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.
Both Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus rely heavily on emotion to characterize the narrators. In Crusoe, the narrator approaches his desperate situation systematically, with calm, detail-oriented reason. Crusoe wants to survive, but intead of despairing at the fact that he is stranded, shelterless, on an island, he sets himself to the task of creating a habitat without so much as an exclamation point. Once his cave is complete, he assembles “such necessary things as I found I most wanted, particularly a chair and a table” (Defoe). His calculating approach to life sharply contrasts with the narratves of both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, for where Crusoe describes his actions just as they were accomplished, quantitative to a fault, the very first sentence of Dr. Frankenstein’s narration reads, “No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onward…in the first enthusiasm of success” (Shelley 692). Surely in establishing a structure solid and permanent enough to warrant a table and chairs, Crusoe had earned the right to feel proud of himself–perhaps even a little happy. However, his life, even after disaster, remains constant and methodic.
That inflexible method flies in the face of nature, just as Frankenstein and his monster offend the natural order; Dr. Frankenstein and Robinson Crusoe share a disregard for nature, coupled by a will to conquer the natural world. Frankenstein represents the Enlightenment’s approach to life, embodying the goal to become the master of nature–he “pursued nature to her hiding places”–which caused him to “[lose] all soul or sensation” (Shelley 692). Similarly,Crusoe operates mechanically, soullessly, and, valuing reason above all things, believes every man can “master…every mechanic art” (Defoe). Although Frankenstein is more emotional about the shared goal, the idea of defeating nature is constant. Frankenstein’s monster, however, recognizes his incongruity with the natural world and, lacking a will to live in such an abominable fashion, exclaims (unlike Crusoe), “‘Hateful day when I received life!…Cursed creator!…Satan has his companions…but I am solitary and detested'” (Shelley 693). Everything about the monster is unnatural–his solitude, his hideousness, his very existence–and, after Romantic ideals, refuses to exist outside of what is natural.
The only explicit references to the war while it is happening in the novel are in parenthetical references which give the impression that they have been added as an afterthought, simply for the necessity of accounting for the absence of a few major characters. When the third part of To The Lighthouse is so consumed with explaining and recovering from the absence of Mrs. Ramsay, for example, why is it here that only a single sentence is devoted to her?
And regarding Andrew, the only sentence he gets is this one, “[A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France, among them Andrew Ramsay, whose death, mercifully, was instantaneous]“, and this seems to be getting at the idea that his death was insignificant in the grand scheme of things, which it is, if the novel is considered the grand scheme; we are led to believe that the action that takes place on the island after the war would have been hardly different whether Andrew had lived or died. This is why he is mentioned in an offhand way, in the middle of the parenthetical aside, merely as a concession to the reader who might have been wondering about him.
The whole section “Time Passes” borders on rudeness in the way that it focuses on an abandoned house, and a fairly insignificant housekeeper, instead of the Great War. Just as the world comes to terms with its horrible modernness during the war, the house comes to terms with its climate and the environment; the books grow moist and moldy with the salty sea air, and the shawl which had covered the skull on the wall of the children’s bedroom slowly begins to come untied. However, this all happens beyond the knowledge of those who live there, as if the home which had treated them well in the first section of the novel has suddenly become rotted to its core in the third, with only the deaths of the Ramsay characters to account for the change.