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Mary Barton (eBook)

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Elizabeth Gaskell was a Victorian short storywriter and novelist. Her biography of Charlotte Bronte is her most famous work. Gaskell's novels portray varied social classes. Gaskell saw and wrote about the problems caused by the gulf between the social classes. She fought for tolerance and better labor conditions. John Barton is a desperate man watching his family and frien Elizabeth Gaskell was a Victorian short storywriter and novelist. Her biography of Charlotte Bronte is her most famous work. Gaskell's novels portray varied social classes. Gaskell saw and wrote about the problems caused by the gulf between the social classes. She fought for tolerance and better labor conditions. John Barton is a desperate man watching his family and friends dying of want in a world where the rich enjoy leisure and luxury. As he is drawn into drastic action to fight the injustice, his daughter Mary is tempted by the attractions of a rich lover. Mary must choose between Jem Wilson, a working class man and Harry Carson, the son of a rich industrialist


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Elizabeth Gaskell was a Victorian short storywriter and novelist. Her biography of Charlotte Bronte is her most famous work. Gaskell's novels portray varied social classes. Gaskell saw and wrote about the problems caused by the gulf between the social classes. She fought for tolerance and better labor conditions. John Barton is a desperate man watching his family and frien Elizabeth Gaskell was a Victorian short storywriter and novelist. Her biography of Charlotte Bronte is her most famous work. Gaskell's novels portray varied social classes. Gaskell saw and wrote about the problems caused by the gulf between the social classes. She fought for tolerance and better labor conditions. John Barton is a desperate man watching his family and friends dying of want in a world where the rich enjoy leisure and luxury. As he is drawn into drastic action to fight the injustice, his daughter Mary is tempted by the attractions of a rich lover. Mary must choose between Jem Wilson, a working class man and Harry Carson, the son of a rich industrialist

