Gaskell and Darwin

“Our Society at Cranford” and Darwin’s theories are very unalike in many ways, but there are still some parts of the fictional story that can be compared to Darwin’s writings. One part of Gaskell’s story that is very different from Darwin’s beliefs is that women are thought to be superior to men, according to the narrator, “she would have despised the modern idea of women being equal to men…she knew they were superior” (1440). Darwin does not think of women to be superior and points out that the men are responsible for choosing their wives, and compares this choice to picking out “his horses, cattle, and dogs” (1282).

They both speak of poverty in similar ways. The idea that poverty is shameful in Cranford is seen also in Darwin’s theories, he says, “poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage” (1282). In Cranford when Captain Brown openly admits that he is not wealthy the women are appalled and think that he is being inappropriate. Both narrators are hesitant to accept outsiders or newcomers, and the ladies of Cranford and Darwin are all quite judgmental. Darwin believes that Jemmy and the others should take on the ways of life that he thinks are acceptable and that he himself adheres to, just as the ladies of Cranford believe that Captain Brown should follow their rules. For example when Captain Brown wants to introduce them to more modern literature Miss Jenkyns will not allow it and does not leave any room for compromise. They are stuck in their ways and unwilling to accept anything different. 


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