<i>Wives and Daughters</i> (1865)

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:
Wives and Daughters (1865)

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Elizabeth Gaskell's last novel, Wives and Daughters (1865), is a critical anomaly. Only Coral Lansbury and Patricia Spacks see that the structure of families and the socialisation of girls is its central, and important, subject matter. The novel for the first time makes central what had earlier been an unacknowledged problem; the education of daughters by wives to be wives. It begins at the beginning, with ‘the old rigmarole of childhood’, and the first two chapters are full of references to fairytales. Just as many fairytales suggest rites of passage or initiation tests by which girls and boys become women and men, so Wives and Daughters begins with motherless Molly Gibson at the age of twelve. In spite of a certain relish for the ‘levelling’ effects of sexuality in Wives and Daughters, Gaskell was in no doubt that uninhibited sexuality was a danger rather than a freedom.

Keywords: Elizabeth Gaskell; Wives and Daughters; families; socialisation; girls; education; daughters; wives; sexuality; fairytales

Chapter.  9147 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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