30 review for Mary Barton (eBook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    In the grim industrial city of Manchester, England around the latter part of the decade, of the 1830's, people are actually starving to death, especially the little ones... the poor parents cannot feed... those...Murder follows as naturally as water flows to the lowest level... A love triangle ensues between the amorous competitors , Jem Wilson a working -class engineer and Henry Carson, the son of a wealthy businessman for the affections of the delightful Miss Mary Barton , (she has high ambiti In the grim industrial city of Manchester, England around the latter part of the decade, of the 1830's, people are actually starving to death, especially the little ones... the poor parents cannot feed... those...Murder follows as naturally as water flows to the lowest level... A love triangle ensues between the amorous competitors , Jem Wilson a working -class engineer and Henry Carson, the son of a wealthy businessman for the affections of the delightful Miss Mary Barton , (she has high ambitions) but will not end well. Her father's feelings of great hatred , keeps the secret second man, a secret ... Still the most weak and vulnerable, the children continue to succumb quietly in their small beds, as the mothers and fathers look helplessly , and slowly the shrunken bodies, fade away. Trade brings prosperity but when there is none the opposite arrives... bleakness. Elizabeth Gaskell gives light to the dark and confronts the establishment , who don't want the rays to show the ugly. YET IT EXISTS, nobody cares , parliament kicks the can down the road, since the members have a full stomach, let others interested take the initiative, citizens die everyday, so what is the problem ? This novel about the Barton and Wilson families, drab lives, revealed to the public the suffering of the wretched to a society that did not want to know. Mary Barton the pretty daughter of a radical union organizer, John Barton, who blames the rich bosses for the many deaths, that have occurred ( beloved wife included) , is in the middle of an unending struggle, she must take sides, love or family. As politics rears its head, the truth vanishes too, as is always the custom. If your beliefs are not correct then change the facts...after a while you will not notice the difference, anything of blackness, as the town's air usually is. A splendid book for those who like to visit the not always great past, a joyous experience it isn't to be sure, but a necessary one. Be warned though, the story like other Victorian novels is quite hard going, painful in spots for the casual readers, than again life is the same...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    How to Tell if You are in an Elizabeth Gaskell novel: 1. Someone you love just died. 2. You live in an industrial wasteland, which is wrapped in a peculiarly permanent winter. 3. Your father makes terrible decisions. You love him unconditionally. 4. Someone just dropped dead. 5. You believe that starving, striking workers and their capitalist oppressors could remedy vast structural inequalities by having tea together. 6. You just spurned a man. Immediately, you realize that you are actually in love wi How to Tell if You are in an Elizabeth Gaskell novel: 1. Someone you love just died. 2. You live in an industrial wasteland, which is wrapped in a peculiarly permanent winter. 3. Your father makes terrible decisions. You love him unconditionally. 4. Someone just dropped dead. 5. You believe that starving, striking workers and their capitalist oppressors could remedy vast structural inequalities by having tea together. 6. You just spurned a man. Immediately, you realize that you are actually in love with him. But it would be unfeminine to say so. 7. You are very, very hungry. 8. Typhoid. 9. Your friends are spinsters. One of them dresses her cow in flannel. You find this endearing. 10. You, your future spouse, and some spinsters are the only people still alive.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Mary Barton is a wonderful failure of a novel, in all of the classic Victorian ways–the love plot is overwrought, the ending is melodramatic, the moralizing is far too heavy, and the epigraphs are obnoxious. But, somehow, in the middle of all those problems, Elizabeth Gaskell manages to capture perfectly something important. Mary Barton is a "Condition of England" novel, a meditation on the plight of Manchester cotton weavers in the depression of the early 1840's. This is the Manchester of Freid Mary Barton is a wonderful failure of a novel, in all of the classic Victorian ways–the love plot is overwrought, the ending is melodramatic, the moralizing is far too heavy, and the epigraphs are obnoxious. But, somehow, in the middle of all those problems, Elizabeth Gaskell manages to capture perfectly something important. Mary Barton is a "Condition of England" novel, a meditation on the plight of Manchester cotton weavers in the depression of the early 1840's. This is the Manchester of Freidrich Engels, where people live in squalor so deep that it surpasses comprehension. Engels, however, in what I've read from his account, utterly dehumanizes the people he examines. The citizens of his Manchester slums almost literally become their own excrement. Gaskell, on the other hand, has faced an onslaught of criticism for her "tidy" Manchester. Her very "tidiness" though, makes her message more effective. She cuts away the filth, but not the starvation or disease that haunted Manchester. She suppresses the reality only enough to draw out sympathy from an audience who understood child mortality, say, in a way that they didn't understand inadequate sewage systems. She denies the terror of Manchester life only enough to make it more imaginable. Gaskell's Manchester is, at its surface, a relentlessly didactic world–a constant circle of learning one's Christian Duty–but the didacticism is founded on something that, somehow, seems more genuinely human than anything Dickens or Eliot ever manage to find.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Mary Barton is the very first novel written by Elizabeth Gaskell. Living in the industrial city of Manchester and having first hand witnessed the poor living condition and suffering of the working class, Gaskell was inspired to write a novel bringing to light their poverty and suffering. In Mary Barton, Gaskell gives a true and heartfelt account on the lives of these working class men and women. The suffering they undergo due to want of the basic needs for human survival such as food, proper Mary Barton is the very first novel written by Elizabeth Gaskell. Living in the industrial city of Manchester and having first hand witnessed the poor living condition and suffering of the working class, Gaskell was inspired to write a novel bringing to light their poverty and suffering. In Mary Barton, Gaskell gives a true and heartfelt account on the lives of these working class men and women. The suffering they undergo due to want of the basic needs for human survival such as food, proper clothing and other basic facilities to warm them against the chilly English weather, and the sicknesses and death which are so common due their unhygienic living conditions and lack of nutritious food is sympathetically and almost passionately portrayed that it was a pure emotional struggle to read of them. One can only imagine how keenly the author felt on these matters having personally witnessed their lives and living conditions. Amidst this dire setting, Gaskell weaves a beautiful story of love and loyalty. When Mary Barton, a working class girl, is pursued by two lovers, one being a mill owner's son (Harry Carson) and thus above her class and the other being a family friend (James Wilson) of her own class, this young vain beauty prefers the former. But soon she understands that her heart truly belongs to James and is determined to win him back. But when her true love is accused of the murder of Harry Carson, her loyalty, courage and strength is tested. And the accidental discovery of the true culprit makes matters worse as Mary realizes saving her lover may also lead to losing another too dear to her heart. The character of Mary Barton was not likable at first. She is vain and is driven by an ambitious heart. Her beauty being her only asset, she makes conscious use of it hoping to remove herself from the class to which she belongs and to step in to the world of the rich. Many a times I felt that she needs a good shaking to make her see her foolishness. However, Gaskell lifts her up from there and slowly and steadily develops her character from the vain and silly young girl to brave and courageous young woman who, armed with love and loyalty, walks through a difficult path to save the life of the man she loves, making her yet another lovable Gaskell heroine. Most of the rest of characters of the novel were chosen from different sections of the working class. Gaskell's reason behind this choice is to show to the world the different sides of men and women belonging to this class, their talents and their interests. She wanted the world to know that these are human beings, equally worthy of recognition. In addition, there is also a sub plot developed on the relationship between masters and the workers. Working class laid all their miseries on the doorstep of the masters. They were of the opinion that the masters didn't do enough to alleviate their suffering. This settled idea was one major reason for the constant rift between the two sides. This led to many forceful demands being made by the workers on their masters which were proudly and indignantly met and ignored. And the lack of proper communication and the ego of both sides led to some detrimental actions being made by both sides with certain dreadful consequences. Gaskell presents all this through her sub plot earning major criticism in her day that her portrayal of the matter was far fetched. However for author's part, she firmly believed the lack of communication to be a major barrier for the peaceable relations between the two fractions. In Mary Barton, Gaskell tells her tale with so much feeling. Her sympathy towards the working class is obvious. The beautiful and passionate writing of hers pours this sympathy in to the hearts of the readers connecting them with the story and the characters and through them, with the working class. The writing is also full of suspense as a murder takes place and a race against time was made to clear the falsely accused before his innocent life is taken. All in all, this was an excellent read. I was really surprised by the outcome, for I was not expecting it given this novel being a less popular work by the author. And I also see this novel as a sort of a prequel to her more popular work, North and South where the theme of master-worker conflict was taken up and developed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel and it shows. It's signficantly less assured than her better known works, North and South, Cranford and Wives and Daughters. The eponymous heroine is at times annoying (although she grows in stature as the work progresses) and the narrative has a number of those features which make some readers avoid Victorian fiction: a leisurely pace, wordiness, preachiness, sentimentality and melodrama. The novel starts very slowly. At the half-way mark the pace picks This was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel and it shows. It's signficantly less assured than her better known works, North and South, Cranford and Wives and Daughters. The eponymous heroine is at times annoying (although she grows in stature as the work progresses) and the narrative has a number of those features which make some readers avoid Victorian fiction: a leisurely pace, wordiness, preachiness, sentimentality and melodrama. The novel starts very slowly. At the half-way mark the pace picks up and it turns into an interesting court room drama, which would be even more interesting if the outcome had not been predictable. The last quarter of the novel falls off somewhat, as Gaskell's preaching kicks into high gear. That said, Gaskell writes well and is a good storyteller, notwithstanding the signficant implausibility of some parts of the narrative, such as (view spoiler)[ the fact that all it takes for Mary to realise she is in love with Jem is to reject his proposal of marriage (hide spoiler)] . In addition, the setting of the novel - Manchester between 1837 and 1842, torn apart by industrial strife between mill owners and factory hands - is inherently interesting. Gaskell depicts the plight of the poor with sympathy, although her suggested cure for the devastating consequences of working class poverty - (view spoiler)[ an increase in philanthropic and charitable activities by the factory-owning class (hide spoiler)] - reveals her own social conservatism. Gaskell was not arguing for the abolition of either capitalism or the class system. Notwithstanding the weaknesses of the work, I very much enjoyed listening to the audiobook narrated by the truly wonderful Juliet Stevenson. Even when it was at its most predictable, the narrative still held my interest. It's not destined to be up there with my favourite Gaskell novels, but I still liked it a lot, somewhere between 3-1/2 and 4 stars worth.

  6. 5 out of 5

    K.

    Okay, I am turning into a major E. Gaskell fan. I absolutely loved this book. It was her first, and got a bit melodramatic in places, but I think she made it work. "North and South" was definitely better crafted, but this was just as good a story. Gaskell wrote at the same time as Dickens, Industrial Age Britian. She lived in Manchester (trade town) and knew the condiditions there very well. She does a great job at describing the real living circumstances of the rich and poor. The book is absolu Okay, I am turning into a major E. Gaskell fan. I absolutely loved this book. It was her first, and got a bit melodramatic in places, but I think she made it work. "North and South" was definitely better crafted, but this was just as good a story. Gaskell wrote at the same time as Dickens, Industrial Age Britian. She lived in Manchester (trade town) and knew the condiditions there very well. She does a great job at describing the real living circumstances of the rich and poor. The book is absolutely gripping in its portrayal of the very poor working people. Loved it. Will buy it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    After having read "North and South" quite a long time ago I had forgotten why this woman was a master in storytelling. Because it seems impossible that a novel written in the classic way, with long sentences and a "stiff" structure with ancient vocabulary and dealing with the pros and conts of the revolutionary working class in the industrial England of the late XIXth century, might engage the reader the way that "Mary Barton" does. Even with all these formal constraints Gaskell manages to transmi After having read "North and South" quite a long time ago I had forgotten why this woman was a master in storytelling. Because it seems impossible that a novel written in the classic way, with long sentences and a "stiff" structure with ancient vocabulary and dealing with the pros and conts of the revolutionary working class in the industrial England of the late XIXth century, might engage the reader the way that "Mary Barton" does. Even with all these formal constraints Gaskell manages to transmit such contained emotion that sometimes I didn't realise I had stopped breathing with anxiety. Mary Barton is a working class girl, daughter of an impoverished widowed man. Her pretty face catches the attention of Mr. Carson one of the wealthy lads of Manchester and the possibility of seeing the end of their meagre existence leads her to dismiss her true love, Jem Wilson with dreadful consequences for all of them. Partly historical and sociological thriller which portrays the situation of a whole generation and the start of what we call progress in the working system. Deeply meaningful characters who will stick to your mind long after you have closed the book. Loved it!

