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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > Mary Barton Chapters 12 - 18

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message 1: by Candace (last edited Jul 16, 2018 06:44AM) (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments Mary Barton Chapters 12 - 18. (I added a post to the “Background Information” Thread regarding this section.)

1. Without considering the title ( if you can do that !) , who do you see as the protagonist of the book? You may make an argument for more than one person if you wish.

The reason I include this question is because of these words by Gaskell, “‘John Barton’ was the original name, as being the central figure to my mind; indeed I had so long felt that the bewildered life of an ignorant thoughtful man of strong power of sympathy, dwelling in a town so full of striking contrasts as this is, was a tragic poem, that in writing he was my ‘hero’...”. Edward Chapman, Gaskell’s publisher, insisted that Gaskell change the title of the book, add the preface, and add a conversation at the end of the book. (Intro to Penguin Classics Ed.)

If you take out John Barton’s story/plot, do you think the novel would be the classic it is today? What about Mary’s story/plot? Why or why not?

2. What is Margaret’s advice to Mary on how to win Jem back? Is this the advice one would give a young girl today?

3. Who returns home with stories to tell? What does this tell us about the Education provided to those in Mary’s class? Have there been other examples of this in the book?

4. How does Jem treat Esther differently than John Barton treats her?

5. Is everything that Esther tells Jem the truth? Is there one part of the conversation that is false and that may have led Jem to act in a way that he otherwise might not have?

6. What does Jem decide he must do in response to what Esther has told him?

7. Describe the meeting between Jem and Harry Carson.

8. What occurs in the meeting between the workmen and the masters? What occurs after the meeting? (What do they decide?)

9. What is Barton’s ‘night errand’?

10. Give your interpretation of the conversation between Mr. Carson and the police superintendent.

11. At the end of chapter 18, Mr. Carson speaks as if to his dead son. What theme does this bring up, and what does the narrator say about it in the last lines of the chapter?


message 2: by Lori, Moderator (last edited Jul 19, 2018 07:26AM) (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
Finally got caught up (but still need to start on Phineas!).

About the book title: If John Barton did not directly kill Harry Carson (I suspect, from his manner, that he did), he was still part of the conspiracy to kill him. Barton has presented John as a sympathetic character, letting us see the desperation that drove him to do what he did. This is important.

However, if she had named the book after him, readers may have gotten the idea that she was condoning the murder. Especially since this was inspired by an actual murder, it could have been interpreted as her excusing the real murderer. I'm guessing that's what her publisher had in mind when asking her to change the title.

No, I wouldn't give the same advice as Margaret did, even back then. If Mary was too shy to talk to Jem herself, she could have let her father in on it (she wouldn't have had to mention Carson, just say she didn't realize she loved Jem until then). But as she and her father were more distant than they were before. Or she could have confided in Alice. Either of them could have hinted to Jem that they had reason to believe that Mary had changed her mind. But then Gaskell needed the uncertainty to last a bit longer.

I hope nothing bad happens to Jem! I had a good guess from the book blurb that someone would kill Carson and I had a bad feeling about the police officer seeing the fight between them. I'm not familiar enough with Gaskell to know whether she usually gives happy endings or not (read Wives and Daughters, but it was unfinished). (What would Hardy do? vs. What would Trollope do?)

I was impressed with the inclusion of Barton's interaction with the out-of-town workman who had been attacked. It took courage for him to stand up to the other unionists and tell them that this was wrong. And then the fact that no one really contradicted him tells us that they knew this, and maybe their consciences were working on them too. The sketch was a nice touch too. Between that and Carson's threats to Mary (which were pretty much threats of rape), I wasn't sorry to see him go, which is, I suppose, what Gaskell intended.

I really like Will. His banter with Job Legh was a lot of fun, and his eagerness to pursue and marry a blind woman (and Mr. Wilson with his wife, who was ... a bit disfigured? crippled?) is a contrast to Carson.

Although I do not excuse John Barton's behavior to Esther (even he realized it was wrong), I understand it. This reaction to her had been building for at least six years or so, and it all came out at once. And along with any differences in their natural temperaments, Jem is young and has not become as hardened by the world as Barton. Jem is more optimistic and believes people are naturally good. He believed Esther could be a good person if she didn't need to sell herself to get money, and he initially gave Carson the benefit of the doubt about his intentions toward Mary.


message 3: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments As to question 8, after the meeting the workmen have a lottery to decide who will be the one to do the deed. Does that take some of the responsibility off of Barton? Or does it make all of the others involved in the lottery accomplices? Does it matter if it was Barton who got the wheel rolling and it rolled like a snowball...

