Her stepmother was a sister of the Scottish miniature artist, William John Thomson, who painted the famous portrait of Gaskell in Manchester. Also during this period, Gaskell met and married William Gaskell, the minister at Cross Street Unitarian Chapel, who had a literary career of his own. The Gaskells settled in Manchester, where the industrial surroundings would offer inspiration for her novels in the industrial genre. They had several children: a stillborn daughter in , followed by Marianne , Margaret Emily , known as Meta, Florence Elizabeth , William and Julia Bradford Her daughter Florence married a barrister, Charles Crompton, in They rented a villa in Plymouth Grove in , after the publication of Gaskell's first novel, and Gaskell lived in the house with her family until her death 15 years later.
The circles in which the Gaskells moved included literary greats, religious dissenters and social reformers, including William and Mary Howitt. Gaskell died in Holybourne, Hampshire in aged The house on Plymouth Grove remained in the Gaskell family until Gaskell's first novel, Mary Barton , was published anonymously in The best known of her remaining novels are Cranford , North and South , and Wives and Daughters She became popular for her writing, especially her ghost story writing, aided by her friend Charles Dickens , who published her work in his magazine Household Words.
Her ghost stories are quite distinct in style from her industrial fiction and belong to the Gothic fiction genre.
Even though her writing conforms to Victorian conventions including signing her name "Mrs. Gaskell" , Gaskell usually frames her stories as critiques of contemporary attitudes, particularly those toward women, with complex narratives and dynamic female characters. Unitarianism urged comprehension and tolerance upon its members and upon all fellow Christians and, even though Gaskell tried to keep her own beliefs hidden, these were values Gaskell felt very strongly about and tried to include in her works, like in North and South where "Margaret the Churchwoman, her father the Dissenter, Higgins the Infidel, knelt down together.
It did them no harm. The first half of the novel focuses mainly on the comparison between the rich and poor. In a series of set pieces across the opening chapters we are shown the humble lifestyle of the Barton's and Wilson's most prominently in the chapter "A Manchester Tea-Party" , the devastating conditions of the Davenport household and the contrasting luxury of the Carson establishment in the chapter "Poverty and Death".
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A key symbol is five shillings; this is the amount John Barton receives for pawning most of his possessions, but also the loose change in Henry Carson's pocket. Gaskell depicts the importance of the mother in a family through the visible decline in John Barton's physical and moral well-being after his wife's death and by Job Leigh's inability to care for Margaret as a baby in the chapter "Barton's London Experience.
The second half of the book deals mainly with the murder plot. Redemption is also a key aspect of the novel; as seen through the eventual outcome of the relationship between Messers Carson and Barton, but also in Gaskell's presentation of Esther, a "fallen woman. Despite several protests to the contrary, Gaskell's aim is squarely on the class divide of nineteenth-century Great Britain. She openly pleads for reducing this divide through increased communication and, as a consequence, understanding between employers and workmen and generally through a more human behavior based on Christian principles, at the same time presenting her own fears of how the poor will eventually act in retaliation to their oppression.
Gaskell's style is notable for putting local dialect words into the voice of middle-class characters and of the narrator; for example in North and South , Margaret Hale suggests redding up tidying the Bouchers' house and even offers jokingly to teach her mother words such as knobstick strike-breaker.
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I can stand a good blow, and never change colour; but, set me in the operating-room in the Infirmary, and I turn as sick as a girl. Gaskell is still best known for her biography of her friend, and fellow novelist, Charlotte Bronte.
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Along the way, Stevens volunteers for several medical trials, wins a honeymoon to India she is single at the time , and spends several months living in a Texas tree house. Her style can seem stodgily Victorian, her tone overly earnest, melodramatic, or sentimental. George Eliot is more intellectual and more ambitious than Gaskell, her narrators more penetrating and empathetic. But I suspect that the comparative lack of generosity with which time, fashion, and progress have treated Gaskell has as least as much to do with her stuffy image as with her work, which has its own admirable qualities.
The Unjustly Overlooked Victorian Novelist Elizabeth Gaskell
Though this transformation had begun several decades earlier, it attracted renewed attention because of a severe economic depression in the eighteen-forties and a resulting increase in the spread and depth of urban poverty. More than any other city, Manchester was made by industrialization, its population more than quadrupling during the first half of the nineteenth-century as would-be workers sought jobs in rapidly multiplying cotton mills and factories. By the time that Gaskell was writing, it was the second biggest city in England.
Like Engels, Gaskell knows that the consequences of unfettered capitalism are misery for the majority and antagonism between rich and poor. Her novels show those consequences, and investigate what might best do the fettering: charity, government intervention, unionization. Like today, changing labor-market and employment practices were raising new questions about what employers owe workers and what workers owe one another.
At times, she describes unions as if they are simply, and marvellously, a formalized version of community: a way for workers to take better care of one another. Used to the lingering feudalism of rural southern England, she asks both capitalists and workers to explain their values and actions to her.
Why do workers strike?
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Why do factory owners not involve the workers in the decisions they make? Despite their different perspectives, however, both novels argue for communication and mutual respect more than they do for collective action or concrete change.
Gaskell brings about the state of affairs she wishes to see. In both novels, the inflexible capitalist realizes the error of his ways. He begins to value his workers as more than just instruments of profit and, as a result, makes changes that benefit both their lives and his own.