  8. 4 out of 5

    ☯Emily

    I have never understood why Elizabeth Gaskell is not better known. She was a contemporary of Dickens and a much better writer. Both HARD TIMES by Dickens and MARY BARTON by Gaskell deal with the terrible plight of the working poor during the 1840s and 1850s. Gaskell's characters are realistically drawn as opposed to Dicken's exaggerated comical characters. Mrs. Gaskell shows how factory workers lived in terribly squalid conditions and the affect this had on Mary Barton's father. There is a murde I have never understood why Elizabeth Gaskell is not better known. She was a contemporary of Dickens and a much better writer. Both HARD TIMES by Dickens and MARY BARTON by Gaskell deal with the terrible plight of the working poor during the 1840s and 1850s. Gaskell's characters are realistically drawn as opposed to Dicken's exaggerated comical characters. Mrs. Gaskell shows how factory workers lived in terribly squalid conditions and the affect this had on Mary Barton's father. There is a murder which leads to a thrilling trial. The suspense was skillfully done, leaving me unwilling to put the book down. This novel should lead to an interest in the social and economic realities of England in the mid-1800s. An even cursory investigation will reveal that Mrs. Gaskell did not exaggerate the conditions or the squalor of that time. There are many deaths in the book, but that was the reality for the factory worker and his family.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Coloma

    Primer contacto con Elizabeth Gaskell superado. Y con nota. La historia es muy buena y sus personajes también. Si bien al principio me chirriaba un poco que intentara influir tanto en mi concepción y pensamiento sobre los personajes, luego me di cuenta de que simplemente se trataba de una "amiga" que me contaba una historia, con sus pequeños parones para comentar y juzgar a sus protagonistas, como si estuviéramos tan a gusto con un té deshilachando ese relato entre las dos; cada una con su opinió Primer contacto con Elizabeth Gaskell superado. Y con nota. La historia es muy buena y sus personajes también. Si bien al principio me chirriaba un poco que intentara influir tanto en mi concepción y pensamiento sobre los personajes, luego me di cuenta de que simplemente se trataba de una "amiga" que me contaba una historia, con sus pequeños parones para comentar y juzgar a sus protagonistas, como si estuviéramos tan a gusto con un té deshilachando ese relato entre las dos; cada una con su opinión, a veces coincidente y a veces no. Pero ambas disfrutando de "nuestra interesante charla" ☕️ Así que, gustosamente, seguiré con el resto de andanzas de la Gaskell, of course! ⭐

