Chapter

<i>North and South</i> (1854)

Patsy Stoneman

in Elizabeth Gaskell

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9780719074479
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701188 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719074479.003.0007
North and South (1854)

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With Mary Barton, North and South is now the most widely read of Elizabeth Gaskell's works, and we owe its modern rehabilitation to the Marxist critics of the 1950s. This critical mediation, however, means that we now receive the text together with a consciousness of its shortcomings in Marxist terms: its parent–child analogy for class relations obscures the economic source of class oppression in the appropriation of surplus value, and its ‘resolution’ is a marriage which at best seems a symbolic reconciliation and at worst a romantic diversion from the industrial theme. However, this chapter argues that the novel only appears inadequate because of the assumption underpinning Marxist theory that work relations alone provide the fundamental structures of society. Feminist theory affirms that gender relations are at least of equal, if not primary, importance. North and South sees class and gender as axes that intersect rather than coincide, and, moreover, it recognises class struggle as the product of economic conflicts of interest which are not resolvable, though they can be ameliorated, by benevolence.

Keywords: North and South; Elizabeth Gaskell; parent–child analogy; class relations; Marxist theory; work relations; gender; class struggle; benevolence

Chapter.  6016 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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