To be an accomplice, one has to take one step forward in carrying out of the crime— going by that definition, I don’t believe the other workers are accomplices. They don’t even know when the crime is going to take place. If Jem had known what Barton was going to do with the gun, he would have been an accomplice- but he doesn’t.

Choosing not to rat on someone is not illegal.

( I’m going by the laws where I live today so I could be wrong , but they seem to fit. The procedural rules must be very different because attorneys would never act the way the attorneys did in the book.)

Mary is too ashamed of how she has acted with Carson and the situation it has gotten her in ( Carson lurking around corners, approaching her in public with a raised voice ) ; she knows this was very inappropriate behavior on her part. People would not look at her as innocent Mary anymore. She was too embarrassed to tell her best friend when she thought good was going to come of it for her family. I don’t see her as being able to forgive herself yet enough to talk to anyone OR to act in any way that is not maidenly and modestly when it comes to her true love and someone who is as good as Jem. She had not truly loved Carson; she had loved the life she thought he would give her family.


message 4: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
Where did it talk about Jem, Barton, and a gun? Jem doesn't even attend the meetings, does he?


message 5: by Candace (last edited Jul 19, 2018 07:28PM) (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments Yes, Barton is late to the meeting I ask about above (the main one) but he shows up at the end. And the plan is made. In the last chapter the police tell the father ( Mr. Carson) a gun is used to kill Carson.


message 6: by Frances, Moderator (last edited Jul 19, 2018 07:16PM) (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1932 comments Mod
I don't think Jem was at the meeting. Also, it's not clear to me that John Barton is the killer-I think that remains to be seen.

I'm glad this isn't a Hardy novel as I do want a happy ending-that also remains to be seen I guess!


message 7: by Candace (last edited Jul 19, 2018 07:31PM) (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments If you have the Penguin Classics Edition, his part of the meeting begins on 187. I actually checked it because it’s a great speech that he makes ( another great example of Gaskell’s writing!). Follow the speech until he concludes “ What I would do is this. Have at the masters!” ( bottom 189) Then “they built up a deadly plan.” Lottery occurs. A-n-d head into Barton’s strange behavior in next chapter aptly entitled “Barton’s Night Errand”.

If you don’t have the Penguin Ed. , it all occurs in last 4 pages of chapter 16.

So many great passages like the one I just mentioned. I wasn’t expecting that one!!

I just noticed I wrote above that Jem was late for the meeting instead of Barton. I tend to do that- think of one thing while I’m typing another. Thanks for pointing that out- I was confused.


message 8: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments On p. 208 -209. Mr. Carson asks “How did he die?” ...As the policeman begins telling his story , he states that he “heard the report of a gun in Turner Street” and had gone to investigate, finding the young Carson shot in the left temple. The gun was found in the field which the murderer crossed “and probably threw away when pursued, as encumbering his flight.”

Well, the police were as conclusive in the novel as they are today. Very anti- defendant. No such thing as innocent until proven guilty. Sorry, ten years of stories I could give you of examples of this. The criminal justice system needs an overhaul.


message 9: by Candace (last edited Jul 19, 2018 08:07PM) (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments I’m sorry, I interpreted him to be murderer just off what I stated. I thought it was clear because of the sequence of everything I stated in message 8. But it could be a red herring, I guess. Isn’t that what they are called. When I look at ALL of the evidence, it is circumstantial. What else do you think he was doing on the night errand if not that?? And who else could be our murderer??
Dun-dun.


message 10: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
I think John's strange behaviour shows that he might be the assassin, but I don't think a gun is mentioned at the meeting.
This book will probably have a happier ending than a novel by Hardy-I hope so anyway.
For a title character, Mary has been surprisingly weak and undeveloped so far, but she is changing as the novel progresses.


message 11: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments No, the gun was brought up in conversations between Carson and the police in chapter 18. ( mentioned in message 5)

Sorry if I confused anyone by mentioning Jem. That was an inadvertent use of his name when I intended to use Barton as I mentioned above. I had been thinking about Jem and another issue. I also apologize that I believed the evidence as I read it pointed to Barton as the murderer even though it was not spelled out in this section. I believed there was enough circumstantial evidence that it was ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ as they say🙃, obviously I would have lost that trial!!


message 12: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
The author seems to focus on John's extremely odd behaviour on the night he leaves for his mission. Could he be the murderer?


message 13: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 752 comments John does seem a likely choice, but why? Did he find out Henry was pursuing Mary? Was he just unhinged? Or was it that drawing at the meeting?

