Author Topic: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell  (Read 5310 times)

bellamarie

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #40 on: January 08, 2017, 08:05:36 PM »
The Book Club Online is  the oldest  book club on the Internet, begun in 1996, open to everyone. 
We offer cordial discussions of one book a month,  24/7 and  enjoy the company of readers from all over the world.  Everyone is welcome.



January Book Club Online

Cranford

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Published in 1853, Cranford is the story of a town that is
"in the possession of the Amazons."

Some delightful older women are battling to preserve the way of life and
the social structure in Cranford in the face of the "progress"
brought by the Industrial Revolution. 

Join us we read this autobiographical novel and get to know
the ladies of Cranford.

Discussion Schedule

Based on the episodes as they were published in Household Words.
(Depending how comfortable we are with the rate of reading and discussion, we can be flexible with the dates.)

  • January 2-11. Pre-discussion of the Victorian period, the author, and any questions you may have about the discussion process.
  • January 11- 15 Episode 1 Our Society at Cranford - Chapters 1-2
  • January 16-19  Episode 2 A Love Affair at Cranford - Chapters 3-4
  • January 20-23  Episode 3 Memory at Cranford - Chapters 5-6
  • January 24-27  Episode 4 Visiting at Cranford - Chapters 7-8
  • January 28-31  Episode 5 The Great Cranford Panic - Chapters 9-11
  • February 1-4    Episode 6 Stopped Payment at Cranford - Chapters 12-13
  • February 5-9    Episode 7 Friends in Need at Cranford - Chapter 14
  • February 10-13 Episode 8 A Happy Return to Cranford - Chapters 15-16
  • February 14      Final Thoughts. Happy Valentines Day

Some Topics to Focus on As You Read
  • The structure of society
  • The place of women in society
  • The narrator
  • The men in Cranford
  • Relationships among women
  • Changes that come to Cranford and attitudes about those changes

Relevant Links
  • Cranford Gutenberg online for free.
  • Victorian Web  This amazing link is for all things Victorian,  begun in 1987 with new information added each year.

Discussion Leader: mkaren557



Karen I like the game you mentioned if you came back again where would you chose to be?  As an aspiring writer my inner self is yelling Victorian but my true self is saying during the seventies when women were burning their bras, coming of age, and beginning a whole new role in their place in the world.  I graduated in 1970 in a small rural town that was just beginning to bring in fast food restaurants, shopping strips not yet malls, and more women teachers in the schools than ever before.  Our class of 70' broke the dress code at our High school, I was on the student council that fought for the change and we hold that honor of a new era. I loved everything about the 70's, it was a freeing time for me, making the path for so much more to come, especially for the females. I was not a hippie, nor did I ever do drugs or drink alcohol, and the only rebel in  me was skipping class and going outside across the street from my high school to sit with the black students who were having a very quite sit out.  They asked me what did I think I was doing?  I asked them, what did they think they were doing?  They said, "We are having a sit out."  I replied, "So I am joining in with you."  They laughed and we sat out for the afternoon.  My principal called me into his office, asked what did I think I was doing, and I told him like I told the black students, joining in on a sit out.  He just shook his head and laughed at me.  Yep, the 70s is where I would love to be!
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

bellamarie

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #41 on: January 09, 2017, 04:35:25 PM »
Just finished the first two chapters of Cranford and can't wait to begin discussing it!  What a mixed bag of emotions in just two chapters!
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

JoanK

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #42 on: January 09, 2017, 06:54:51 PM »
BALLABARIE: I'm with you on that

" It covers the little things that we don't ofter think of like the issue of body odor

You think the Victorians were bad, the Elizabethans only took a bath once a year. The same author, in "How to be a Tudor" claims she tried their system of cleanliness (no soap or water) for six months, and was still socially acceptable. None of us believe her.

bellamarie

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #43 on: January 10, 2017, 12:06:10 PM »
Joan, I can't imagine going a year or six months without a bath.  I know we over bath and it is recommended in the winter not to shower/bath every day for the sake of your skin drying out so badly, but if I let my hair go more than 2 days I would be scary.  I am imagining all those beautiful women back in the Victorian or Elizabethan ages all dressed in those beautiful gowns and bonnets smelling to high heaven.  Do you suppose the lavender sachet scents helped?
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

JoanK

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #44 on: January 10, 2017, 01:32:08 PM »
I think they must have become "noseblind" and stopped smelling anything.