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    As brilliant this time as it was the first. This is probably the most exciting and page-turner Victorian books out there, and is highly worth everybody's time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I'm calling this one read because it took me nearly three weeks to get just past the halfway point, and I don't think I'm a slow reader. Will I try it again? Probably, because I bought the book. But I don't recommend it to others. I really enjoy Gaskell's writing. But this book is so depressing. Maybe it gets better, but it's too much of a downer for me right now. I expected a love story with the social commentary off to the side. It's pretty much the opposite, and I'm not sure exactly where the I'm calling this one read because it took me nearly three weeks to get just past the halfway point, and I don't think I'm a slow reader. Will I try it again? Probably, because I bought the book. But I don't recommend it to others. I really enjoy Gaskell's writing. But this book is so depressing. Maybe it gets better, but it's too much of a downer for me right now. I expected a love story with the social commentary off to the side. It's pretty much the opposite, and I'm not sure exactly where the love story is. It's in there somewhere, but it's probably hiding in the poverty, starvation and death. Another note: Why is this book called "Mary Barton"? She may be the main character, but I don't feel I know her well at all. She is a flat, "good" girl. I was really hoping she'd develop beyond that, but I haven't seen it after 220 pages, so I doubt I will at this point. I know her the least of any of the characters. This book is making a Point. And I agree with the Point! I agree very strongly. But I don't need to be beaten into a bloody pulp with it. Having given up this book, I feel like I've thrown a big rock off my back. Relief! If you choose to read this, realize going in that it's not an uplifting read, and then it may work much better for you.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was a good enough book. I think it was a very good attempt at showcasing the social conflict of Gaskell's era. Most of her characters are complex and I think the writing was quite good. It just didn't grab me though and I found a lot of it to be uninteresting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Esta mujer tiene una capacidad increíble de contar historias. Es el segundo libro que me leo de ella, y ambos me engancharon un montón. Tanto este como el de Norte y Sur comparten un hilo similar, pues hablan de los conflictos que se creaban entre patronos y obreros, de la falta de entendimiento por ambas partes y la situación precaria en la que vivían los trabajadores. Es un regalo poder conocer casi de primera mano todos estos acontecimientos, por parte de alguien que los vivió de cerca. Lo bu Esta mujer tiene una capacidad increíble de contar historias. Es el segundo libro que me leo de ella, y ambos me engancharon un montón. Tanto este como el de Norte y Sur comparten un hilo similar, pues hablan de los conflictos que se creaban entre patronos y obreros, de la falta de entendimiento por ambas partes y la situación precaria en la que vivían los trabajadores. Es un regalo poder conocer casi de primera mano todos estos acontecimientos, por parte de alguien que los vivió de cerca. Lo bueno de todo ello, es que la autora trata de revelar las razones de cada una de las partes para actuar como lo hacen, cómo ven cada uno de ellos la situación. No busca realmente posicionarse en un bando o en el otro, para ella no hay una sola verdad, y casi parece que su intención es lograr un acercamiento entre ellos, para abrir la mente y crear conciencia de las posibles injusticias que puedan estar cometiendo tanto los patronos como los obreros. Al final, llega a la conclusión de que todos están en el mismo barco y todos deberían comunicarse y tener en cuenta los intereses de ambos para que nadie salga perdiendo y, sobre todo, para evitar que los obreros vivan en unas condiciones terribles, de pobreza, miseria y sufrimiento. La forma en la que está escrita el libro me llamó especialmente la atención, ya que la autora le cuenta directamente al lector lo que está pasando o ha pasado e intercala muchas veces sus propias reflexiones. La religión y los valores cristianos, como es normal, están muy presentes en la obra. Apela constantemente a la compasión, al perdón, al arrepentimiento y a la humildad. Por otro lado, la muerte también tiene un papel importante, tanto que casi parece un personaje más. Casi es vista como una bendición, una liberación de los sufrimientos de este mundo o un modo de liberarse de las culpas y tormentos de la conciencia. Aunque también se ve como un castigo o una venganza. Luego trata temas como la prostitución y el acoso. Las mujeres tenían que comportarse como señoritas, ser discretas, recatadas y obedientes. Si no lo hacían, pasaban a ser vistas como coquetas/descaradas, y todo el mundo las señalaba con el dedo. Las prostitutas eran consideradas unas parias y ellas mismas eran las causantes de su perdición, aunque el hambre, la necesidad y la pobreza las hubiesen empujado a ello (es decir, la propia sociedad. En fin, cuando no se quiere ver la realidad…). Y luego, no se te ocurriese rechazar a un pretendiente, porque si el tipo en cuestión te acosa constantemente después, te humilla o básicamente decida, por celos, hacerle daño a otro pretendiente que puedas tener, toda la culpa recaerá en ti, no en él. La mujer será una superficial/descarada/vanidosa incapaz de aceptar el honor que supone que alguien se fije en ella, y él será visto como al pobre infeliz que ha tenido mala suerte y al que hay que tener lástima. Si él hace algo horrible, hay que entender que fue por el rechazo sufrido, pobre. Mala mujer… En fin, me parece bien que Jem le hable abiertamente de sus sentimientos a Mary, pero dar por hecho que ella tenga que aceptarlo solo porque son amigos de la infancia, cuando ella nunca le había demostrado sentir el mismo amor, y dejarle ver (casi como coacción) que lo hará un desgraciado si no se convierte en su mujer, pues me parece pasarse un poquito. Y en cuanto a Harry, vale que Mary le ha seguido el tonteo, pero en el momento que decide ser clara y decirle que la deje en paz, por mucho que le parezca mal que le haya dado falsas esperanzas, si tuviese madurez, lo aceptaría y no haría lo que hace. Ah! Y que no se me olvide hablaros del señor paternalismo, otro protagonista más de la novela, como os podéis dar cuenta. En conclusión, Gaskell es una narradora nata. Esta novela es más oscura quizás que la de Norte y Sur, y te mantiene con el corazón en un puño, de hecho, hacia el final, me estuve mordiendo las uñas toda angustiada porque necesitaba saber qué iba a pasar. Sin embargo, quizás me gustaron más los personajes de Norte y Sur que los de esta historia, aunque empaticé con ellos y me interesaron igual, que conste. Hay algunos momentos intensos por ahí que consiguen despertarte la vena emocional. Recomendable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    First, I agree with other reviewers that Mary Barton is not quite of the same caliber as her other novels. Second, Mary Barton is not the most likeable of characters and it would have been nice if someone had hauled off and given her a good smack. On the other hand, once I started to read,it was impossible to put down!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “Your heart would have ached to have seen the man, however hardly you might have judged his crime.” This is what fiction does for us—allows us to “see the man,” to walk in his shoes. In this story, we “see” Manchester, England in the 1830’s. We see a working man who is without work, a man who watched his son die from lack of nourishment. We see a young woman tempted to give up everything she loves for some basic comforts. We see their neighbors and friends struggle—not always successfully--to sus “Your heart would have ached to have seen the man, however hardly you might have judged his crime.” This is what fiction does for us—allows us to “see the man,” to walk in his shoes. In this story, we “see” Manchester, England in the 1830’s. We see a working man who is without work, a man who watched his son die from lack of nourishment. We see a young woman tempted to give up everything she loves for some basic comforts. We see their neighbors and friends struggle—not always successfully--to sustain their sanity and their lives. This all sounds very grim, but Gaskell has a hopeful style of writing that balances out the pain of her subject matter. It seems George Eliot considered this a “silly novel” (Gaskell and millinery novels were mentioned in her essay “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.”) It sounds like she thought they lacked originality and that the writing did not demonstrate adequately the benefit of educating women. Eliot provides a wonderful demonstration of the value of education—her books are an education in themselves. But I get the feeling from reading both that Gaskell understands poverty from a closer viewpoint. So there’s value in both writers, of course. What makes this one good is not vivid characterization or beautiful passages of description. It is the attempt to accurately show the plight of the poor-- even when it is full of death and sorrow, to not turn your face from it. This comes through so strongly that it is mesmerizing. “Don’t think to come over me with the old tale, that the rich know nothing of the trials of the poor. I say, if they don’t know, they ought to know.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I love Gaskell’s writing (Wives and Daughters is one of my all-time favorites), and things were going swimmingly for the first half of Mary Barton. It’s about a group of working-class families living in Manchester, and brilliantly details the poverty and class tensions created by the Industrial Revolution. But from the middle onwards it becomes a glacial crime drama, and the ending chapters feature some of the least believable, most heavy-handed Christian sermonizing I’ve ever read. It’s the kin I love Gaskell’s writing (Wives and Daughters is one of my all-time favorites), and things were going swimmingly for the first half of Mary Barton. It’s about a group of working-class families living in Manchester, and brilliantly details the poverty and class tensions created by the Industrial Revolution. But from the middle onwards it becomes a glacial crime drama, and the ending chapters feature some of the least believable, most heavy-handed Christian sermonizing I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of ending that’s designed to bestow a lesson on readers, at the expense of the characters’ personalities and priorities. I still recommend this to anyone who’s enjoyed Gaskell before, but if you’re new to her work, pick up North and South or Wives and Daughters instead.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marquise

