Mary Barton

Subtitled 'A Tale of Manchester Life', Elizabeth Gaskell’s (1810-1865) first novel (published anonymously in 1848) is classed as a ‘Condition of England’ work. It conveys contemporary concerns about the destructive effects of industrialisation. Thomas Carlyle termed this period the ‘mechanical age’, and forecast revolution if changes were not effected. Gaskell was married to a Unitarian minister, and was deeply aware of the need for improved working conditions; for education, and for sanitary reform. The novel's working-class heroine is torn between affection for two very different men, one from her own class, the other an industrialist’s son.

Creator:
Elizabeth Gaskell
Published:
1848
Full title:
Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life
Forms:
Prose
Genre:
Victorian literature
Literary period:
Victorian

Related articles

An introduction to Mary Barton

Article by:
John Sutherland
Theme:
The novel 1832–1880

Professor John Sutherland explores the personal and social circumstances that prompted Elizabeth Gaskell to write Mary Barton, her novel describing industrial poverty in Manchester during the 'hungry forties'.

The Condition of England novel

Article by:
Sophie Ratcliffe
Themes:
Poverty and the working classes, Technology and science

Writers such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë illuminated contemporary social problems through detailed descriptions of poverty and inequality. Dr Sophie Ratcliffe considers how the Condition of England novel portrayed 19th-century society, and the extent of its calls for reform.

Realism

Article by:
John Mullan
Theme:
The novel 1832–1880

Professor John Mullan explores the key features of realism and the different ways in which Victorian writers used them.

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