Darwin and Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Our Society at Cranford has many points in common with Darwin’s theories. The most prevalent of Darwin’s theories that I saw was his “survival of the fittest” and that only the strong, “vigorous, healthy, and happy survive and multiply”. This can be seen in the Brown family. One of Captain Brown’s daughter is constantly described as sickly with a pained expression on her. Because of her ailment and lack of good health, she does not survive. Although, Brown’s other daughter Miss Jessie is described as looking “twenty shades prettier” in comparison to her sister. Also in the description of her features, it is noted that “she should live to a hundred” (clearly because she looks in good health). In the end, Miss Jessie survives, marries, and even has a daughter (multiplies).

After reading Darwin and while reading Gaskell’s story, I was constantly thinking about his theories on survival as the events of the story unravelled. And in the end I came to understand the story as being about a strong society of women (the best of the best) and when this new family (the Brown family) comes and joins the society, the family struggles to exist, and only the fittest of them survives.



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