Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Summary & Thoughts – Chapter 3

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

"My dear, I'd rather you did not call me Matty. She did not like it..."

When Miss Matty’s cousin, Major Jenkyns, and his wife stop by through Cranford, she is in a fluster about preparing for his visit:

Oh! how must I manage?” asked she, helplessly. “If Deborah had been alive, she would have known what to do with a gentleman-visitor. Must I put razors in his dressing-room? Dear! dear! and I’ve got none. Deborah would have had them. And slippers, and coat-brushes?” I suggested that probably he would bring all these things with him. “And after dinner, how am I to know when to get up, and leave him to his wine? Deborah would have done it so well; she would have been quite in her element. Will he want coffee, do you think?

Miss Matty’s weakness of authority and indecision is because Miss Jenkyns took care of everything. Ruling over her meek sister and oppressing her ideas and opinions until Miss Matty was certain that ‘Deborah always knew best.’ I don’t think she meant to hold back Miss Matty, but she tried to shelter and protect her like a child. At her death Miss Matty is indecisive and her strength frail but let us see how it slowly builds stamina through the trials and tribulations to come.

Back to the preparations.

Mary Smith helps train the new servant, Martha, how to wait at table.

“Hand the vegetables round,” said I (foolishly, I see now — for it was aiming at more than we could accomplish with quietness and simplicity): and then, seeing her look bewildered, I added, ” Take the vegetables round the people, and let them help themselves.”

"She nudged him when he didn't help himself"

Poor Martha must have been very confused at the prospect of picking up the vegetables and handing them round to people. The visit goes off without difficulty, although Martha did nudge the Major when he didn’t help himself fast enough.

While Miss Matty and Mary are at Johnson’s store who should walk in but Thomas Holbrook? He, according to Miss Pole proposed to Miss Matty when they were young. She believes that Deborah and the Rector didn’t think him gentlemanly enough and that’s why they didn’t marry despite their mutual affection. He invites the ladies to spend the day and dine at his home, Woodley.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Alexa Adams says:

    I was so happy to learn of Thomas Holbrook. Miss Matty’s worshipful enshrining of all Miss Jenkyns ways cannot be healthy. I was also so sorry to see her being taken such blatant advantage of by her servants. Perhaps a marriage will help her establish her own identity? I hope we get to see her romance blossom, and she along with it. Such a marriage would certainly be a death blow to Miss Jenkyns postmortem dictatorship.

  2. Did we know why Thomas Holbrook was shopping?No. The coincidence seemed purposeful to me. Now that Deborah had died along with the other family impediments to his romance with Miss Matty, she can make her own decisions. I like how Gaskell set this possibility up.

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