    I can't believe I'm giving a Gaskell novel this low a rating... And yet, I can't but rate it so. The storytelling is deficient despite the plot being theoretically sound, and there’s too much mawkishly romantic melodrama from early on, to which you have to add dialogue that sounds as trite as this example between the protagonist, Mary Barton, and her suitor: "I tell you, Jem, it cannot be. Once for all, I will never marry you." "And is this the end of all my hopes and fears? the end of my life, I m I can't believe I'm giving a Gaskell novel this low a rating... And yet, I can't but rate it so. The storytelling is deficient despite the plot being theoretically sound, and there’s too much mawkishly romantic melodrama from early on, to which you have to add dialogue that sounds as trite as this example between the protagonist, Mary Barton, and her suitor: "I tell you, Jem, it cannot be. Once for all, I will never marry you." "And is this the end of all my hopes and fears? the end of my life, I may say, for it is the end of all worth living for!" His agitation rose and carried him into passion. "Mary, you'll hear, maybe, of me as a drunkard, and maybe as a thief, and maybe as a murderer. Remember! when all are speaking ill of me, you will have no right to blame me, for it's your cruelty that will have made me what I feel I shall become. You won't even say you'll try and like me; will you, Mary?" said he, suddenly changing his tone from threatening despair to fond, passionate entreaty, as he took her hand and held it forcibly between both of his, while he tried to catch a glimpse of her averted face. Why are Victorian writers so fond of overwrought and over-the-top theatrics and sentimental drama? Why do they favour it over telling the story competently instead? Because this one had a great idea for a plot: a murder carried out on a mill owner, in which the female lead's father and sweetheart are suspected by turns. There's ideological and class tensions between the moneyed mill-owning industrialists and the factory workers and Union leaders, with a side of family and community difficulties for extra flavour, that'd have provided with plenty of thrilling drama on its own, if Gaskell had handled the execution of the premise better. Instead, we got a run-of-the-mill (pun intended) weak plot centred round solving what's perhaps the most predictable of all murder mysteries I've read recently, and the characters are either excitable and babbling-prone stereotypes or plain flat. There's an irritatingly predictable resolution to the murder, with me being able to tell the identity of the murderer pages and pages and pages before the revelation point. Rather anti-climactic. Clearly, ‘tis been quite the disappointment in so many ways...

  18. 5 out of 5

    F.R.

    'Mary Barton, or It's Grim Oop North' One doesn't like to fall back on cliches like the above, but the Manchester Tourist Board is never going to give a back cover blurb for this novel. Death, disease and destitution stalk the streets of the city which is seemingly a series of run-down slums, where a fall in demand for cotton can see whole families starve to nothing; where a flirtation with one of a higher class can lead to disgrace and possibly murder; where high passions are fermented even thro 'Mary Barton, or It's Grim Oop North' One doesn't like to fall back on cliches like the above, but the Manchester Tourist Board is never going to give a back cover blurb for this novel. Death, disease and destitution stalk the streets of the city which is seemingly a series of run-down slums, where a fall in demand for cotton can see whole families starve to nothing; where a flirtation with one of a higher class can lead to disgrace and possibly murder; where high passions are fermented even through the want and hunger. Yes, it’s melodramatic; yes these are the very streets Catherine Cookson stalked for decades (much to ITV Drama’s delight), but actually I enjoyed it more than I did George Gissing’s ‘Demos’. ‘Demos’ feels academic, a book that doesn’t want to get its fingers dirty. ‘Mary Barton’ is mired in dirt, it doesn’t stint from the filth of those dark, dingy, filthy and cobbled streets. But more importantly, it’s a book with a strong, beating human heart. There’s a whole raft of characters here that the narrative is determined that you understand, empathise with and even love. The book makes them real, gives them the air of life and asks the reader to forgive them their foibles (and even their greater sins), then be happy at any hope which comes their way. Okay, it ain’t subtle. The working folk are good natured but down trodden, the employers and masters are harsh and unfeeling. Any reader wanting a nuanced and rounded view of labour relations in the North West of England in the Victorian age should look elsewhere. It’s also fair to say that the book builds to a big courthouse crescendo, before tapering off quite substantially. But despite these flaws (and one of those isn’t really a flaw in what is a polemic), Gaskell captures this world with incredible skill and brio, creating her characters with such thoughtfulness and care that even when they behave surprisingly it seems to derive from a real place, to give us a passionate steam-powered – and soot covered – book, which tries to let sunlight through to even the dankest corners.

  19. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    Although I didn’t realize it, this was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel and by happy circumstance it was also my first to read by her. There were any number of favorable things which could be said about the novel, such as Gaskell’s portrayal of a manufacturing town class struggle during an economic crisis, family politics on both sides of that contention or the simple, clean plot. But what completely won me over were the clear ethical choices in the story. It wasn’t overtly didactic or preachy. It Although I didn’t realize it, this was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel and by happy circumstance it was also my first to read by her. There were any number of favorable things which could be said about the novel, such as Gaskell’s portrayal of a manufacturing town class struggle during an economic crisis, family politics on both sides of that contention or the simple, clean plot. But what completely won me over were the clear ethical choices in the story. It wasn’t overtly didactic or preachy. It was illustrative in that a character would be up against some insurmountable foe/obstacle and though it meant going against his own best interest(s) he would choose based on what was the right thing to do or some higher moral purpose, rather than what was in his own interests. Not all characters and not all the time, of course, or it would be very tedious. There was conflict and villains. Moral relativists would hate this book! 3.5, but the extra ½ point for knowing and showing right from wrong. I will read more by Gaskell.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I'm not sure why I feel the need to read 19th century women's British lit, but I always go back to it, whether it's re-reading Austen or trying out new titles and authors. At first it was reading anything by Austen or that was Austenesque in period, satire, and romance. Now I've come to love reading the formal British diction and grammar - long sentences, Hackney London accents, and all. It's also an interesting way to learn about and live the historical period. That said, I've read Gaskell befo I'm not sure why I feel the need to read 19th century women's British lit, but I always go back to it, whether it's re-reading Austen or trying out new titles and authors. At first it was reading anything by Austen or that was Austenesque in period, satire, and romance. Now I've come to love reading the formal British diction and grammar - long sentences, Hackney London accents, and all. It's also an interesting way to learn about and live the historical period. That said, I've read Gaskell before and I wasn't disappointed this time around. The murder mystery and melodramatic romance of Mary Barton were engaging, but I found the poverty of Manchester factory life and the fully rendered characters and their rich relationships, which Gaskell captures so well, most worthwhile. Almost as good as North and South.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I did not love this nearly as much as North and South, but over the course of the novel I grew more and more fond of it. The characterization is not as superb as in N&S, but I did come to know most of the characters quite well. There are a few passages in the middle devoted to a mermaid, which certainly won me over! Overall, this felt like a first novel when compared to N&S, but that makes me more eager to pick up the later works of Gaskell!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Where I got the book: public domain freebie on Kindle or was it directly from Gutenberg.com? Anyhow, a perfectly acceptable free copy which is one of the things I love about the internet. Mary Barton is the pretty daughter of a factory hand who's an ardent Chartist (prototypical trade unionist) in an 1800s Manchester hit by economic hardship. She is loved by childhood friend Jem Wilson but has her eye on handsome Harry Carson, the boss's son. After Harry is assassinated and Jem is accused of the Where I got the book: public domain freebie on Kindle or was it directly from Gutenberg.com? Anyhow, a perfectly acceptable free copy which is one of the things I love about the internet. Mary Barton is the pretty daughter of a factory hand who's an ardent Chartist (prototypical trade unionist) in an 1800s Manchester hit by economic hardship. She is loved by childhood friend Jem Wilson but has her eye on handsome Harry Carson, the boss's son. After Harry is assassinated and Jem is accused of the murder Mary is desperate to save him (view spoiler)[(she had already realized she loved him all along) (hide spoiler)] but can she do so without revealing the real murderer? Because that would also destroy her. This was Mrs. Gaskell's first novel and it's definitely not written with anything like as much assurance or finesse as her last, Wives and Daughters, which I reviewed last year. The plot moves along somewhat more jerkily and without that edge of sly amusement that I so liked about W&D. But as Victorian melodramas go, it's a corker with lots of deaths and excesses of violent emotion. Oh, how terrible to think of his crime, his blood-guiltiness; he who had hitherto been so good, so noble, and now an assassin! And then she shrank from him in thought; and then, with bitter remorse, clung more closely to his image with passionate self-upbraiding. Was it not she who had led him to the pit into which he had fallen? This is, as much as anything else, a story of Mary's redemption from the light-heartedness of her youth to a Woman Fit To Be Loved By a Noble Man. It really struck me how hard women had it back then; Mary's sin is to have been a flirtatious teenager, a state of existence we now celebrate. Even though the Carsons' money was self-made, Mrs. Gaskell seems to think it entirely wrong that Mary should have ever aspired to a bit of social climbing through marriage; double standards much? (view spoiler)[The example of Esther drives the point home that girls who forget their place come to a Bad End, which must have delighted her middle-class readers but what a bummer for the poor working girl! (hide spoiler)] It's interesting that while much of the novel demonstrates enormous sympathy for the plight of the factory workers, Mrs. Gaskell is not prepared to go so far as to invite them into her social circle. With all that, it's a cracking good read with some memorable scenes. A true tear-jerker, full of pathos and with many references to the Gospels because there are certainly very strong Christian themes (redemption, forgiveness, charity and the like.) You have to understand the Victorian taste for saccharine scenes and elevated moral standards to appreciate this one, but if you roll your eyes at the over-the-top writing you should still enjoy the story and characters. Not nearly as show-offy as Dickens, Gaskell writes with earnestness and although I missed her later humor, I appreciated the attempt NOT to turn her working-class characters into Punch & Judy amusements for the (presumably superior) reader as Dickens does.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Trudy Brasure

