Discussion Post: Cranford

May 27, 2010 at 12:10 am 5 comments

Thanks for joining us for the last week of the March/May Classics Challenge! Remember to comment on this post by May 31 in order to be entered to win a beautiful Penguin Clothbound Classic — this is a good one to participate in, as it’s a quick, enjoyable read. Here are my answers to this week’s questions:

  • Elizabeth Gaskell was quite active in the literary scene of her time (in contrast with predecessors Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters). Do you see the influences of other authors in her writing? Does her work remind you of any modern novels?

I do see shades of Jane Austen in Gaskell, though Gaskell focuses solely on Cranford where Austen writes about larger cities such as Bath and London. Both Austen and Gaskell tend to contrast sensible characters (Mary Smith, Elinor Dashwood) with spacier characters such as Miss Matty and Mrs. Dashwood. Their social commentary is similar in nature as well.

I expected Gaskell to be more similar to Dickens, especially since she published in two of his magazines. However, it’s possible that Gaskell’s style is more small-town and domestic specifically so she wouldn’t compete with Dickens’ stories, which tend to be broader in scope. I did enjoy the little shout-out Gaskell gave Dickens’ Pickwick Papers near the beginning, though.

  • Mrs. Gaskell’s work is a snapshot of small-town Victorian life. Is her work limited at all by her narrow focus? Though it depicts a very specific time and place, can this novel be considered timeless?

Of course it’s timeless! Though calling hours and widow’s caps have gone the way of the penny farthing, the economic crisis Miss Matty suffers seems especially timely. Broader themes such as the importance of community, of being generous to friends, and the small-town social dynamic will always be relevant to readers.

  • Describe your favorite scene or event, and discuss why you loved it. Consider this question a giveaway :D

I loved the scene where the ladies all went to see the magician! Everyone’s personality was perfectly displayed — the ever-correct Miss Pole with her encyclopedia pages, Miss Matty all a-flutter, and Mrs. Jamieson snoozing as usual. This is one of the scenes that made me laugh out loud. It was just so well-written and perfectly described, I could see everything perfectly. Wonderful!

Please share your thoughts on the book below! I hope you all loved this book as much as I did. Stay tuned for Corey’s upcoming Classics Challenge announcement as well!

— KT

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corey  |  May 27, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Sorry I couldn’t read along with you this time, hombre! It sounds like a good one! Between Virgil, Harry Potter, the move, and a heat wave, I was too all over the place to attempt Gaskell this week.

    Reply
    • 2. KT  |  May 31, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      Which Harry Potter?! I have Order of the Phoenix on deck for the plane :D

      Reply
      • 3. Corey  |  June 1, 2010 at 6:15 am

        ALL OF THEM. I started with the first and then got unintentionally hooked. I just started Goblet of Fire. It started as a fun rereading and now I think may be serving as some kind of sanity-maintainer/regression thing. : )

        Reply
  • 4. silverseason  |  May 28, 2010 at 2:37 am

    I fondly remember reading Cranford, but it was so long ago I cannot comment. Readers who enjoy Gaskell should know that she wrote an outstanding Life of Charlotte Bronte. After the success of Jane Eyre, Gaskell and Bronte became acquainted and visited in each other’s homes. Then, after Bronte died, Gaskell got the support of Bronte’s father to use family materials to write the Life. It is a contemporary view of Bronte’s life.

    Reply
    • 5. KT  |  May 31, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      Yes, I knew Gaskell had done a Bronte biography but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. I didn’t realize they were close, though — that’s going to have to go on my swiftly-lengthening to-read list!

      Reply

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