Youth in Cranford

Elizabeth Gaskell could be making an argument for youth in “Our Society at Cranford.”  She describes Jessie Brown, the youngest daughter of Captain Brown, as having a face everyone liked and “twenty shades prettier” with a slightly more expensive wardrobe than her older sister (1436).  Perhaps it is because of these advantages Jessie outlives the rest of her family and goes on to marry the wealthy Major Gordon and live a happy life.  Gaskell could be making the argument that Jessie’s advantages “naturally selected” her to outlive her family and reproduce.  Gaskell could also be using the narrative to show how new society and culture will eventually evolve and replace the old and that remaining “stuck” in the old ways and refusing to accept the new is ultimately futile and narrow minded.

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2 thoughts on “Youth in Cranford

  1. It was definitely interesting to note that from the family of four of which the Browns were originally composed of, two (the mother and first daughter) were sickly and died from their illnesses while the other two (father and second daughter, Jessie) survived.
    In the father’s case, he even possessed youthful strength and vigor in his old age, with the people pinning him for someone much younger than he actually was. This ties in, as you rightly noted, to Darwin’s “natural selection” theory where the stronger breed survived and reproduced. It is also reflected in the culture of the Cranford ladies, as Miss Jenkyns almost evolves out of the traditions she stoutly defended.

  2. I love that you tied Jessie’s traits and longer life to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Her physical beauty makes her likelihood for marriage and children higher than the people who are not as pretty as she is. An expensive wardrobe, along with that pretty face, helps her to attract wealthier men, resulting in her marriage to the rich Major Gordon. She is more likely to have that kind of a future because of the advantages she holds over those around her – pretty face, wardrobe, youth, etc. Darwin’s theory of natural selection fits in with this same idea of Jessie being predisposed for a more successful/longer life, defining successful as a happy marriage to a wealthy man.

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