A moving account of poverty set in 1840s Manchester, Gaskell's first novel follows the young and beautiful Mary Barton, daughter of a factory worker, who is eventually caught up in the class struggle of her time. She attracts the attention of a wealthy mill-owner's son, Henry Carson, although she soon discovers her love for the poor, hard-working Jem Wilson. When a brutal shooting leaves a man dead, Mary must decide if she wishes to help in Jem's defense, for he is accused of the murder, and she knows who the real culprit is with certainty. Gaskell weaves Mary's story amidst a moving account of the hardships and grinding poverty of England's working class. A clear call for increased communication, greater equality between the rich and the poor, and redemption is made by Gaskell, who is often called Great Britain's social conscience of the Industrial Revolution.