I read the first two chapters and loved them. her writing is delightful. Can't wait to start.

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #45 on: January 10, 2017, 03:37:37 PM »
I read somewhere that the ladies of the aristocracy and the gentry much use of scents.  They did stand up baths every morning with a pitcher of water and a cloth.  Apparently they rubbed themselves all over with a dry cloth as well.  I know that when I was in boarding school, we could only take two showers a week and only wash our hair once a week.  The only times our uniforms got washed was when we went home, every 6 weeks or so.  I don't remember body odor, but then we all probably smelled.
     Tomorrow we start and I am so excited.  I am going to put a reminder in the library.  I will look forward to talking to both of you, Bella and Joan, tomorrow.

Jonathan

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #46 on: January 10, 2017, 05:11:39 PM »
This is going to be fun as well as informative. Did you know that Paris had the reputation of being the smelliest place in the world - in former times? Voila! The most wonderful perfumes changed that image.

Were you surprised, Joan? Already in Chapter Two we're given a first look Behind the Closed Bedroom Door. Now that's Victorian. I was left in tears.

How surprising to hear that the Mitfords, David and Sydney, had Hitler to tea. They did something that Winston Churchill didn't manage. He tried for a meeting, on a quick visit to Germany, in 1937 I believe, but Hitler declined the opportunity. It could have changed the course of history.

bellamarie

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #47 on: January 10, 2017, 06:08:02 PM »
I checked out many books on the Mitford sisters this past summer, they were an interesting bunch.

The sisters, six daughters of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and Sydney Bowles, became celebrated, and at times scandalous, figures that were caricatured, according to The Times journalist Ben Macintyre, as "Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur".

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitford_family
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #48 on: January 10, 2017, 06:39:07 PM »
Jonathan
You started something  I just bought The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family. I can't wait to start it.


rosemarykaye

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #49 on: January 11, 2017, 03:43:01 AM »
I will be interested to hear what you think of the Mitfords, Mkaren. I was fascinated by them as a teenager, but as I mentioned earlier, I think I've had more than enough of them now. I do recommend Jessica's book Hons and Rebels though - it's a window into a very different world.

Jessica's first husband (a cousin and fellow member of the aristocracy) was killed in the war. She then married American civil rights lawyer Robert Treuhaft and lived in the US for the rest of her life. She was completely different from her sisters, and did all sorts of things in her life. 

I've just read (on Wiki!) that JK Rowling cites Jessica as the author who has most influenced her (on the basis of reading Hons and Rebels as a teenager (sadly it didn't spur me on to write Harry Potter, but it did have an impact on me) - which is quite a credit!

And now I've made myself late for work.....

R


Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #50 on: January 11, 2017, 07:26:37 AM »
The book club discussion of Cranford is now open.  I have my morning coffee beside me and it is quiet in the early Florida morning.  I took a writing class once and the teacher talked about the opening sentence setting the tome for the rest of the text.  When I first read Cranford, I was drawn in immedialely by, "In the first place, Cranford is in the possession of the Amazons, all the holders of the houses, above a certain rent, are women."  I wonder what you thought when you read the first sentence.  Or the first paragraph?  This morning is about beginnings.  So let's start.

bellamarie

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #51 on: January 11, 2017, 10:36:30 AM »
My first thought when I read that first sentence was, "What on earth do they mean by the word Amazons?"  I actually had to look the word up on Google to make sense of why Gaskell would use this particular word in this story.

The real Amazons were long believed to be purely imaginary. They were the mythical warrior women who were the archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Every Greek hero or champion, from Hercules to Theseus and Achilles, had to prove his mettle by fighting a powerful warrior queen.Oct 28, 2014

In some versions of the myth, no men were permitted to have sexual encounters or reside in Amazon country; but once a year, in order to prevent their race from dying out, they visited the Gargareans, a neighbouring tribe. The male children who were the result of these visits were either killed, sent back to their fathers or exposed in the wilderness to fend for themselves; the girls were kept and brought up by their mothers, and trained in agricultural pursuits, hunting, and the art of war. In other versions when the Amazons went to war they would not kill all the men. Some they would take as slaves, and once or twice a year they would have sex with their slaves.[15]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazons

As I read more into the chapter I suppose it made sense finding there were no men in Cranfornd, except Captain Brown, or servants.  I still find it interesting how Gaskell used a mythical word to describe the ladies of Cranford.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

rosemarykaye

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #52 on: January 11, 2017, 11:48:50 AM »
I think the first thought I had was' Oh, this is going to be terribly intellectual'! - which of course it isn't, but clearly Mrs Gaskell was educated.

