Wives and Daughters Wives and Daughters discussion

Mr. Gibson's past

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Karen Was there any significance to the mystery of Mr. Gibson's origins? He is much speculated about by the townspeople, and even rumored to be illegitimate, but it doesn't seem to hurt his reputation any. I wonder why the author made his past so vague?
Also, I was surprised to find out that he had been in love at least 3 times before his marriage to Molly's mother. For being so emotionally reticent, he had quite a love life!

Emma I don't think there's any significance to the mystery of Mr Gibson's origins, apart from the the fact that it shows how the townsfolk love to gossip and set rumours going. He's presumably quite reticent about telling his own history to the townspeople: maybe he likes to keep them guessing.
It would be nice to know a bit of his back-story - I imagine he was a teenager when he was in love with Jeanie, as all we learn about her is that she was 16 at the time. But I haven't noticed any suggestion that he was actually in love with his eventual wife, Molly's mother...

Karen No, I don't believe he (do we know what his first name is? Surely it was mentioned but I cannot recall right at the moment) was in love with Molly's mother. Nor was he in love with the other woman he married, Hyacinth. I must admit to feeling sorry for him after he learns that his second marriage was all for naught when Mr. Coxe inherits and leaves Hollingford. However, if Mr. Gibson had just trusted Molly in the first place, his "sacrifice" would not have been required. It was sad that he knew his daughter so little as to think she would be so easily swept off her feet.

Emma Yes, his proposal to Hyacinth/Clare is very hasty. One minute he's doing no more than musing about getting married; the next he's been persuaded by her soft voice and graceful appearance to propose on the spot. It's a very superficial impression that he has of her, and his proposal is an unusually impulsive step for such a normally shrewd man. However I think it's realistic enough, in that Mr Gibson is a man used to acting quickly: he's got a problem, he's identified a solution, so he acts on it immediately. And, after all, his choice of suitable ladies was very limited.

Longhare Content I would have to go back and re-read, but if my memory is working today, I thought that Gaskell's veiling of Mr. Gibson's past served several quick purposes. 1) Mr. Gibson didn't talk about his past with the town because he didn't think it was anybody's business. If he had had an interesting life before, it would have caught up with him at some point (it is a Victorian novel after all), therefore, he was a very ordinary man of exceptional modesty, refusing to jazz up his history for the satisfaction of the town gossips. 2) Gossip was such a powerful medium in the town that it was necessary to invent some interesting details for Mr. Gibson, since he wasn't able or inclined to provide any himself. The "natural son" story would only make a respectable man seem more human without damaging his reputation. 3) The three youthful loves, for the reader, do serve to make Mr. Gibson--who would otherwise be a bit of a stiff--an instantly sympathetic character. Karen and Emma couldn't help speculating on the nature of those early loves. You can't help wondering if they were boyish crushes or unrequited passions or star-crossed or merely disappointing. Regardless, the reader knows something about the tender nature of Mr. Gibson that the town (even Molly?) does not. 4) What Mr. Gibson does not have is experience. He is so easily taken down by Hyacinth one is almost doubtful that such a seemingly wise and steady man could be such a sap. He turns out to be the kind that falls in love at the drop of a hat--as we might have guessed by the string of valentines, the only thing we actually know about the man's youth.

Longhare Content It was sad that he knew his daughter so little as to think she would be so easily swept off her feet. ..."

It is natural for him to jump to that conclusion because that is exactly his own nature--and just what happens to him. He can't imagine that Molly would be ruled by her head where matters of the heart are concerned.

message 7: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay And I find it ironic that in a few short years, Molly undoubtedly marries Roger, Cynthia marries Mr. Henderson, and Mr. Gibson is left with Hyacinth--poor man! It seems that he did not give this action of his much forethought.

back to top