the most important novels in the English literature, such as: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, and so on.

I chose these books because they have been some of my favorites books ever, I really love how Gaskell exposes the Industrial Revolution and at the same time the love between Margaret and Mr. Thornton; how Charlotte puts an opharn governess in a mistery castle, and she finds a beautiful love; and Jane Austen made of her romantic works simply art, with all these characters and different stories that have common points.

06 Bibliography

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 12:05 am on jueves, mayo 23, 2013

Web. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_and_South_(1855_novel)#Modernity_vs._Tradition

Web. http://ebiblioteca.org/?/ver/28740

Web. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/gaskell/index.html

Book. Bondenheimer, Rosemarie. “North and South: A Permanent State of Change.” Nineteenth Century Fiction 1979, 34: 281-307.

Book. Duthie, Enid L. The Themes of Elizabeth Gaskell. Towata, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1980.

Web. http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/224/the-concept-of-unity-in-elizabeth-gaskells-north-and-south

Web. http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/eamward/nthsth.htm

Web. http://lacasavictoriana.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/la-vida-en-la-epoca-victoriana/

Book. Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn. “North and South”  Ware, Hertfordshire : Wordsworth, 1994

Book. Venegas Lagüéns, Maria Luisa. “Elizabeth C. Gaskell: characterization through language” Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla, 1991 

Book. Piehler, Liana F. “Spatial dynamics and female development in Victorian art and novels: creating a woman’s space” New York: P.Lang, 2003

Book. Allot, Miriam. “Elizabeth Gaskell”  Harlow Essex: Longman Group 1975

05 Conclusion

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 11:50 pm on miércoles, mayo 22, 2013

As I said in the 01 Introduction, my love for the book has made me choose these themes, and also my point of view about the non-spoken importance about women in this era.

To sum up, I can obtain that North and South is a novel with different points of view which make us understand better the whole society. That I tried to show it in the second headland- 02 The society from north and south

On the one hand, Gaskell has a clear writing, where the characters are very well characterized, and she is not afraid to face two people from so different worlds. Besides of the lover theme, Gaskell not only shows dispute between southern people and northern people, but the difference between capital holders and the workers. So, the novel shows the difference between classes, the masters like Mr. Thornton or the accommodate people from the south like Mrs. Hale, and the workers in factories and their families who have to live in precarious situations. Although, at the end, the main characters find out they are equally human beings, and they tried to work together.

But on the other hand, this literary work has taught me why we don’t have to judge people before meet them, that is shown in Margaret and Mr. Thornton’s relationship, they judge each other without knowledge of why they do, what they do.

However, apart from the entire society, I tried to focus on the women, as in 03 the role of women in the Victorian era, not only of that time but also the principal women in the book, such as Margaret and Mrs. Thornton. 04 The women in the novel

I have always read nineteenth century books, because I like a lot how they express the feelings and how the society works, but in this case, I have been surprised because Mrs. Gaskell shows the truth of the society not only the good parts but also the bad ones. Anyway, she deals truly well with a love story too, so it has several kind of topics that make the novel really interesting .

04 The women in the novel

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 11:46 pm on miércoles, mayo 22, 2013

As maintained by A. Blackwood, “in Margaret Hale, Gaskell gives strength to the “weaker sex” rarely before seen in texts of her time whilst appealing to all readers with the emphasis of a number of households mainly within Milton itself. The text presents itself as well as a novel as it ever did in its popular serialization in Dicken’s publication Household Words.”

It is assumed by everyone that the roles of men and women are clearly delineated and everything public including work lies within the domain of the man while everything domestic within that of the woman, as the classics cultures. The expression of feelings  and resolving conflicts with words is considered reserved for women, and aggression and resolving conflicts as war is masculine. The mistress of the ideal home is the guardian of morality and religion, while the public sphere is considered dangerously amoral so that in the works of authors such as Dickens, disasters happen when the characters do not conform to current standards; in North & South, this notion is questioned.

In Gaskell’s heroine, Margaret Hale, this separation is blurred and she is forced by circumstances to take on a masculine role. For example: she organizes the family’s departure from Helstone, and in Milton, assumes the most part of responsibility; when Boucher dies, Mr. Hale is horrified and it is Margaret who has to announce Boucher’s wife of the tragic event. And also, she has to cite her brother Frederick, who is crushed with a grief at the death of their mother; later, to protect her brother, Margaret lies to the police, denying she was not at the train station when Frederick left. At the end, Margaret inherits a fortune by her father’s friend and she has to manage it all alone.

“The character of Margaret Hale is the finest piece of delineation of a pure-hearted and proud young English girl that I know,” wrote Thomas Seccombe in his introduction to Cousin Phillis, another of Gaskell’s books. “Margaret, with her lustrous eyes and regular curves of serene beauty, is a more or less unconscious portrait of Elizabeth Gaskell herself.”

The women in this century did not show their feelings, like Margaret, she is hurting inside but she doesn’t show it, she keeps her feelings inside and gives off an air of confidence and strength that is a balm to those suffering with her; so Mrs. Thornton thinks if for pride and haughtiness. Mrs. Thornton is described as strong and massive, firm, severe, dignified woman. She is extremely protective of her son, their fortune and their lifestyle, she is still in fixed thinking and represents old-fashioned values, in front of Margaret who is the figure of the new and independent woman. Part of the reason that Mrs. Thornton dislikes Margaret is that both have similar characters: strong, proud and devoted.

However, Margaret has the youth and vitality that are necessary to be a powerful force in the changing age. The Margaret’s engagement to Mr. Thornton symbolically creates a merger between the old and the new and a united concern in the welfare of the man the two women love.

