“And it is hard to live on when one can no longer hope.”
“My heart is breaking, my heart is breaking.”
“I sometimes think there’s two sides to the commandment; and that we may say, Let others do unto you, as you would do unto them, for pride often prevents our giving others a great deal of pleasure, in not letting them be kind, when their hearts are longing to help; and when we ourselves should wish to do just the same, if we were in their place. Oh! how often I’ve been hurt, by being coldly told by persons not to trouble myself about their care, or sorrow, when I saw them in great grief, and wanted to be of comfort. Our Lord Jesus was not above letting folk minister to Him, for he knew how happy it makes one to do aught for another. It’s the happiest work on earth.”
Despite the many devastating events throughout this book, Gaskell’s characters come to life and set before us circumstances and situations true to life then and relevant now.
Gaskell’s raw depiction of the plagues of poverty, starvation, illness and death of the poor working class; their struggle to make ends meet, to have enough food for the day, and something to help their fellow neighbor, to love others, to find love and be loved. A firm resolution based on a strong home anchors many of these beautiful characters, Mary, Margaret, and Jem to name a few.
John Barton’s character exemplified the struggle to understand the injustices that abound in our world. He struggled with this chasm between the haves and the have nots in many parts of the book. “John Barton’s overpowering thought, which was to work out his fate on earth, was rich and poor; why are they so separate, so distinct, when God has made them all? It is not His will they their interests are so far apart. Whose doing is it?”
This book took me through a full gambit of emotions, and now as I reflect on my experience with each person in this book, I think about the lessons Gaskell leaves for every person who reads this book. The complexity of my feelings, stirred by Gaskell, has made it possible for me to examine the motives and feelings of the characters presented, especially John Barton and Mr Carson. As the book concluded, I felt as if a weight carried by one for so long, finally, was understood by one who had forgotten tragedy because of circumstances, and was forced to confront who he once was, and allowed himself the opportunity to remember, and finally, to be able to express compassion and forgiveness. Gaskell has become one of my favorite authors at this moment.
Have you read any of Elizabeth Gaskell’s books?
6 thoughts on “Mary Barton – Review”
Another great review! I’ve become very fond of Gaskell too, thanks to our read alongs. I just started the audio of Cranford tonight. I felt rather emotionally spent at the end of Mary Barton too, so I’m hoping Cranford will be a lighter read.
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So have I. I can’t believe I had never heard of her until the read alongs. Cranford is very light hearted, I enjoyed it. I’m going to see if I can manage to read it again for the readvalong
What a great review. I am definitely considering adding Mary Barton to my Classics Club list. I just finished Cranford (I will link my review in my name, if interested) and have Wives and Daughters on the list. I read North and South earlier this year, but these three were the only Gaskell novels I was aware of since I learned about them through the BBC adaptations of each of them.
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Thank you! I read North and South first but when I read this one, I was just taken by how amazing this book was. I’d easily read it again (I’ve considered it) but want to read The Cranford Chronicles (it’s 2 other stories + Cranford) so I can maybe see Cranford in a more complete light perhaps. I enjoyed Cranford as well but Wives and Daughters is excellent as well. I think I reviewed that one for my CC list. I need to make sure everything is linked and also work on writing thr reviews to finish off my list. I still need to watch the adaptations, are they good?