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How Elizabeth Gaskell Manipulates The Readers Feelings In The Half Brothers

2294 words - 9 pages

How Elizabeth Gaskell Manipulates the Readers Feelings in The Half Brothers

'The Half-Brothers" is a story written in the mid-1900's by a
middle-class Victorian writer called Elizabeth Gaskell. She has a
strong moral interest in the difficulties of poor people who lived in
abject poverty. This is what inspired her to write stories such as
"The Half-Brothers". Some of her characters in this short story are
described in such a way as to provoke sympathy and admiration for them
from the reader. However other characters have much more depth to them
and are more complicated. The suspense she creates in the particularly
dramatic episode set in the Fells in the north of England also
manipulates the reader's feelings.

The first character we are introduced to is Helen- the narrator's
mother. She is a very sympathetic character. Almost immediately the
writer starts to gain our pity for Helen. She was so young when she
was first married- "scarcely seventeen" in fact, and her husband was
barely "one and twenty". Both of these emphasises how very young they
were when they entered into such a great commitment of marriage.
Things did not go well for her from the start. The small farm they
rented only brought them into more debt but she defended her first
husband by saying "perhaps he was too young and inexperienced". No
blame is put on anyone for what ahs happened and this helps to show
Helen's peaceful character. A few sentences in to the story Gaskell
includes an extremely long sentence that spans over about 11 lines.
This elicits the reader's pity for Helen by giving us a sense that all
her problems are accumulating. Helen becomes a widow very early- "a
young widow of 20" is how she is described. This tautology emphasises
how very young she is. Widowhood is more accepted among older people
but it is unusual for people so young to be a widow. She has to
undergo all these tragedies all in such a short and concentrated
period of time long before she should have to and this again elicits
our pity for her. Helen is described as being a very isolated
character and this is continually emphasised by repeating it. Her
living space is described as a 'lonesome dwelling' and at the funeral
of her youngest daughter "neighbours, my aunt and one far off cousin"
were "all the friends they could muster" The pathetic fallacy "dreary
winter" reflects what is going in her life. The harshness of the
weather reflects the harshness of the weather reflects the harshness
occurring in her life. Her marriage to Preston is in one sense a good
thing as she will now be able to provide for her son, Gregory. However
she does not love Preston. We pity Helen because she is committing
herself to someone she does not want to be with just to support her
son. The quotation "Aunt Fanny heard her cry as if her heart was
breaking" reinforces this point. There is also at least a 20-year age
gap between Helen and Preston. He is old enough to be her...

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