    I really enjoyed reading this again. It's not as wonderful as North and South or Wives and Daughters, but I enjoyed it more than Ruth or Cranford. There are so many similar elements to North and South, and the details into the lives of the working class is expanded. I don't feel the deep empathy for Mary or Jem as I do with Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Mary's struggles are much more dramatic and difficult to relate to. And we don't get to know Jem as well as we get to know John Thornton. The I really enjoyed reading this again. It's not as wonderful as North and South or Wives and Daughters, but I enjoyed it more than Ruth or Cranford. There are so many similar elements to North and South, and the details into the lives of the working class is expanded. I don't feel the deep empathy for Mary or Jem as I do with Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Mary's struggles are much more dramatic and difficult to relate to. And we don't get to know Jem as well as we get to know John Thornton. The secondary characters all come alive with their own individuality. This is one of the great pleasures of reading Gaskell. She creates very vivid characters.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    This was my first go as an audio book after many years. I throughly enjoyed having the story read to me. And thank you to the National Library Service for providing audio books to those of us who have visual impairments. Now onto the review. The story takes place in Gaskell's home of Manchester in the north of England. It is a family story that is full of tragedy and misunderstandings. It also depicts the way of life of the working man during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. This sto This was my first go as an audio book after many years. I throughly enjoyed having the story read to me. And thank you to the National Library Service for providing audio books to those of us who have visual impairments. Now onto the review. The story takes place in Gaskell's home of Manchester in the north of England. It is a family story that is full of tragedy and misunderstandings. It also depicts the way of life of the working man during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. This story greatly appealed to me because I had read some of Gaskell's other works, Charlotte Bronte's "Shirley" and other history books about the working life in Northern England in the 19th Century. The main message I took away from this story was, no matter what adversity you are going through, persevere and never give up.

  25. 4 out of 5

    K.

    The first time I read this, I really struggled with it. I think I got caught up in the love triangle element of the story to the point where I couldn't see anything else. I was also comparing it to my two favourite Gaskell books, North & South and Wives & Daughters. But on reread, letting the story stand on its own? I really enjoyed this one. It's about the lengths that someone will go to for what they believe in. It's about a teenage girl who's so infatuated with a hot, rich guy that she The first time I read this, I really struggled with it. I think I got caught up in the love triangle element of the story to the point where I couldn't see anything else. I was also comparing it to my two favourite Gaskell books, North & South and Wives & Daughters. But on reread, letting the story stand on its own? I really enjoyed this one. It's about the lengths that someone will go to for what they believe in. It's about a teenage girl who's so infatuated with a hot, rich guy that she doesn't realise she loves the guy right in front of her who's loved her for years. It's about everyday people just struggling to survive. It took me a while to get into it, and I definitely didn't like it as much as my two favourite Gaskell books of wondrousness. But it's a compelling story full of interesting characters. And it's definitely worth reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sotiris Karaiskos

