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A window into the life of working class 19th century England through dramatization
on 23 May 2014
Mary Barton was an important landmark in 19th century English literature in that , more possibly than even any Charles Dickens novel, it raises awareness of the plight of the poverty stricken English working classes.Unlike most of Dickens work , Elizabeth Gaskell places working class people at the center of her novel novel rather than the periphery. The central point of the novel - as is Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England (Oxford World's Classics) is how men and women starved and children died and children died, while their employers lived off the fat of the land.
The exploitation and suffering of the British poor at this time was every bit as cruel and exploitative as that of the slaves in the colonies.
The novel captures the clashes of the time between the wealthy employers and the labourers is dramatized by personal struggles.
Central to the story is the trade unionist and his daughter Mary Barton caught between two lovers of opposing classes, the honest young worker Jem and the son of an industrialist Henry Carson.
The 'fallen woman' Esther is to me perhaps the most tragic figure of the novel. determined to save Mary from what she sees as similar fate (Esther was jilted too by a soldier who pretended he loved her and forced to sell her body to survive) , though she sees her own life as all but destroyed. Hence the despised street prostitute shows great inner nobility of character.
Mary Barton is important reading to gain an insight into working class life in the 19th century. And that of the exploitation by employers. It helps us understand the why the native British working classes have had a history of suffering and exploitation every bit as cruel as their counterparts who originated in the Third world.