North and South is frequently praised for its “realism in depicting the strike in Milton which was based on the actual labor conflict in Preston in 1858-54”, the number of women in this strike was the double than the men, so it is highly unlikely that Gaskell was ignorant of the gender composition of the work force. The only woman factory worker who appears in the novel is Bessy Higgins, and she has been forced to leave work because of her disease.

According to Wanda Neff, the unpropitious appearance of the factory girl and the strangeness of her labor to the middle-class reader made her unpopular as the heroine of a novel. But Gaskell’s silence about women’s work in the mills, her use of the generic “men” to describe factory workers, and her celebration of cooperative domestic labor indicate how problematic she, like other members of the Victorian middle class, found the whole issue of women’s work outside the home.

03 The role of women in the Victorian era

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 11:45 pm on miércoles, mayo 22, 2013

During the reign of Queen Victoria, a woman’s place was in the home, as domesticity and motherhood were considered by society at large to be a sufficient emotional fulfillment for females. The transformation of Britain into an industrial nation had profound consequences for the ways in which women were to be idealized in Victorian times. The role of women was to have children and tend to the house in contrast to men, according to the concept of Victorian masculinity.

The high class women were only useful to have children, take care of them. The woman of the “elite class” enjoyed all the amenities and favors that one could think of, like dancing, which was a preferred pastime among most of the upper-class women. The high class women did very little or almost no home chores and the ladies did not do things themselves but told others what to do. They were just supposed to marry and raise children.

However, many working class women worked in factories, in laundries or in other hard jobs, and also have to take care of their families and homes. Another employment for “lower” working class women was the domestic service. It was a tough job as the domestic servants were supposed to work seven days a week and twelve hours a day. A large percentage of women also worked as nurses in hospitals and were employed in offices during the later part of the century.

Although, Elizabeth Gaskell was trying to show a bit of the strength of the women, in the characters of Margaret and Mrs. Thornton, she does not leave the power in her hands, as at the end, when Margaret gives her money in Mr. Thornton’s hands to start the factory again.

02 The Society from North and South

Filed under: Sin categoría — Raquel Sanchez Sogorb at 11:41 pm on miércoles, mayo 22, 2013

We are faced with a novel of Victorian manners, nothing escapes from this novel, which the central theme is love and all that entails. Although, as the majority of the classical romantic novels, the main characters are used to be from the high classes, but Gaskell also gives the point of view of the workers headed by Higgins, and that let us see how the aristocratic class, reflected in her main characters, is seeking to maintain their status to keep looking over their shoulders at the next social stratum as they evolve from their archaic customs.

This novel examines the nature of social authority and obedience and provides an insightful description of the role of middle class women in nineteenth century society. Through the story of Margaret Hale, a southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skillfully explores issues of class and gender, as Margaret’s sympathy for the town mill workers conflicts with her growing attraction to the mill owner, John Thornton.

Her characters from Margaret Hale to Nicholas Higgins, regardless of situation, are paid the same meticulous attention by Gaskell in her portrayal of an intricate story which encompasses a range of social issues such as the role of women in Victorian Britain industrialization and its effects on class divisions, as well as the changing landscape of Britain through such changes brought on by advancement in trade in urban areas depicted in the contrasts between Helstone and Milton.

In 18th century, the power in England was in the hands of the aristocracy and landed gentry, the industrial revolution didn’t change the old class structure, vast towns such as Manchester, the model of fictional “Milton”, were constructed to house workers who moved from the semi-feudal countryside to work for wages in the new factories.

The emergence of the industry resulted in an increase of workers who moved from the countryside to the city; the lower classes of the countryside looked for a job opportunity in the factories to improve their lives. But although companies offered jobs, working conditions were deplorable: low wages, dangerous workplaces,  the accidents were common, burns and inhalation of other toxic gases caused serious illness and even death; the example in the novel of this is, when Mr. Thornton fires a worker because he is smoking, and the last year the factory was burned by a cigarette end and some of the workers died in the fire. And also, it was common to see children working in factories, in Milton a worker woman has to send home a child because he is ill and change it by another to follow working; child labor in that era represented the twenty-five percent of the active workforce.

In the industrial cities were houses built for factory workers, cheap and unhealthy, where families, usually very numerous, lived held into one room. This, joined to the infamous labor conditions, brought a struggle for social reforms, which enact workers’ rights, improved living conditions, education, and political participation.

The industrial revolution brought technology and employed thousands of people, but this change didn’t pass to relations between owners and workers, that were already in bad working conditions. So, workers formed Trade Unions to share opinions and interests, and sometimes these unions struck to get better treatments and situations from their masters; we can see that in the Milton’s strike led by Mr. Higgins against the masters as Mr. Thornton; or in limit conditions, make pressure measurements to get strikes.

The main reason of the conflicts between the principal holders and workers can be the desire for making money, the capital holders or the bosses want to give low wages to the workers to increase their profit, while the workers want to get satisfactory or high wages without considering the financial crisis and without giving any thought to whether the employers could afford high wages at the time of financial crisis. Nicholas Higgin’s words to Margaret in the novel reveals this conflict:

“Why, you see, there is five or six masters who have set themselves again paying the wages they have been paying these two years past, and flourishing upon, and getting richer upon. And now they come to us, and say we are to take less, and we won’t. We will just clem them to death first, and see who will work for them then. They will have killed the goose that laid them the golden eggs, I reckon.”

According to Jill L. Matus, “this led to protest and other demands and appeals for reform from the workers and in turn, increased fear of social unrest, and also contends that Gaskell’s writing represents a consciousness and its alterations under turbulent social and personal conditions.”

Later in the novel Mr. Thornton changes after being influenced by Margaret. He learns that these men are not different from him. Gaskell said: “Once brought face to face, man to man, with an individual of the masses around him, and (take notice) out of the character of master and workman, in the first instance they had each begun to recognize that we have all of us one human heart.”

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