Mary Barton

Mary Barton
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First published in 1848, “Mary Barton” is a moving account of poverty and the working class by English author Elizabeth Gaskell. Set in the early 1840s in the English city of 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, as he is accused of the murder, and she is certain she knows the identity of the true culprit. Gaskell weaves Mary’s story of romance and hope amidst a moving account of the grinding poverty of England’s working class, who often risked much with little regard or appreciation from the wealthy. Gaskell makes a compelling case for increased communication between workers and employers, greater equality between the rich and the poor, and the importance of the possibility of redemption and forgiveness. “Mary Barton” makes it clear why Gaskell is often called Great Britain’s social conscience of the Industrial Revolution. This edition includes a biographical afterword.
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