Writing as Mother

ImageThis week I started reading ‘Mary Barton‘ by Elizabeth Gaskell. Five chapters  in I’m loving it.

I’ve always loved anything written by Gaskell. During her time she was called Mrs Gaskell which a 21st century feminist might take offence at. However her life as a wife and mother comes across so strongly in her novels.  She includes details that you would never find in Austen’s clean and tidy novels.
For example in ‘Mary Barton’ a couple are comforting their baby twins. The mum breastfeeds one baby while the father tries to comfort ( unsuccessfully) the other baby with bread soaked in milk.
In the novel Gaskell has strong opinions on class divisions and the apathy of the wealthy towards those struggling with poverty. It’s interesting to see her sometimes apologise for these opinions.
I’ve been teaching Fay Weldon this year. She would see this as an example of the “angel of the house” whispering in Gaskells ear, warning her not to be too opinionated. After all, she is just a woman. Luckily Gaskell doesn’t listen too closely to the angel.
Early on in ‘Mary Barton’, Mary’s mother dies in childbirth. It made me think how lucky we are in Australia to have such good medical care when giving birth. We don’t need to fear death when we have a baby. Not long ago, death would always be a real possibility.
Here in Australia we completely take it for granted. In fact if you listen to some women talk about birth, you’d think it was just a complicated yoga position, a few deep breaths will see you through it. For centuries women never had the luxury of turning their nose up at medical support. Personally I’m so grateful to be alive at this time, in this country.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the rest of ‘Mary Barton’.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Guest classic author. Elizabeth Gaskell. | Just Olga

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