Dawin’s Theory within “Our Society at Cranford”

It’s a challenge to try to find multiple examples of Darwin’s theory shown through Elizabeth Gaskell’s, “Our Society at Cranford” but I could maybe speak for a few instances. Darwin’s most prominent theories begin with the belief in Evolution and Sexual Selection, but the early writings of Charles Dawin read more like a diary, similar to the structure of “Our Society at Cranford.”

The theory most easily related to “Our Society at Cranford” would have to deal with Sexual Selection and the set up of the village, Cranford. While it is supposedly in the hands of man to choose his appropriate partner, according to Darwin, Gaskell twists this idea and puts the choice into the hands of the woman. Not only any woman, an Amazon, as Gaskell describes, for these women are not the dainty women Darwin knows and loves, but rather strong, confident, independent, warrior-like, self-sufficient, Amazonian women. While the roles may be turned, the ideals are quite similar. Darwin believes man should be scrupulous and critical when choosing a mate, so far to say that “both sexes out to refrain from marriage if in any marked degree inferior in body or mind; but such hopes are Utopian…” (1282). This idea of a Utopia is reflected in “Our Society at Cranford” through the women who make up the village. The women of Cranford agree, that unless a man is useful that there is no need for him. So far to say that only the surgeon is the only man (besides Captain Brown) that lives in Cranford. One Cranford woman claims a man ” ‘is so in the way in the house!’ “

While relating Darwin’s theorys to “Our Society at Cranford” is a stretch, the two writings have a few things in common. Darwin’s earlier writings read like a diary, all written from his, the author’s, point of view. “Our Society at Cranford” has the same structure. Darwin writes of a slave bought buy his ship Captain, “Jemmy Button” and the women of “Our Society at Cranford” have house servants, not neccessarily slaves, but women of poorer standings, who help take care of the cleaning and cooking. One more commonality among the readings have to do with the spreading of one’s own culture. In the beginning of “Our Society at Cranford” a point is made about those who move into their village; “if a married couple come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears… In short, whatever becomes of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford” (1432).  To continue their way of life, the women of Cranford keep the village to as few men as possible. Within the Darwin writings, he speaks of his captain’s “experiement” with Jemmy Button hoping to further his culture/language/way of living by placing Jemmy back into the place where he bought him. 


One thought on “Dawin’s Theory within “Our Society at Cranford”

  1. I actually found that almost any sort of rule or “norm” for their society that changed or was adapted over time would be a fair example of Darwin’s ideas. But I think you might mean that the examples are sort of stretching to Darwin’s theory of evolution since modern day humans don’t really evolve anymore and it is impossible for the Society at Cranford to grow any larger without males.

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