When she continues by saying that there are hardly any men in Cranford, I did wonder how that could be lifelike. Then I started to think about all the 'commuter towns' and villages we have here in the UK today. Many places are populated entirely by young mothers with small children and retired people from early in the morning till late at night. Long distance commuting is becoming more and more of a trend, as people have to live farther and farther away from the cities to be able to buy a decent house. When the population is largely retired it tends to consist of more women than men because men die younger - so we end up with communities of young mothers and elderly ladies.

In Edinburgh I am very fortunate in being able to walk to work, but to do so I pass Haymarket Station and see people pouring out of it to work in the city. In London, of course, this is the norm (and I am so glad I no longer have to do it.) Cranford, then, could really be many modern towns and villages, 'dormitory' towns for workers - except in Cranford the men seem to be away for longer, with their regiments, on their ships and so on.

Mrs Gaskell says that when any married couples turn up, the men tend to 'disappear' - she seems to mean not only in the sense of their working away, but also that any who stay seem to 'shrink' - and again I think this is true of some retired couples. The women are often (though not always - I appreciate this is a gross generalisation!) the 'joiners', who get involved in all the local groups and who volunteer for everything, the men sometimes seem to stagnate in front of the TV or devote themselves to the golf course. And I do think women who have been used to being at home all day by themselves (probably now a dying breed, as in most modern marriages both partners have to work) can find the omnipresence of their newly retired husbands a bit of a challenge! It's important, I think, for each to retain or develop their own interests.

It's a great opening, as it really grabs the reader's attention - we have to make a bit of an effort to work it out. (Although is that just because we are reading this 200 years later? Would everything have been far more obvious to the Victorian reader?)

Rosemary

PatH

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #53 on: January 11, 2017, 12:03:16 PM »
It's an interesting choice, isn't it, to describe these outwardly gentle and restrained women, and I think we will see ways in which it fits rather well.  The whole first paragraph is a little masterpiece of sly remarks.

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #54 on: January 11, 2017, 01:20:10 PM »
Bella. I too had to look up the word Amazons.  I vaguely knew but but didn't know all the detail that you uncovered.  I really loved the lines in the first paragraph about the married couple who moves into Cranford and "somehow the gentleman disappears."  How?  He is frightened to death by being the only man at evening parties or "called" away by business.  I chuckles, still thinking about the Amazons would drive the men from the island, probably not by evening parties. 

Rosemary. The way that the big cities spread during the Victorian age was that the gentry and upper middle class moved to the rural villages where their families lived and the men might have clubs or houses in cities like Drumble and only came home occasionally.(  I'm not sure it was once a year)   "A man is so in the way in the house."  I have heard more women say that about their retired husbands.

Pat I think that is always what slows me down when I read this particular book.  Almost every sentence has some clever observation and Mrs. Gaskell does have a way with words.  Charles Dickens so admired her storytelling  that he called her his "Scherezade" and told her to write all the stories she knew when he hired her for Household Words.

Great start. Please feel free to take the discussion in any direction you want. I'd like to think of myself as a facilitator, who justs suggests. 

bellamarie

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #55 on: January 11, 2017, 01:48:13 PM »
I have to giggle reading, "A man is so in the way in the house."  Rosemary, "I have heard more women say that about their retired husbands."

I can say when my hubby retired before me, I was running my own in home day care business, and having him under foot was a bit of a challenge at first, but then he became a huge help.  Now that I have been retired for over a year he and I have had to make adjustments so we can have our own space when we need it.  Our home works out perfectly because our entire basement is refinished into a family room/den so he loves going down there to do his computer, sports watching, and I have the entire first floor to myself.  We seem to have an ideal set up as long as he can stop changing my kitchen around now that he does more cooking than me.  We have always enjoyed each other's company, so I would never fit in with the Amazons of Crandford. 
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #56 on: January 11, 2017, 02:19:29 PM »
I am so glad that you have worked all that out, Bella.  I have a friend who is a therapist who counsels newly retired couples about all the things you mentioned.  Maybe there is a book in you on this.
However, Cranford was another time and another place.  It was a woman's place to run the household.  It was her sphere and the last thing she would want would be any help from her husband.  And, of course, the other part of that is that the husband was the ultimate authority on all issues and most controlled all aspects of his wife's life, so it must have been more peaceful for her when his was not there. I wonder if a relationship where husband and wife were friends and partners. 

