Mary Barton

Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel is set in the Victorian era about a young girl named Mary Barton and her experiences of everyday life. This is most definitely a realism novel and perhaps I’m just not a huge fan of classic realism but I found each page tedious and pointless. It’s not an issue with Victorian novels in general but I fail to see the point in reading about tea parties and sewing. However, I don’t want to con you into thinking this is the entirety of the novel; amongst the tea drinking and small talk there is a fire and nearly as many deaths as there are characters, only as a reader you feel nothing for them. Characters die right, left and central and I even found myself losing track of who was dead and who was alive!

I understand that the novel was written in order for Gaskell to make a point about the lower classes during this era, but that’s all it seems to do. We are painted scenes of characters living in poverty and famine and of course, a lot of the lower class die. The issue is that we know these characters so little when they pass away that as a reader it is extremely difficult to feel any sympathy.

As well as all this the overall plot is a let down and the end a complete anti-climax. As you may have guessed, I’m not a particular fan of this novel. There are far better Victorian realist texts out there! Final comment? Don’t bother.


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