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An Examination of Outsiders in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford and North and South - Essay Example

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An Examination of Outsiders in Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford and North and South

In Cranford, the outsiders and their relationship to the central characters are depicted with gentle satire and humor. Human foibles are examined with compassion and the tale holds out the promise of redemption. With typical narrative skill, Gaskell highlights the characteristics that mark both groups as unique in their own right and cleverly demonstrates the benefits to be enjoyed if their differences are ironed out. However she does not stress this point and brings out how it is also possible for the two to exist independent of the other, without too much hostility, overt or otherwise. In North and South, the role of outsiders is handled on a more solemn note, in keeping with the gravity of the subject matter. Gaskell reveals a thorough grasp of the situation as she depicts the painful antagonism that characterizes the mental framework of the outsiders and the inevitability of open conflict. Human existence itself becomes fragile under the oppressive, all - pervasive atmosphere of ill - concealed hatred, intolerance and mutual fear. She emphasizes the absolute need for reconciliation between the warring factions and the need for peaceful co - existence, improved communication channels, tolerance and better understanding. The novel reveals how such a ceasefire is not only possible but imperative in order to ensure better living conditions for all concerned. The difference in the depiction of outsiders in both the novels lies largely in the stronger stand she adopts in the latter. A thorough analysis of this subject helps one better understand the nature of the differences in the portrayal of outsiders and is likely to result in a better understanding of the content, themes and the narrative techniques employed, which in turn makes the reading experience far more rewarding and enriching.
A Study of Outsiders in Cranford
At the very onset of the text it is possible to identify the outsiders. Gaskell says, "Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford" (1). Thereafter, men who arrive on the scene are perceived as the outsiders on account of their gender. From this point Gaskell sketches the peculiarities and peccadilloes that are the defining characteristics of both sexes with particular attention to the female sex. The traits unique to both sexes are seldom disparaged but often celebrated.
Like the mythological Amazons, the women of Cranford had for the most part excluded men from their lives and are remarkably self - sufficient. However unlike their mythical counterparts they refrain from killing men, but do not baulk at driving them away by the sheer strength of their disapproval and superior numbers. Therefore the women are the central characters in Cranford; however despite the fact that theirs is a secluded community, insulated from the rest of the world, they cannot keep out men from their lives. Therefore male characters make their appearance at regular intervals for better or for worse and are essential elements of the plot.
The community at Cranford is a close - knit one, where the genteel ladies are well established in their ways and are accustomed to the monotony of their uneventful lives. The ladies are used to each other's eccentricities and they take ...Show more

Summary

Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford and North and South are highly acclaimed novels in their own right. Cranford concerns itself with the lives of the genteel women folks, who are the inhabitants of a small country town. This is arguably the most celebrated work of Gaskell, and many consider it a classic…
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An Examination of Outsiders in Elizabeth Gaskells Cranford and North and South essay example
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