Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

1348 Words6 Pages
Through attention to detail, repeated comparison, shifting tone, and dialogue that gives the characters an opportunity to voice their feelings, Elizabeth Gaskell creates a divide between the poor working class and the rich higher class in Mary Barton. Gaskell places emphasis on the differences that separate both classes by describing the lavish, comfortable, and extravagant life that the wealthy enjoy and compares it to the impoverished and miserable life that the poor have to survive through. Though Gaskell displays the inequality that is present between both social classes, she also shows that there are similarities between them. The tone and diction change halfway through the novel to highlight the factors that unify the poor and…show more content…
Earlier in the story, Mary’s mother dies and the event leaves her and her father devastated. The scene of Mary Barton’s death is compared with the scene of Harry Carson’s death to show that even if it may appear that the upper class lives without any worries, fears, and feelings of sadness and despair, they like the poor go through times of trial and hardships. Mr. Barton “went mechanically and sat down on the first chair” and “sat on, like a stock or a stone, so rigid, so still” (21) As with Davenport, Gaskell likens Mr. Barton to a mechanical machine and compares him to a rock to place emphasis on his emotions that have hardened due to grief. Sophy has a similar reaction to Mr. Barton when she hears of the death of her brother. Gaskell writes that “Sophy went mechanically to the dining-room door” (206). The mechanical way in which Sophy is described captures her in a moment where she is devoid of feeling because she is unable to fully process the death of her brother. The repeated use of the word “mechanical” places emphasis on the quiet stillness present in both scenes, as well as the absence of life. Mary’s “shriller sobs and terrified cries” (22) mirror Mrs. Carson’s “hysterical cries” (209) that inspire sympathy in the reader when earlier in the story the reader is made to see her as being aloof and indifferent towards the suffering of the poor because while she happily left the store with a handful of groceries, John Barton could only watch on as his son died of
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