Group Response to Cranford VI

After this week’s midterms and papers, I am glad to be able to get back into Cranford. It is written in prose, I don’t need to write a paper on it, and it requires no memorization besides a general understanding of the plot. That is not to say I have forgotten it; on the contrary I now have a firm grasp on who is who. Like the characters of a weekly television show I can prescribe personality traits and my own conception of appearance to each distinctive lady of Cranford. I can see how Victorians were so interested in these periodical stories. The story itself for this week felt bittersweet to me. Despite all of Cranford’s humor there is a sad undertone to many of its chapters. Samuel Brown or Signor Brunoni is one of many funny characters with a sad story. The discovery that he is an ordinary man, that is currently sick, wipes away the panic of the previous chapter. “Somehow, we all forgot to be afraid,” ponders the narrator (160). It’s funny that the humanizing of one suspicious character dissolves the fears of all the Cranford women. Yet this funny moment is offset by the tragedy of Signor Brunoni’s family. Six of their children die, leaving them with only one daughter (164). It seems Elizabeth Gaskell never wants Cranford to seem too sunny. My favorite bit of Cranford Humor, however, comes from this bittersweet aspect of the stories. The ladies shun Lady Glenmire for her impending marriage to Mr. Hoggins (170). From what we know of Victorian society and what Dr. Fieldberg told us of the Victorian marriage market, the Cranford ladies should strive for marriage. They shun it instead. Cranford seems to follow its own rules. I like that they create their own rationale and treat Cranford as the pinnacle of society. Their ideals are as malleable they need to be but it is an adaptation of their existence that lets them be happy. It’s silly but I think it is a realistic way that real people justify their existence. I’m not saying the Cranford ladies should be married but some, like Miss Matty are merely playing along to maintain their Cranford social status. I am looking forward to more Cranford rules next installment and hoping to find out if “Aga Jenkyns,” is “poor Peter.”

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