Or a red herring? The drawing could have elected anyone, so there’s still the possibility of surprise. I also like Sally Leadbitter as a suspect.

Still, if this was Gaskell’s first novel, the obvious suspect is probably the one.


message 14: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
I also considered the possibility of a red herring.


message 15: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1932 comments Mod
I read mysteries so immediately rejected John Barton as the killer because it was so obvious😁


message 16: by Lori, Moderator (last edited Jul 25, 2018 08:09AM) (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
That's true, it could be a red herring.

I figured Harry Carson was killed by someone at the meeting, because they planned to kill someone between them, and he ended up dead. But it's also possible that the person who received the marked paper wisely decided to not act on it, and Carson was killed for an unrelated reason. I don't really think that is the case, but it's certainly possible, and a tactic that an author more experienced in writing mysteries might use.


message 17: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments Renee wrote: "John does seem a likely choice, but why? Did he find out Henry was pursuing Mary? Was he just unhinged? Or was it that drawing at the meeting?

Or a red herring? The drawing could have elected anyo..."


As to why- when I read it I thought the workers had gotten understandably upset over the drawing that Young Carson did while sitting at the back of the meeting- he made fun of their torn clothes, how thin they were, etc. I think this angered the men , as in the straw that broke the camels back. They’ve been through enough already that they blame on Sr. And Jr. Carson. That drawing is what started the discussion that the masters need to go. If it had not been the picture, something else would have probably set them off. All of this is in my opinion, of course. That’s what these questions are about. I love reading what you all think.


message 18: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
I think that picture of Carson's was such an insult to the workers, since they were starving because of the actions of people like him.


message 19: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments @Rosemarie- Don’t you think he knew He should be ashamed since he threw it in the fire without showing his friends or his dad? It must have been pretty good if people could recognize the people he was drawing.


message 20: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
Or he may not have considered it important enough to keep. He was a thoughtless young man, but didn't really deserve to be murdered.


message 21: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 752 comments That’s a perfect word for him.


message 22: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1932 comments Mod
I think I would go beyond thoughtless-both in the way he was planning to treat Mary (and he should know what would happen to a girl who lost her reputation) and that he seemed to take the hardest line against the workers even while mocking their obvious poverty and starvation. He also seemed now to be stalking Mary despite her refusal of his attentions.


message 23: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments He is definitely selfish and spoiled . I think we could think of a lot of words - this happens later but does not spoil anything- Isn’t it such great writing by Gaskell in the scene when the father describes his love and grief. She wrote so many beautiful passages on human nature.


message 24: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
Frances wrote: "I think I would go beyond thoughtless-both in the way he was planning to treat Mary (and he should know what would happen to a girl who lost her reputation) and that he seemed to take the hardest l..."

Yes, and he said she'd be his whether she wanted or not. Sounds like a threat of rape. Though I didn't agree with killing him, I wasn't sorry to see him die.


message 25: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Life has gotten in the way, so I’m just reading this section.

The anti-union stance reminds me so much of today especially where profits have drastically increased, yet wages have not. In fact wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living.

While the violence against the workers willing to cross the strike is abhorrent, it still exists today. I once worked as a management person in a company that had a union. Management took the place of the union workers during a strike to help customers. We were spit at, things thrown at us, and one management person was killed.

Young Carson is more than thoughtless and selfish. He’s greedy with a cruel streak. I don’t think he has any shame at all.

I think the killer could be any of those at the meeting. Like Frances, I read mysteries and rarely is it ever the most obvious.


message 26: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
Young Carson cares for only thing- gratifying his desires. He really has no idea how his workers live, and doesn't care. His drawing was disgraceful.


message 27: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments Deborah wrote: "Life has gotten in the way, so I’m just reading this section.

The anti-union stance reminds me so much of today especially where profits have drastically increased, yet wages have not. In fact wag..."


I agree with your comment on mysteries and I always guess wrong! Haha!! But I saw this as a literary work, not a mystery, and it made me look at it completely different as most others , I guess... I thought there was no reason to trick us , but rather it was better to present things the way the were and let us ask why about that, rather study the truth of things.


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