Throughout this story, Elizabeth Gaskell makes the them of Darwin’s “natural selection” very evident. Natural selection is define by google as: the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. The author focused heavily on the external aspects of the characters describing some as “20 shades prettier” and others as sickly and pale. This represents the difference between those who may have been “selected” as opposed to those who have slim chances. The idea is that beauty is connected to strength and adaptability but it is not always the case. Some may have all the physical aspects yet not be able to adapt. This is manifested in her writing. The only character that represents all the qualities as explained in the previous stated definition is Miss Jessie Brown. She being the only one that survives proves that and especially being able to adapt and get married. Which is the second part of the definition; to produce more offspring. Being one that survived and adapted she will produce offspring who will be stronger and more capable of serving as well which will reinforce the idea that Darwin put forth.
It is very clear that the qualities we talked about in class (sweetness and beauty) are representative of the ability to adapt and survive. Darwin may suggest that maybe inherently people are subconsciously looking for a “mate” who will allow their offspring the best chance at survival.
Percy Bysshe Shelley speaks so romantically of the sublime in Mont Blanc. He speaks of things that are so powerful and strong and writes as though they are dancing.
“In the wild woods, among the mountains lone, where waterfalls around it leap for ever, where woods and winds contend, and a vast river over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves” (Shelley 776).
He paints a picture of such a grand scene as though each moving part is working together to demonstrate it’s power and beauty. Some of his description seems to me picturesque in nature, because he speaks so vividly of the color and sounds involved in this place such as the “solemn harmony” and the “earthly rainbows” (777).
When Shelley speaks of nature, he is speaking as I said in the previous paragraph of things that are by design powerful and potentially dangerous. This idea is paralleled with Burke’s idea of the sublime on page 37.
Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the idea of pain and danger… whatever is in any sort terrible… or operates in the manner of analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime… It is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling. I say the strongest emotion because I am satisfied the ideas of pain are much more powerful than those which enter on the part of pleasure.” – Edmund Burke
To me it is the idea that he is at the mercy of all this that surrounds him and yet through this he can more vividly see its beauty. He talks about the “veil of life and death” when he realizes the “unknown omnipotence” of his surroundings (777). He speaks of mankind and about the “frost and the sun scorn of mortal power” (778). These things reaffirm the point Burke makes about the dangerous nature of the sublime.
After reading William Wordsworth’s “Lines Left upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree” I noticed several different ways this piece contrasts the enlightenment sensibility. Even by looking at the tittle of this piece you can see that nature is a prevalent theme. The man that Wordsworth writes about is a man who rejected society after it turned his pure heart as he grew up. “He to the world went forth pure in his heart, against the taint of dissolute tongues.” He leaves mankind and takes to the river one that is “great as any sea, and was never heard of more.” Unlike the ideals of the enlightenment he goes to be one with nature. Upon arriving where the river took him he is overwhelmed with it’s beauty as he sheds tears of joy. He embraces it to give peace to his mind and life. This is a direct contradiction to the scientific and systematic way of life that he rejected.
He found solitude and happiness in that, but it did not last long. He began to feel lonely and regretted the idea that he could not experience a relationship with another human being.”Then he would sigh, inly disturbed, to think that others felt what he must never feel.” He grows sadder and sadder, “his eyes streamed with tears,” and he eventually dies alone. This piece is driven by emotion and and the desire for solidarity within Nature.