chapter  27
3 Pages

Mary Barton, ch. 37

Mary Barton's 'message' is made explicit; later Mrs. Gaskell managed to achieve her effects less crudely. The distress which the novel described and condemned was not the last word, not irremediable, but the outcome of a failure on the part of the persons concerned to understand and help each other. Mrs. Gaskell advocates in terms appropriate to Mary Barton the realistic view that man's destiny is in his own hands, as opposed to Mr. Carson's irresponsible determinism, and that a failure to adapt is what produces chaos. The basis of this affirmation is her conviction of the insecurity of all humanity. God, says Job Legh, has 'made some weak'; he might have said 'all', for the m·eaning of Mary Barton is that no person can cut himself off from his fellow-men without destroying himself in the process. It becomes necessary therefore for each to help the others. The morality of the passage is phrased in religious terms ('the gifts of God', 'His plan', 'the Spirit of Christ'), but in fact Mrs. Gaskell's arguments are downto-earth and secular; her emphasis is on the good or ill con64