Jonathan

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #57 on: January 11, 2017, 04:48:33 PM »
It's all so hilarious. So ironic. No fierce Amazon would have been caught dead in Cranford. What? Frightening little boys? Chasing geese out of the garden? Deciding literary questions? (As we are now) Keeping maid-servants in order? Being kind to the poor? Prying into each other's affairs?

Twice on the first page we are told that this story is about the Cranford ladies, who are up to all the challenges of village life. To use such a powerful literary allusion as Amazons is meant, I believe, and there are few enough, to encourage contemporary feminists. But in this case I believe Gaskell is having fun with it.

Spoiler In the end it's the men who save the day. But nothing could spoil this well-told tale.

Jonathan

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #58 on: January 11, 2017, 05:23:38 PM »
Karen, Enjoy the Mitford saga. Mary Lovell is a great biographer. I'm about to begin her bio of Richard and Isabel Burton, A Rage to Live. Two more Victorian lives.

And what's this on my TBR shelf. I didn't know I had it. Jessica Mitford's book, Grace Had an English Heart, The Story of Grace Darling, Heroine and Victorian Superstar. Has anyone heard of her? The cover shows Grace rowing a boat on a stormy sea.

Our long Canadian winters are such a blessing, with so many books to read.

rosemarykaye

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #59 on: January 11, 2017, 05:42:46 PM »
Grace Darling is a famous heroine, Jonathan - she was a Northumberland lighthouse keeper's daughter who in 1838 rowed out to save some of the victims of a shipwreck. She even has her own museum at Bamburgh, and a lifeboat named after her.

I didn't know Jessica Mitford had written about her though.

Rosemary

JoanK

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #60 on: January 11, 2017, 06:08:15 PM »
Grace Darling sounds fascinating. I'll have to get that book.

BELLAMARIE:"We have always enjoyed each other's company, so I would never fit in with the Amazons of Crandford."

 I suspect that the women who enjoyed their husbands company just didn't participate in this little society of tea goers and evening soirees, and so became invisible, like the tradesmen.

Oh, dear! I may have become "vulgar" with my Victoria sponge cake!

"..it was considered :vulgar (a tremendous word in Cranford) to give anything expensive in the way of eatable and drinkable, at the evening entertainments."

Am I about to disappear, with the men? I repent and ask your forgiveness. From now on, I will serve only "wafer bread and butter and sponge biscuits."

Of course it's funny, but also touching.  This was a way of ensuring that all could take their turns as hostess, regardless of how poor.


BarbStAubrey

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #61 on: January 11, 2017, 06:15:21 PM »
1832. A highly fashionable woman is calling upon her dear friend. She glides through the wallpaper-clad hallway en route to the sitting room. When she arrives at the doorway, she pauses, turns 90 degrees to the left, and shuffles into the room sideways; her sleeves are so unbelievably wide, she can’t enter normally! Believe it or not, this isn’t a scene from a slapstick comedy; it’s exactly what ladies had to do in this era if they were sporting the incredibly popular leg o’ mutton sleeve!

The leg o’ mutton sleeve (also known as the gigot sleeve) acquired its name because of its unusual shape; incredibly voluminous at top and tapering just below the elbow, this facet of fashion resembled a lamb shank. First seen in 1824, this sleeve style grew in both popularity and size until 1833. In fact, by the end of its billowing fame, the leg o’ mutton sleeve was so big, the stiff horsehair fabric once used to maintain its shape was no longer sufficient. Instead, whalebone supports, large feather-stuffed pads, or steel springs were used to keep the leg o’ mutton sleeve looking perfectly pillowy.

JoanK

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #62 on: January 11, 2017, 06:15:26 PM »
How flustered, but pleased they are to have a man in their midst, even if he is clueless about the unspoken rules. JONOTHAN, you can be our Major, but STAY AWAY FROM TRAINS!

