Cranford

Cranford

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

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  • EAN: 9788829577033

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Cranford is one of the better-known novels of the 19th-century English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. It was first published, irregularly, in eight instalments, between December 1851 and May 1853, in the magazine Household Words, which was edited by Charles Dickens. It was then published, with minor revision, in book form in 1853.

In the years following Elizabeth Gaskell's death the novel became immensely popular.

There is no real plot, but rather a collection of satirical sketches, which sympathetically portray changing small town customs and values in mid Victorian England Harkening back to memories of her childhood in the small Cheshire town of Knutsford, Cranford is Elizabeth Gaskell's affectionate portrait of people and customs that were already becoming anachronisms.

The book is narrated by Mary Smith, a young woman who frequently visits the town and, when away, remains abreast of events through correspondence with the other characters. The first chapter introduces the leading women of Cranford, idiosyncratic yet endearing characters who hope to preserve their gentility, lifestyles (and all-important social customs) from change. Rowena Fowler, possessor of a red silk umbrella, conservatively considers an heir while her infirm body has outlived her kin. Miss Betsy Barker is also determined to preserve the past, but in the form of her cow, which she "loves as a daughter", and which she sews pyjamas for, as it lost all of its hair after falling into a lime-pit. As for Miss Deborah Jenkyns, she establishes the norms and customs by which the town must abide.

However, when Captain Brown moves to town, he challenges the women's rules of politeness. First, he openly admits his own poverty. This is particularly awful to Miss Deborah Jenkyns, whom Brown also offends by finding Charles Dickens a better writer than Jenkyns' preferred "Dr. Johnson" (Samuel Johnson). Nevertheless, Brown's warm manner subdues his detractors’ contention of his supposed social awkwardness; therefore, they allow him to bypass custom and visit before noon. Brown also has two daughters: Miss Brown, a sickly, ill-tempered woman with hardened features, and Miss Jessie, who has an innocent face and, like her father, is naive to Cranford's social mores. For instance, Miss Jessie boasts that her uncle, a shop-keeper, can provide her with large amounts of Shetland wool. When aristocratic Miss Jenkyns overhears, she takes exception to Miss Jessie's openness about her uncle's un-genteel occupation, and worries that the local lady of the manor, The Honorable Mrs. Jamison, will be offended by being in the same social circle as a shopkeeper's niece.

 
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