By K. Krueger
This ebook addresses a seriously missed style utilized by ladies writers from Gaskell to Woolf to complicate Victorian and modernist notions of gender and social area. Their cutting edge brief tales ask Britons to reassess the place girls may possibly reside, how they can be pointed out, and whether or not they will be contained.
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Additional resources for British Women Writers and the Short Story, 1850–1930: Reclaiming Social Space
Mary Smith, the narrator, observes intimate moments and offers her regard to the women of Cranford, thus modeling the sympathy that she then invokes in readers. After establishing Cranfordian drawing rooms as social spaces in flux and garnering sympathy for the spinster as a domestic figure, Gaskell complicates the function of the drawing room and the parlor in her later Cranford stories by calling attention to the ways in which economic need inevitably affects the domestic interior. When straitened financial circumstances threaten one of the women in the interlocking stories ‘Stopped Payment, At Cranford’, ‘Friends in Need, At Cranford’, and ‘A Happy Return to Cranford’, the community rallies in order to support her.
When characters react with generosity they repurpose domestic interiors according to those sympathies, and Cranford’s underlying ethic of community becomes apparent. In the structural and thematic accumulation of sympathetic responses across stories a character-driven sequence gradually unfolds, revealing over the course of the series that these women are, indeed, exceptional. 55 While Matty Jenkyns undergoes a catharsis as she grieves her family and lets their letters go (a monumental act of change in itself), the narrator undergoes a more radical shift in perception and experience as she discovers this hidden history and learns to 36 British Women Writers and the Short Story, 1850–1930 commiserate with this elderly woman.
Our Society at Cranford’ exemplifies a major short story pattern of crisis and response repeated in later stories in the series. For instance, in ‘The Great Cranford Panic’, when the Cranfordians are petrified by reports of thievery, they simultaneously become mesmerized by and suspicious of a traveling foreign magician, Signor Brunoni, until they discover him suffering an illness and meet his family. 52 In one fell swoop, Garcha dismisses several monumental acts of care because they are not the norm in terms of daily behavior (a point which Mary also belies when she refers to Cranfordian ‘fragments and small opportunities’ and ‘little kindnesses’ that remain largely undescribed).
British Women Writers and the Short Story, 1850–1930: Reclaiming Social Space by K. Krueger