BarbStAubrey

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #63 on: January 11, 2017, 06:41:42 PM »
Leg of mutton sleeve as described appears as a perfect metaphor for how they ladies welded any power they held in Cranford - sideways - They glided through creating a position of control without the men who had all the power since wealth or lack of it was controlled by the men.

Land may have been what identified gentry but in Cranford they were villages and these ladies did not harbor husbands who maintained financial wealth  - the economic status and wealth attained in the earlier life of the widowed and un- married established their frozen status. Now, without men their status or power is maintained by etiquette, local cultural traditions made wider and stuffed fuller by the ladies.

Gossip is the local newspaper that supports the policing of these cultural traditions and moral rules that are as rigid and strict as the boning in the leg of mutton sleeve and stuffed with the last vestiges of pre-railroad values and morality just as their dress with leg of mutton sleeves is dated.

The railroad having altered daily life in the village, the ladies command over kitchen, parlor and dining room extends wider to the running of the village with no thought how to pay for its physical maintenance except to conserve what was, as there is no thought how to fund progress therefore, progress is dismissed. Ladies, village or not, during the nineteenth century have no power to affect community progress. 

JoanK

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #64 on: January 11, 2017, 06:43:00 PM »
BARBARA: you were posting while I was. Those sleeves are hilarious. I remember a movie version of one of Jane Austen's books where poor Katheryn Hepburn had to wear those sleeves (completely inappropriate. the styles in Austin's day (a little earlier) were completely different.

Even when leg-of mutton sleeves went out, women still had to cope with bustles and hoop skirts.

My "How to be a Victorian" explains how you had to learn to sit down in them. Do it wrong and either your skirt flies up, or you're sitting on your bustle and your legs fly up. You have to perch uneasily on the very edge of the chair, slightly sideways. It looks terribly uncomfortable -- maybe that's why visits only lasted 10 minutes.


JoanK

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #65 on: January 11, 2017, 06:48:29 PM »
BARB: we were posting together again. You said that very well.

"Now, without men their status or power is maintained by etiquette, local cultural traditions made wider and stuffed fuller by the ladies."

I love that! "stuffed fuller" indeed!

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #66 on: January 11, 2017, 06:48:49 PM »
I am having trouble posting.  I just lost my last brilliant post, but what you are talking about is so much more fun.

I did ask about your thinking about the narrator.

JoanK

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #67 on: January 11, 2017, 06:55:09 PM »
I think the narrator is perfect: the "inside-outside voice. making fun of the ladies with the same mix of exasperation and love that in my family  we make fun of each others' and our own foibles and weaknesses while celebrating our strengths.

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #68 on: January 11, 2017, 06:57:13 PM »
I am having trouble putting my words together tonight, so I'm not going to try to be brilliant again.  What I was trying to share was the 19th century beliefs about women.  The "women question" was broadly what are we going to do about women?  What about women who don't marry?  How will they be taken care of?  What about widows?  There was a belief that women could not maintain friendships with other women because they would fight.  So all of this is floating around as Gaskell is writing Cranford.

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #69 on: January 11, 2017, 07:00:25 PM »
Joan I love your comments about the narrator.  I love her voice as well.  She (and she is a she) seems to know Cranford and the ladies very well.

rosemarykaye

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #70 on: January 12, 2017, 03:23:57 AM »
I am not sure about the narrator. I find her a tiny bit smug. Am I right in thinking she is supposed to be younger than most of the ladies? And why is she constantly staying with them? (I suppose long visits of this kind were normal then, when no-one had much to do and, having servants, would not come home to a pile of laundry and sordid bathrooms, as I used to when my children were teenagers!)

There is a fairly awful but horribly compelling reality programme on TV here called 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' - in it we see girls from the traveller community, often very young, being married in the most enormous dresses you ever saw. They are specially made by one particular dressmaker (who is frequently interviewed on the show). She will never say how much these dresses cost, but it is in five figures at least. They have masses of ornamentation, layers and layers of petticoats, often with big wire structures underneath them. It is apparently a status thing in traveller families. The poor girls can hardly move under the weight and shape of these things - sometimes they can barely get into the cars or carriages taking them to the church, and they have huge bruises and grazes from where bits of the dress rub. But they are all very into it. As I said, it is a strangely fascinating programme.

