Mary Barton

Examining Cross Class Marriage in Mary Barton College

In Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Mary Barton, class inequality becomes a major theme from the beginning of the book, especially in light of the possibility of a marriage between Mary Barton and Harry Carson. While Mary saw Mr. Carson as an escape from her lower class life of squalor and disappointment, Harry found this partnership to be exciting for reasons other than love. Though the two believed that their nuptials involved only them, Elizabeth Gaskell exemplified how a cross class marriage was more complicated, largely on account of the diverse social classes included. Harry, being lucky in his birth family, does not understand the disparity between love and lust or, if he does, he chooses not to recognize his actions as those of lust and want. As Mary suffered through the physical loss of her mother, she also was forced to face a mentally absent father whose lack of attention and love may have pushed Mary into the arms of Harry. John, Mary’s father, is angered by this marriage prospect, but not because Carson wishes to possess his daughter; rather, John Barton feels as though his daughter will become the kind of upper class citizen that looks down upon him. This is mostly because “…the working man was made to feel…that the...

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