Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Michael Lund, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rhonda L. Brock-Servais, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Chene Heady, Ph.D.


An overview of the literary evolution of Elizabeth Gaskell throughout Mary Barton, North and South, and Wives and Daughters is reviewed in this thesis. Gaskell’s novels contain a plethora of themes and concerns, ranging from the plight of the Industrial working class, to the developing romance of young lovers, and even to the social implications of the developments of rural life. Throughout the three novels, Gaskell’s personal evolution and her struggle to develop a complete female consciousness within her writing can be tracked. As the female characters in her books grow into an understanding of working class life or learn to balance different attachments while realizing their identities as women, Gaskell’s own consciousness seems to be coming into a more independent existence. This thesis concludes that Gaskell’s works are not just a few sentimental calls to take action against poverty, or a few witty observations about the absurdity of rural life. Instead, they are a literary map of the progression of the female consciousness in light of vital social issues and concerns. As her characters struggle with these concerns, and allow their true selves to be realized, they come together to represent the development of Gaskell herself.



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