Fashion seems to me always to have sought to constrain women. Then it was ridiculous dresses, now it is stilettos and tight skirts.

I think many women of my generation who have not married - or who are now on their own - are still in a parlous financial situation, especially if they have taken time out to have children. I hope it will be different for my daughters, but in the current economic situation I don't know how it will be (except for those who become bankers, hedge fund managers, etc). I suppose in Mrs Gaskell's time most middle class women had some kind of allowance from their fathers (albeit often a small one). The poor were a completely different story (as Dickens shows us).

Rosemary

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #71 on: January 12, 2017, 09:32:41 AM »
Good morning, Rosemary and all,
     In one of my past lives, for a brief time, I was a nun.  Your description of the wedding dresses reminded me of the habit I wore.  Each morning at 5:00 am I would get out of bed and put on the 13 separate pieces that made up the habit.  One of the pieces was a corset, which was awful.  I am a short, round person and , even though they special ordered mine, it dug into me under my arms and at the bottom.  So, each time I read about the "fashion" that includes a corset, I am in great sympathy.  Remember Scarlett O'Hara managing to achieve a 17 inch waist in the movie Gone With the Wind.  Also, I don't want to talk about what happened to me in the heat of summer.  Anyway, it was explained to me by someone that men didn't want to see jiggling.  Remember in Victorian times women were either Mary, pure and a helpmate to man, or Eve, the evil seductress.  I guess jiggling was an Eve-like trait.
     The narrator will be revealed more as the stories go on.  Her tone, I think, sometimes borders on sarcasm, but is certainly tongue-in-cheek.
     Rosemary, your observations and contributions are so valuable.

bellamarie

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #72 on: January 12, 2017, 11:11:34 AM »
Jonathan
Quote
To use such a powerful literary allusion as Amazons is meant, I believe, and there are few enough, to encourage contemporary feminists. But in this case I believe Gaskell is having fun with it.

YES!  I think you could have hit the nail on the head!  You could see this group of ladies as contemporary feminists.  And I agree, I can see the humor.  Imagine Gaskell sitting and conjuring up these scenes and laughing at herself.  I know in Wives and Daughters she was very comical.

Joan, I like how you have appointed Jonathan the character of the Major.  You have raised the rank of Captain Brown, and hopefully Jonathan fares better, staying away from trains will indeed give him better odds.   :D

Barb, We can always count on you to cover the fashion.  Oh how funny the leg of lamb sleeve is, and just imagining the lady trying to sit without toppling over has me laughing in stitches.   ;D

Rosemary
Quote
Fashion seems to me always to have sought to constrain women. Then it was ridiculous dresses, now it is stilettos and tight skirts.

Yes, why is it that we women are willing to put ourselves through so much misery just to be in fashion?  I curse every time I am trying to put on my pantie hose, which is rare and only special occasions.  After the age of 60 it should be doctor's orders for all women to never attempt to wear pantie hose!!  I do have to say here in the U.S. the fashion that is really popular especially with the twenty and over is LuLa Roe spandex leggies and tees, and now they are making dresses and skirts.  It is all a twitter!!  Seems comfort is their aim, and not caring if it all jiggles or not, so Karen the girls are taking on the evil Eve with joy!!   
https://www.theodysseyonline.com/23-ways-lularoe-addiction

JoanK.,  I agree, I think the narrator is just perfect.  She is like the person in the room always observing everyone, finding their strengths and weaknesses, relating them in a way that is a bit comical rather than cruel judgement. I do find myself being the observer when I am with a group of people.  I have about ten high school alumni girls I've reconnected with on Facebook.  We get together about once a month, and our table at the restaurant which is far back in a corner, sounds like cackling hens. I find myself watching and taking mental notes of each of them.  I suppose on some level it helps me be more personal on an individual basis to each of them listening to what their topic of interest is, and noticing their choice of clothes or food, noting which ones are single, have grandchildren, caring for their sick loved one, etc. Of course I chime in and share as well, but I do come away similar to this narrator being able to describe their dress, idiosyncrasies, and personalities.   I am anxious to find out who she is.

