Group Response to Cranford II

My experience with Cranford has been primarily on the bus to school yet it is thus far my favorite reading in this class. The obvious reason would be that it is not poetry or a political rant but Cranford has a charm of its own. I think it is the parody of that Victorian “proper behavior” that makes it so interesting to read. The dinner scene in the fourth chapter was particularly amusing to me as Miss Matty and Miss Pole are afraid of doing an “ungenteel thing;” that thing being eating peas with a knife rather than their useless forks (Elizabeth Gaskell 79). The strange lifestyles of the woman are still silly to me but they are beginning to make sense now that I know which “Miss” is which. That is owed partly to the fact that characters are being killed off at a surprising rate. In the first two installments, four characters die. I thought the second installment would be less dire but one of its newly introduced characters is dispatched in short order. Mr. Holbrook is the only casualty but he is killed off as abruptly as he is introduced (85). It’s starting to feel like Game of Thrones for polite Victorian society. It’s even political in its own silly way. I love the way Miss Matty blames Holbrook’s visit to “wicked Paris,” for his death (85). It is very similar to Miss Jenkyns’ assertion in the second chapter in which she claims Captain Brown is “killed for reading,” Charles Dickens (66). Miss Matty turns into a second Miss Jenkyns at this point in the story, so the similarities are very deliberate. It is these kinds of peculiarities that I find so charming in Cranford.

I read Cranford liberally and in short bursts throughout the week. When I am finished an installment of Cranford I am left feeling amused and entertained, right before I jump the down the gaping abyss that is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Anne Bronte has a clear objective that demolishes any fun that can be had in her novel. I am not saying it can’t be enjoyed but Bronte’s book requires an investment of thought that feels ponderous in comparison to Cranford. Elizabeth Gaskell has no agenda that I can discern at this point and I welcome that. Sometimes writing needs to be created for pure enjoyment. Complicated issues are important to explore but they can weigh a person down. Wildfell Hall is figuratively and literally heavier than all of Cranford’s installments. If you drop any great Victorian novel on your toe you will feel it. When I read a chapter of Wildfell Hall it seems insignificant to the progress of the overall narrative. Cranford tells an entire story in a single chapter. The installment aspect of the reading has not really affected me yet as I have been playing catch up this week, but I think it is about to. I am curious to see where this seemingly aimless narrative is going and who is going to die next; if the first two installments are indicative of the rest.

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