    One of the quite a few social novels written in Great Britain in the middle of the nineteenth century describing the difficult conditions of life of the working class. I would say, however, that it goes one step further by citing the causes of this situation. Although the writer, as she mentions in her preface, does not have the necessary economic knowledge, she finds the source of evil in the insensitivity of the capitalists who, in their effort to make more profits, are indifferent to plunging One of the quite a few social novels written in Great Britain in the middle of the nineteenth century describing the difficult conditions of life of the working class. I would say, however, that it goes one step further by citing the causes of this situation. Although the writer, as she mentions in her preface, does not have the necessary economic knowledge, she finds the source of evil in the insensitivity of the capitalists who, in their effort to make more profits, are indifferent to plunging workers and their families into misery. From then on, she considers these miserable living conditions the cause of every social evil, as under the pressure of survival it is not always easy to choose an ethical life. Not that she justifies everything; on the contrary, she condemns any form of immorality, while at the same time accusing some trade unionists that with their maximalistic demands and violent reactions they are essentially the other pole of the problem. However the book has more of an emotional approach. In the beginning, for example, the writer deals with the description of the tortured life of some poor families, a description that although sometimes it is a little melodramatic, its realism and its truth is moving but also enough to make you angry. This anger, however, is not her purpose, as generally does not want to pass a message of revolution or of radical changes through this book. This part highlights the value of Christian patience and hope for reward in the other world, as well as the solidarity shown by the poor in their common problems, while showing the value of Christian Ideas to solve more practical issues. For the writer, the solution can not be anything but reconciliation between workers and employers who, through the light of Christian love, will find mutually acceptable solutions that will make the economy work by offering an acceptable standard of living for all. Perhaps something completely utopian that for many is certainly enough to reject the book but we have to bear in mind that the starting point of this work is not economic ideas but religion, which of course explains everything. However, after all this, there are some more things to deal with in this book like a mystery and, above all, love, which in its good side is something that morally raises people but to its bad is a passion that can bring the opposite effects and lead people to destruction. You see, in the end there may be difficult living conditions, but from these people are emerging who can defeat the temptations and help the ones around them as well as themselves. Of course this sounds somewhat moralistic and in combination with the melodramatic things that I mentioned a few points may seem too much, but looking at the general picture there is a balance that made me appreciate the book enough to have the desire to read other works off the author, which, as I read, are more complete. Ένα από τα αρκετά κοινωνικά μυθιστορήματα που γράφτηκαν στη Μεγάλη Βρετανία στα μέσα του δέκατου ένατου αιώνα και περιγράφουν τις δύσκολες συνθήκες ζωής της εργατικής τάξης. Θα έλεγα, όμως, ότι πηγαίνει ένα βήμα παραπάνω αναφέροντας τις αιτίες που προκαλούν αυτήν την κατάσταση. Αν και η συγγραφέας όπως αναφέρει στον πρόλογο της δεν έχει τις απαραίτητες οικονομικές γνώσεις, εντοπίζει την πηγή του κακού στην αναλγησία των καπιταλιστών που στην προσπάθειά τους να βγάλουν περισσότερο κέρδος αδιαφορούν για το αν βυθίζουν τους εργαζόμενους και τις οικογένειές τους στην αθλιότητα. Από εκεί και πέρα θεωρεί αυτές τις άθλιες συνθήκες ζωής αιτία κάθε κοινωνικού κακού καθώς κάτω από την πίεση της επιβίωσης δεν είναι πάντα εύκολο να επιλέξει κάποιος την ηθική ζωή. Όχι πως χαϊδεύει αφτιά ή ότι δικαιολογεί τα πάντα, αντιθέτως στηλιτεύει οποιαδήποτε μορφή ανηθικότητας, κατηγορώντας παράλληλα κάποιους συνδικαλιστές ότι με τις μαξιμαλιστικές απαιτήσεις και τις βίαιες αντιδράσεις τους αποτελούν ουσιαστικά τον άλλο πόλο του προβλήματος. Βέβαια, παρόλα αυτά, το βιβλίο έχει περισσότερο μία συναισθηματική προσέγγιση. Στην αρχή για παράδειγμα η συγγραφέας ασχολείται με την περιγραφή της βασανιστικής ζωής κάποιων φτωχών οικογενειών, περιγραφή που αν και πολλές φορές γίνεται λίγο μελοδραματική ο ρεαλισμός της και η αλήθεια της συγκινεί αλλά παράλληλα εξοργίζει. Αυτή η οργή, όμως, δεν είναι ο σκοπός της, καθώς γενικότερα μέσα από αυτό το βιβλίο δεν θέλει να περάσει ένα μήνυμα ανατροπής ή ριζοσπαστικών αλλαγών, κάθε άλλο θα έλεγα. Μέσα από τις σελίδες του αναδεικνύεται η αξία της Χριστιανικής υπομονής και της ελπίδας για ανταμοιβή στον άλλο κόσμο αλλά και της αλληλεγγύης που δείχνουν οι φτωχοί απέναντι στα κοινά τους προβλήματα, δείχνοντας παράλληλα και την αξία των χριστιανικών Ιδεών για την επίλυση περισσότερο πρακτικών ζητημάτων. Για τη συγγραφέα η λύση δεν μπορεί να είναι άλλη από τη συμφιλίωση μεταξύ εργατών και εργοδοτών οι οποίοι μέσα από το πρίσμα της Χριστιανικής αγάπης θα βρουν κοινά αποδεκτές λύσεις που θα κάνουν την οικονομία να λειτουργεί προσφέροντας ένα αποδεκτό επίπεδο διαβίωσης σε όλους. Ίσως κάτι εντελώς ουτοπικό που για αρκετούς είναι σίγουρα αρκετό για να απορρίψουν το βιβλίο αλλά πρέπει να λάβουμε υπόψιν το γεγονός ότι η αφετηρία του έργου δεν είναι οι οικονομικές ιδέες αλλά η θρησκεία, κάτι που φυσικά εξηγεί τα πάντα. Φυσικά μετά από όλα αυτά υπάρχουν και περισσότερα πράγματα να ασχοληθούμε σε αυτό το βιβλίο όπως ένα μυστήριο και πάνω από όλα ο έρωτας που στην καλή περίπτωση είναι κάτι που ανεβάζει ηθικά τους ανθρώπους αλλά στην κακή του είναι ένα πάθος που μπορεί να φέρει τα αντίθετα αποτελέσματα και να οδηγήσει τους ανθρώπους στην καταστροφή. Βλέπετε, στο τέλος μπορεί να υπάρχουν οι δύσκολες συνθήκες διαβίωσης αλλά μέσα σε αυτές αναδεικνύονται και αυτοί οι άνθρωποι που μπορούν να νικήσουν τους πειρασμούς και να βοηθήσουν έτσι τους γύρω τους όπως και τον εαυτό τους. Βέβαια αυτό ακούγεται κάπως ηθικολογικό και σε συνδυασμό με τον μελοδραματισμό που προανέφερα μερικά σημεία μπορεί να φαίνονται υπερβολικά, κοιτάζοντας, όμως, τη γενικότερη εικόνα υπάρχει μία ισορροπία που που με έκανε να εκτιμήσω το βιβλίο αρκετά ώστε να έχω την επιθυμία να διαβάσω και άλλα έργα της συγγραφέως, που όπως διαβάζω είναι περισσότερο ολοκληρωμένα.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Issicratea

