Sylvia's Lovers, ch. 30
To some extent Barton is a special case, standing for the oppressed populace of the northern towns in a period of sharp distress. But in her other stories Mrs. Gaskell presents the same general picture. Her characters are subject to arbitrary misfortune and their efforts to evade or meet its challenge are seen as defining their worth. The heroine of Sylvia's Lovers passes through severe sorrows of a kind suited to her place and time. Her lover she believes drowned at sea, her father has been hanged for rioting, her mother has to be nursed like a child; her house is sold and she is married to a man she does not love. Each blow brings her nearer to a recognition of the tragic nature of life.