Cranford: Money, New World vs. Old

© Gaskell Blog

Captain Brown sees his poverty as something he can remedy by working for the railroad, it’s a basic modern view that we take for-granted while reading Cranford; the idea of being able to raise out of poverty. It’s wholly new to the characters.

When speaking of poverty they consider it as “true and as common as death.” Just as there is no control over death, they felt there was no control over income– not if they wanted to remain gentile. Now, the captain is a man, which doesn’t stand for much in Cranford; He would be eccentric.

Shunned by the Cranford ladies for years until the barriers were broken by a kind invitation for tea, which Mrs. Jameison, of course, doesn’t deign to accept– Miss Betty Barker is able to offer them more comfort and luxury than they experience in their own lives.

The true test comes when Miss Matty meets with financial disaster and she begins to take matters into her own hands with the support of the village, marking one of the many transitions of Cranford coming into the new world.

Which others do you see? Please share your thoughts!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim says:

    I find it such a source of fun what happens in Cranford when “elegant economy” clashes with new money. I love all the examples you listed. I just finished reading about Miss Barker finally having everyone to tea and all the ladies being amazed at the fact that TWO trays of food were present. 🙂

  2. Barbara Kidder says:

    Mrs. Gaskell uses both these examples to illustrate the social disdain for working in trade, to support oneself, if one is to remain part of the “gentry”.
    What she shows, so beautifully, is the way Miss Mattie’s friends come to terms with this “degradation” and one by one accept it as a necessary step for her survival and support her in her new endeavour, both in spirit and practically!

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