Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Darwin

In Elizabeth Gaskell’s short story “Our Society At Cranford”, I noticed some interesting instances of some topics that Darwin discusses in his papers on the evolution and origin of species. For example, the women in this community have established themselves as the “fittest”, as “all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women”. Scientifically speaking, women in this community have eliminated male competition for resources like property and wealth, and have therefore become the power-holders. They have done this by essentially becoming independent of the need for males. As one of them says ” ‘A man…is so in the way in the house!’ “.

I was also interested to notice that the train, the symbol of industry and modernity in this story, is what ended up killing Captain Brown. For as many ways as he is the outlier in the town that was formally reigned by women, and for as much as he may also symbolize modernity in the way he changes the behavior of Cranford, it is telling that he is run over by a train. This is related to Darwin by the fact that, though human beings can create societies as complex as Cranford, they are not invincible to the natural world or the things they create. In this way, the train is as much a symbol of modernity as it is a symbol of the force of nature.

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3 thoughts on “Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Darwin

  1. I too, find it very interesting that you find the train as a metaphor for modernity. It really adds a spin to the story and it definitely could be the point from Gaskell. There was so much fast forward motion at the time and the fact that a new invention is used to show that is very cool.

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