Alright, alright - so. Leaving aside the fact that Cleghorn is a most unfortunate name, let's go on...
This, actually, was a really enjoyable read! Not that I mean to sound shocked, mind you, I mean, it was originally published as a serial by Charles Dickens. You know, like Charles Dickens. So, it can't be THAT bad. But it was really an enjoyable read, and felt like England in a way that I, an uneducated, inexperienced Yank, loved.
Now, understand, oh gentle reader -
Wait, quick aside. I was talking about this with Amanda the other day. Don't you love books where they use the old 'O Gentle Reader' thing? To wit, this quote from Wordsworth:
61My gentle Reader, I perceive,
62How patiently you've waited,
63And now I fear that you expect
64Some tale will be related.
65O Reader! had you in your mind
66Such stores as silent thought can bring,
67O gentle Reader! you would find
68A tale in every thing.
Doesn't that just have a charming, outdated mixture of paternal superiority and generic love? It's like Ward Cleaver reading a poem. Only... with coattails, and foppish curly hair. Anyway, I told Amanda I think I should write an entire book of letters written to 'Dear O Gentle Reader'. Love letters, sort of. Anyway, take that for what it's worth. So, back to Ms. Gaskell.
Now understand, O gentle reader (Don't worry, June, I'll have a talk with the Beaver...), I am not saying that our friend Ms Gaskell is entirely perfect in her sense of the realistic and genuine - to be entirely fair, any honest soul who has read anything by Charles Dickens might be forced to admit that he wasn't neccesarily so worried about having characters that actually acted like REAL human beings. Only, that's the charm of this book! When you read, say, Oliver Twist, there is a bit of a twinge of guilt, as you realize that all this 'good guy, bad guy' black and white world is really designed to make it easier for us mere mortals to pretend that we can make decisions without pricking at our conscience. It's sadly the sort of thing that makes men, say, think of Jews as all 'Dirty hook-nosed Fagans', and that will make us all ashamed (as a side note, Mr. Dickens felt extremely bad, later in life, about the anti-semitic tone of this particular chatacter). It's ugly business, even if it's well written, sometimes.
But that's just what's so wonderful about this book - it has the caricatured humanity of a Dickens novel, the ardent search for truth in worlds where there isn't neccesarily truth to be found, mixed with the a bit of almost Austen-like sensitivity to the impartial humanity of everyone in the whole wide book. The poor and the rich, the petty and the overly grave, everybody in this book is really a human being, even if they are a caricatured human being, and nobody is entirely bad. Even people who are bad. I love, for instance, poor Boucher, who's really, indeed, a putz without much moral courage, or really, brains, who really does want to feed his family more than anything, and loves his kids like his own life, then *SPOILER* drowns himself *END SPOILER*.
Anyway, it really was an interesting book, and particularly because it ties in with some of what I've been writing. The contrast between the country and the factory town is, if a bit confused, extremely poignant, and I love that, in the end, Ms Gaskell can out and out admit that really, there is no perfection, that progress crushes some under it's wheels, but that tradition is irresistably linked to stagnancy asmuch as it's linked to stability.