Gaskell-Darwin

Gaskell’s short story contains aspects that appear sympathetic to ideas presented in Darwin’s writings, although under less obvious terms. She covertly follows the Darwinist idea of the survival of the strongest and fittest, rather than the “inferior members of society” (1282), as evident in the death of the elderly, self-declared impoverished, Captain Brown. He fittingly sacrifices himself (though not intentionally) in the act of saving a younger, healthier child who was most likely the baby of a wealthier woman. The survival of the worthier members at the expense of the “less-worthy” follows along the lines of Darwin’s advice that the poor/inferior members of society refrain from marriage, out of sense of duty for the good of humanity so that those best fit to succeed will pass on their better genes, ideally “rearing the largest number of offspring” to the benefit of mankind (1282).

This appears again in the moderately un-tragic death of the older, weaker, and unhealthy Miss Brown and the survival and successful life of the younger, healthier, and “twenty shades prettier” (1436) sister, Jessie Brown. The story does not betray or imply the idea that these deaths were justified by the theories of Darwin, but are covered in the polite, charming picture of Cranford and its kindly townfolk which the narrator paints.

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