Our Society at Cranford and Darwinism

In “Our Society at Cranford,” Elizabeth Gaskell explains how the Amazons way of life resemble Darwin’s “struggle for existence”(1273). This predominantly female culture upholds their own social decorums such as wearing practical instead of flattering clothing and practicing modesty when discussing wealth. They also naturally remove the men who enter into their culture by singling them out and scaring them to death, whatever they do “somehow the gentlemen disappears”( 1432). The women have evolved to live in harmony with each other and easily get past the “occasional little quarrel” (1433). Captain Brown, on the other hand, was different than most men and lasted longer in this ecosystem than the women had initially thought. His ability and understanding of the way these women would talk, act and think gave him a leg up. He was able to treat the women the way they wanted to be and “his manly frankness had overpowered all the shrinking which met him as a man who was not ashamed of being poor”(1435). He would help the maids at parties and would tend to the ladies needs. It is not discussed if Captain Brown was like this before entering this environment or if he knew to evolve like darwin’s finches but either way his characteristics, although physically different, fit well with his new home. In the end Captain Brown was not deceived or outcast by the women yet it “was the Captain’s infinite kindness of heart”(1439) that caused the wheel of natural selection to land on him. In his efforts to save a boy from getting hit by a train, Captain Brown tripped and fell just before the train passed over him. Sometimes it is not the animals in the ecosystem that plot your demise for further gain but the interworking of that ecosystem that takes the life. No matter how a being evolves with regard to its fellow beings, one must always remember to evolve with regard to the system itself.

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One thought on “Our Society at Cranford and Darwinism

  1. I agree with you that Gaskell illustrates Darwin’s theory about adaptation. As I was reading I did however wonder what lead these women to scare all the men away. Gaskell’s work is the perfect example for Darwin’s theories. No matter the reason why this community is only made up of women, every one of them have like you mentioned put aside their differences to live peacefully amongst each other. I found the role reversals quite interesting. The women sit around while Captain Brown attends to their needs and helps the maids. Typically society sees those roles flipped but not here. It leads me to wonder if Gaskell’s work was primarily written for the rights of women? The fact that only one man out of many is able to adapt to Cranford’s society is another perfect example for Darwin’s theory on evolution. Furthermore, I also agree with you on how when it comes to evolving it is crucial to evolve in all ways in order to survive.

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