‘in Her Preface to Mary Barton, Gaskell Writes "I Know Nothing of Political Economy of the Theories of Trade. I Have Tried to Write Truthfully." What Kinds of Truths Does She Attempt to Convey?

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Although ‘Mary Barton' is a novel the revolves around the effects of the industrialisation in and around Manchester, Gaskell is right in claiming that she rejects the notions of political economy and trade theories. It is a novel that is centralised around the people involved, rather than the trade itself. She uses the lives and the ups and downs of the people of Manchester to paint a vision of the effects of the politics and economy of the time and these are the ‘truths' she tries to convey. This shows a very different side to what can be gained from the scientific and statistical interpretations of this age. Gaskell writes the truths of what was happening to the everyday working man as a result of the great changes and effects of the ‘hungry forties', and Mary Barton is seen as ‘a sympathetic, truthful portrayal of ordinary people struggling with rapid social change and overcrowded cities'. This is shown on several different levels, with the most prominent being through Gaskell's setting of historical context, her clear and vivid descriptions of domestic life and surroundings, and her methods of characterisation. Gaskell's frequent implications and mentions of the radical movements of this age are very effective in gaining an insight into the working classes view of the political, economic and social truths of 1840s Britain. As later discussed concerning the character of John Barton, Gaskell incorporates the consequences and strains of the radical Chartist movement into the lives of many characters and their families. References of real life marches in major cities such as the one in London ‘we were all set to walk in procession, and a time it took to put us in order, two and two, and the petition, as was yards long, carried by the foremost pairs.' And the travelling of delegates sets the novel into a non-fictional based historical context which provides an accurate truth of the time. The major involvement of developed characters like John Barton and Job Legh...
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