Karen, I wish I had a dollar for all the brilliant posts I composed just to see them vanish before completing to hit "post" or save.  I just got a warning on my laptop to plug in or I would lose everything due to low battery.  Grrr... and to try to rethink what you wrote in the same mindset is almost nearly impossible.

It's interesting to me that even though Captain Brown is the only male character in these first two chapters among all the women, he surely seems to be the one most spoken about.  So, is it fair to say when there is less there is more?   

 

“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #73 on: January 12, 2017, 11:51:35 AM »
As usual, Bella, I love your honesty and your comparisons(similarities and differences) to today.  As I was writing about the corset, I wonder if that is an example of men trying to mold us all into images and shapes that they find attractive regardless of comfort?  Which may be why shedding our girdles and burning our bras became such a symbol for the liberation of women.
     One of the beauties of Gaskell as a writer for me are the phrases she uses.  For instance when talking about the ladies of Cranford, she describes their dress as "independent of fashion" and described the frugalness of the ladies as "elegant economy."
   When I read the rules for calling, I wonder why did they bother?  Rules appear to take any spontenaiety and joy out of the process.

BarbStAubrey

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #74 on: January 12, 2017, 01:13:48 PM »
Growing up as a depression baby followed by the scarce, restricted and rationed products during WWII "elegant economy" was a given - Spring hats were brought out each year and redecorated with new veils and trim - dresses were tucked, gussets added, collars replaced or lace pinned and if nothing else a fluffy hanky pinned near the shoulder like a corsage. With everything available on the cheap today at big box stores we forget how clothes were made fresh each year rather than fashionable. Clothes were chosen for their good serviceable cut and fabric knowing they would have to last for years and then, be cut to fit a youngster in later years.

It appears we are sliding back into the economy-of-less in clothes - not sure if we will have "elegant economy" but the chart showing the comparison of clothing sales for the last 50 years was printed last week and for the last 4 years it has dropped with a significant drop last year - I know among my grands the fun shopping for several years now has been in places like Goodwill where they smile and enjoy finding great clothes at less than a quarter of the price of new - it may be why retro is back in style since many of the clothes they find are from the closets of old folks that include old leather bomber jackets and barely worn wing-tipped shoes.

You have to wonder if it is a cry by many today from more than cost but for the values of their grandparents just as Gaskell seemed to have created a metaphor between the clothing and moral values and older cultural traditions that became the unspoken law for the village.

JoanK

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #75 on: January 12, 2017, 02:46:17 PM »
BARB: :You have to wonder if it is a cry by many today from more than cost but for the values of their grandparents just as Gaskell seemed to have created a metaphor between the clothing and moral values "

Interesting.

Jonathan

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #76 on: January 12, 2017, 03:26:12 PM »
Preferring Mr Boz to Dr Johnson. '...the poor, brave captain!...killed by them nasty cruel railroads!...if he had only been reading a higher style of literature.'

Like Cranford, for example? This must have made the readers smile. How did Dickens feel about having his readers killed while perusing Pickwick? One writer helping another. I've just checked a biography of Dickens, and Gaskell gets nearly a column in the index. It must have been a close relationship.

Trivia question: What's the difference between 'leg of mutton' and leg o' lamb? And it's not that one appears in Cranford.

Mkaren557

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #77 on: January 12, 2017, 03:27:02 PM »
The that poverty as a disgrace and therefore is not acknowledged among the women.  Being frugal was part of this elegant economy.  "Doing without" was a virtue.  I see that among some of the retired in Florida; my sister-in-law says she has not bought her husband clothes retail in ten years - -Goodwill.  My father would take my mother out to eat, but only for the early bird and no dessert.  And my nieces often look like they got their clothes from the local mission church.  But the Cranford ladies seem to take pride in their small incomes and the ways they cope.  And then in walks Captain Brown.

BarbStAubrey

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #78 on: January 12, 2017, 04:04:14 PM »
Meat from an older lamb is mutton where as meat from a lamb a year old or less is called lamb.

Frybabe

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Re: CRANFORD by Elizabeth Gaskell
« Reply #79 on: January 12, 2017, 04:09:16 PM »
Johnathan, a leg of mutton is from a mature sheep, a leg of lamb is, as the name implies, from a lamb. Mutton is supposed to have a much "gamier" or stronger taste  than lamb. It is also tougher. Most often it is cooked in a stew or casserole.

Ah, I see Barb beat me to it.