Social Consequence Of Industrialisation In Britain (Using Mary Barton By Elizabeth Gaskell)

1016 words - 4 pages

Mary Barton is a novel written by Elizabeth Gaskell set in Manchester, England in the 1830's. It follows the story of a working-class family suffering the harsh conditions of factory labour. Gaskell worked in Manchester helping the poor during the height of social problems in the area. This makes the novel a primary source as she describes conditions in a purposely accurate way, her intention being to inform the ignorant middle and upper classes of the grave hardships felt by working class people.The text goes in to a lot of specific detail on the domiciles of the characters and also their sicknesses and sufferings. Gaskell describes the feelings of the poor towards the upper classes: "We're their slaves as long as we can work; we pile up their fortunes with the sweat of our brows, and yet we are to live as separate as if we were in two worlds..."? This is an accurate summation of views of the time. Workers felt a great resentment to the rich because of the disproportionate work to wealth ratio - it seemed the more physical labour undertaken, the smaller the wage.The text is useful for the discussions 'living and working conditions for working-class people' and 'economic and social divisions between rich and poor'. In regards to the social divisions, the text provides a view from both perspectives as there is a character from the upper classes who falls in love with a poor dressmaker. The rich man, named Carson, is completely ignorant to the sufferings of the girl he loves and her father. This is reflective of the times in that many of the rich in factory districts like Manchester and most of the middle class in the rest of England thought 'out of sight out of mind'. They did not concern themselves with the plebeian population.Despite the injustice and the difficulties faced by the majority of the characters in Mary Barton, none has any great vengeful desires. It is almost common nature for people wronged to retaliate, however, in reality the workers of Manchester used no large-scale violence to right the wrongs made against them. Instead, they attempted to use the law (eg. National Chartist Convention of 1839 [refused by parliament]). The reason may be correctly stated by Gaskell "the idea that their misery had still to be revealed in all its depths, and that some remedy would be found, soothed their aching hearts, and kept down their rising fury."There is a possible disadvantage of using this novel as a source, and that is its bias. Gaskell's purpose when writing the text was to bring light to the suffering of the people, her ultimate intention of doing this was so they could be assisted by the government and be saved from hardship. This fact could make the novel prejudiced towards exaggerating the misery experienced by the poor. Gaskell's (possibly subconscious) thinking could have been that if readers were genuinely shocked by the conditions they read about, they might do something positive to change it.This bias might be more of an issue if...

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