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Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
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Mary Barton (original 1848; edition 2009)

by Elizabeth Gaskell

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1,607374,523 (3.67)1 / 143
Member:Luli81
Title:Mary Barton
Authors:Elizabeth Gaskell
Info:Digireads.com (2009), Paperback, 260 pages
Collections:Read in 2012, Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

Work details

Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (1848)

  1. 10
    Hard Times by Charles Dickens (StevenTX)
  2. 00
    Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (kara.shamy)
  3. 00
    Emma by Jane Austen (kara.shamy)
    kara.shamy: In some ways the heroines in these two novels are alike, but they are very different in other respects, and more strikingly, their respective journeys to the altar/married life go in diametrically opposite ways, in a sense! Both are true classics in my estimation; reading these two novels exposes the reader to two of the greatest English-language novelists of all time in the height of their respective powers. While all readers and critics do not and will not share this superlative view, few would dispute these are two early female masters of the form and are well worth a read on that humbler basis ;) Enjoy!… (more)
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I doubt that this book can be read with much pleasure by anyone without a special interest in the period. There is some interest in the plot and characters, but barely enough to overcome the boxy, cliché-ridden prose, the rote sentimentality, the mawkish religiosity, and clunky melodrama that weight the book down. Mary Barton must decide between rich and working class admirers. The rich admirer is murdered and the other is the prime suspect. In the nick of time, and seventy pages before the book ends, the suspect is cleared of guilt in a highly charged courtroom scene. Half a dozen tearful deathbed scenes and two fully fledged mad scenes fail to catch fire. Having said all this, the novel is a detailed look at the life of the lower classes in northern English manufacturing towns in the mid 19th century, and the study in contrasts between rich and poor remains relevant. The introduction to this edition would be more usefully read after reading the novel; the notes are surprisingly sloppy. ( )
  sjnorquist | Jul 10, 2014 |
This is a novel about the life of two working class families, the Bartons and the Wilsons, in early 19th century Manchester. It tells vividly of the poverty they experience, and the precariousness of their lives, depending on the success of their "masters", dropping down into destitution and starvation when work is lacking. A lot of people in both families die through illness and the effects of destitution in this novel and the depiction of poverty, alcoholism and prostitution (named here as such) is much more vivid than the circumlocutions and vague allusions that often appear in literature of this period. The core plot of the novel revolves around the murder of rich young Harry Carson, who is pursuing and wooing the eponymous daughter of a factory worker, John Barton; and she is also loved by Jem Wilson, with whom she grew up as a friend. Wilson is arrested and tried for the murder. There is a search for a person who can provide an alibi, and the trial itself is a very tense and dramatic piece of writing, unfortunately tarnished by the verdict of the trial appearing in the title of the relevant chapter. Following that verdict, the last few chapters provide a fairly satisfying tying up of loose ends and some final disputation between employers and employees about the causes of and possible solutions for poverty; Gaskell has quite a good way of presenting the arguments of both sides in a way that isn't crudely partisan, while the themes of the novel show that her basic sympathies are with the poor. A stirring novel, with some interesting characters (though as so often the title character isn't really one of the more interesting characters). ( )
  john257hopper | Jun 23, 2014 |
2011, AudioGO Audiobooks, Read by Juliet Stevenson

Mary Barton is set in 1840s working-class Manchester. The young heroine, who lives alone with her hardened and bitter trade-unionist father, John, has attracted the attention of two suitors. Jem Wilson, also working class, is an intelligent, hardworking young man who loves Mary deeply and wishes to marry her. Henry Carson, privileged son of a wealthy mill owner, also has an eye for Mary, though his intentions are decidedly less honourable. Mary, naively thinking to secure a comfortable life for herself and her father by marrying her wealthy suitor, turns Jem down. But immediately following her refusal, she realizes how deeply she loves him. Shortly thereafter, Carson is found murdered, and Jem is arrested and charged. Mary, set on proving his innocence, inadvertently discovers that the true murderer is John Barton. She is faced with saving her lover without disclosing her father’s guilt.

Gaskell’s portrayal of working-class Manchester is ingenuous. She writes vividly of a society governed by labour strife, social strife, and extreme poverty. Mill workers and their families are destitute, keenly aware of the ever-widening inequality between themselves and their wealthy capitalist employers.

“For three years past trade had been getting worse and worse, and the price of provisions higher and higher. This disparity between the amount of the earnings of the working classes and the price of their food, occasioned, in more cases than could well be imagined, disease and death. Whole families went through a gradual starvation … The most deplorable and enduring evil that arose out of the period of commercial depression to which I refer, was this feeling of alienation between the different classes of society.” (Ch 8)

I enjoyed Mary Barton, but found it over-long and prone to lags in plot. To be fair, it is also Gaskells’ first novel. And criticism aside, it is a worthy read, and one I recommend without hesitation to classics’ lovers and those interested in the social history of the Industrial Revolution. Finally, about the fabulousness that is Juliet Stevenson, there are not words. ( )
  lit_chick | Feb 23, 2014 |
In Gaskell’s classic novel, Mary Barton is the daughter of a disillusioned trade unionist. Rejecting her lover, Jem, she sets her sights on a mill owner’s son, Henry Carson. When Henry is shot and Jem becomes the prime suspect, Mary finds herself torn between the two men. Mary’s dilemma powerfully illustrates the class divisions of the “hungry forties.”

A pioneering novel set during the great division between the wealth and poverty. ( )
  debbieaheaton | Feb 7, 2014 |
Rather long, draggy, melodramatic, and didactic--and all without having an especially engaging plot or characters. It would be easier to list the characters who didn't die of starvation rather than to list those who did. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Gaskellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, JulietNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Uglow, JennyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, EdgarEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There are some fields near Manchester, well known to the inhabitants as "Green Heys Fields," through which runs a public footpath to a little village about two miles distant.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The story is set in the English city of Manchester during the 1830s and 1840s and deals heavily with the difficulties faced by the Victorian lower class.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014043464X, Paperback)

‘O Jem, her father won’t listen to me, and it’s you must save Mary! You’re like a brother to her’

Mary Barton, the daughter of disillusioned trade unionist, rejects her working-class lover Jem Wilson in the hope of marrying Henry Carson, the mill owner’s son, and making a better life for herself and her father. But when Henry is shot down in the street and Jem becomes the main suspect, Mary finds herself painfully torn between the two men. Through Mary’s dilemma, and the moving portrayal of her father, the embittered and courageous activist John Barton, Mary Barton (1848) powerfully dramatizes the class divides of the ‘hungry forties’ as personal tragedy. In its social and political setting, it looks towards Elizabeth Gaskell’s great novels of the industrial revolution, in particular North and South.

In his introduction Maconald Daly discusses Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel as a pioneering book that made public the great division between rich and poor – a theme that inspired much of her finest work.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:31 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Mary Barton, the daughter of disillusioned trade unionist, rejects her working-class lover Jem Wilson in the hope of marrying Henry Carson, the mill owner's son, and making a better life for herself and her father. But when Henry is shot down in the street and Jem becomes the main suspect, Mary finds herself painfully torn between the two men. Through Mary's dilemma, and the moving portrayal of her father, the embittered and courageous activist John Barton, Mary Barton (1848) powerfully dramatizes the class divides of the 'hungry forties' as personal tragedy. In its social and political setting, it looks towards Elizabeth Gaskell's great novels of the industrial revolution, in particular North and South.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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Audible.com

Seven editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Three editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014043464X, 0141039388, 0141199725

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