    Mary Barton (1848) was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first published novel—and it shows. There’s a kind of tentativeness about it, and a certain clunkiness of construction; and there’s a great deal of Victorian piety and sentimentality to wade through. I feel sorry for anyone who comes to Gaskell first through this rather weak, early production, rather than through her magnificent later novels, like Sylvia's Lovers (1863) and North and South (1855). There are plot anticipations of North and South in Mary B Mary Barton (1848) was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first published novel—and it shows. There’s a kind of tentativeness about it, and a certain clunkiness of construction; and there’s a great deal of Victorian piety and sentimentality to wade through. I feel sorry for anyone who comes to Gaskell first through this rather weak, early production, rather than through her magnificent later novels, like Sylvia's Lovers (1863) and North and South (1855). There are plot anticipations of North and South in Mary Barton (industrial tensions between workers and mill-owners), and also of George Eliot’s Adam Bede, of 1859 (love triangle pitting an upwardly mobile working class man set on marriage against a wealthier seducer.) The Eliot echoes are not fortuitous; Eliot read Mary Barton as she was working on Adam Bede. The echoes of these two later and greater novels only make you more aware of Mary Barton’s deficiencies, however. It is hugely weakened by comparison with North and South, for example, by only fully dramatizing the “worker” side of the class dispute, and leaving the “mill-owner” side under-developed. I don’t want to be too hard on this novel, though, whatever its flaws. It was clearly very brave in the climate of the day, and attracted quite a degree of controversy when it was published. Some of the scenes of poverty and suffering among millworkers in Manchester during times of low employment are very strong and affecting. I was especially struck by the spiral downwards, across the first third of the novel, from the relatively comfortable poverty of the Bartons’ house in the opening episode, with their small luxuries of japanned tea trays and ham and eggs for a special occasion; to the spinster Alice Wilson’s more straitened circumstances, her entertaining limited to a rare offering of bread and butter; to the sudden, shocking poverty of the unemployed Davenport, dying on a bed of straw in a filthy, unheated cellar, with his pregnant wife and children starving alongside him. The novel is also interesting politically, portraying as it does the context of the Chartist movement—although Gaskell is so wary of rocking the boat of her middle-class readership that she comes close to portraying the class disputes of the time as arising from personal misunderstandings, rather than anything deeper or more structural. I was interested to read in the introduction to my edition that Gaskell had originally intended to entitle the work John Barton, making Mary’s radical, Chartist father the clear protagonist of the novel. It was her publishers who persuaded her to change the title and refocus on Mary’s none-too-compelling sentimental life. One odd line of reflection that a note in my edition set me thinking about: Elizabeth Gaskell’s poverty of imagination concerning names. John and Mary Barton; James Wilson; Margaret Hale; John Thornton; Sylvia Robson—these are all quite remarkably “off the peg,” if we contrast them with George Eliot’s far richer onomastic imaginary: Adam Bede, Maggie Tulliver; Hetty Sorrel; Silas Marner; Felix Holt (not to mention Edward Casaubon and Will Ladislaw.) I had never really thought before about how much characters’ names contribute to a novel (perhaps I should read more Dickens: Septimus Crisparkle, anyone? Anne Chickenstalker?), but I suspect I’m not going to be able to avoid it from now on.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Mary Barton was an important landmark in 19th century English literature in that , more possibly than even any Charles Dickens novel, it raises awareness of the plight of the poverty stricken English working classes.Unlike most of Dickens work , Elizabeth Gaskell places working class people at the center of her novel novel rather than the periphery. The central point of the novel - as is Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England (Oxford World's Classics) is how men and women starved a Mary Barton was an important landmark in 19th century English literature in that , more possibly than even any Charles Dickens novel, it raises awareness of the plight of the poverty stricken English working classes.Unlike most of Dickens work , Elizabeth Gaskell places working class people at the center of her novel novel rather than the periphery. The central point of the novel - as is Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England (Oxford World's Classics) is how men and women starved and children died and children died, while their employers lived off the fat of the land. The exploitation and suffering of the British poor at this time was every bit as cruel and exploitative as that of the slaves in the colonies. The novel captures the clashes of the time between the wealthy employers and the labourers is dramatized by personal struggles. Central to the story is the trade unionist and his daughter Mary Barton caught between two lovers of opposing classes, the honest young worker Jem and the son of an industrialist Henry Carson. The 'fallen woman' Esther is to me perhaps the most tragic figure of the novel. determined to save Mary from what she sees as similar fate (Esther was jilted too by a soldier who pretended he loved her and forced to sell her body to survive) , though she sees her own life as all but destroyed. Hence the despised street prostitute shows great inner nobility of character. Mary Barton is important reading to gain an insight into working class life in the 19th century. And that of the exploitation by employers. It helps us understand the why the native British working classes have had a history of suffering and exploitation every bit as cruel as their counterparts who originated in the Third world.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Grissel

    Siempre me gustará la manera de escribir de Elizabeth Gaskell y ya he dicho mi plan de leer todo lo que escribió. Esta es su primera novela, por lo que se puede entender que no esté a la altura de sus obras posteriores. Tal vez sea un poco por la historia y mucho por los personajes, ya que Mary Barton no es santo de mi devoción y las intervenciones de Jem son muy pocas, así que los vemos menos tiempo juntos todavía. En este libro se toca el tema de obreros y patrones, que también se ve en Norte y Siempre me gustará la manera de escribir de Elizabeth Gaskell y ya he dicho mi plan de leer todo lo que escribió. Esta es su primera novela, por lo que se puede entender que no esté a la altura de sus obras posteriores. Tal vez sea un poco por la historia y mucho por los personajes, ya que Mary Barton no es santo de mi devoción y las intervenciones de Jem son muy pocas, así que los vemos menos tiempo juntos todavía. En este libro se toca el tema de obreros y patrones, que también se ve en Norte y Sur. Sin embargo aquí suceden cosas más graves, por lo que es difícil poder imaginar una conciliación, por lo que el final se siente un poco apresurado. Pero al final me gustó, solo que no tanto como otros libros de la autora. Ahora solo queda ver con cual seguir.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lucie

    3.5 stars I adore Elizabeth Gaskell's works so much, even though I have to say that this one is my least favourite, probably because it was her debut novel and many themes she approached in this one were treated even better in her later works. Gaskell is amazing at describing 19th century industrial society and this one was no exception, it truly felt like it could have been someone's life in Manchester at the time, which also means it could be quite dark. However, I did feel like it dragged a bi 3.5 stars I adore Elizabeth Gaskell's works so much, even though I have to say that this one is my least favourite, probably because it was her debut novel and many themes she approached in this one were treated even better in her later works. Gaskell is amazing at describing 19th century industrial society and this one was no exception, it truly felt like it could have been someone's life in Manchester at the time, which also means it could be quite dark. However, I did feel like it dragged a bit, which lessened my enjoyment a bit and didn't encourage me to pick it up. Still, when I did so, I found everything I love about Victorian literature, that I couldn't help but enjoy it. Overall, had I read this one when I was new to Gaskell's works, I do think I would have enjoyed it more. I'm still quite impressed this was her debut novel, though.

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