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Archived Group Reads 2012 > Wives and Daughters Chapter IX The Widower and the Widow ~ Chapter XVI The Bride At Home

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) For discussion of these chapters


message 2: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Were second marriages common at this time? I felt bad for Molly it having never occured to her before, and then to have it dropped in her lap.


message 3: by Parikhit (last edited Mar 06, 2012 06:19AM) (new)

Parikhit | 22 comments Rebecca wrote: "Were second marriages common at this time? I felt bad for Molly it having never occured to her before, and then to have it dropped in her lap."

I know. It was but obvious that it will be difficult for Molly to accept a step-mother. And Mr. Gibson was agitated with her anxiety!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I think it was pretty much expected that Gibbons would remarry. He lost his wife at a young age and he did have a daughter to raise. Since many died or at least seemed to die early during Victorian times, I would think second marriages were quite common.

In Molly's case though, he seemed to marry in haste. You had to wonder why he waited so long, after all Molly was seventeen already.


message 5: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments Marialyce wrote: "In Molly's case though, he seemed to marry in haste. You had to wonder why he waited so long, after all Molly was seventeen already."

In cases where the widower did not remarry, the eldest daughter would usually take on the housekeeping responsibilities (and taking care of the younger children, if there were any), even at a very early age. I think that Dr. Gibson and Molly were very content together with this situation, and he didn't really want to remarry. However, I think that once the incident with the apprentice occurred, he suddenly realized that Molly was in a vulnerable position, given her age and the fact that he was out of the house so often. He was not a particularly romantic man, so he just kind of found the first woman he thought would be appropriate as a mother to Molly.


message 6: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Denise, Do you think he loved his first wife? I got the sense through Molly she felt he did so that he would never remarry?


message 7: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I'm beginning to think Dr. Gibson married in haste and may repent at leisure. I'm still enjoying the novel very much and speculating on romantic entanglements to come for Molly and possibly Cynthia.


message 8: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Rebecca wrote: "Were second marriages common at this time? I felt bad for Molly it having never occured to her before, and then to have it dropped in her lap."

Multiple marriages may have been common in England during this time because young deaths among women I believe would have been common there as they were here in the U.S. I have wound up researching a whole region of people here in the U.S. to do family research and there were many 2nd marriages in the early 19th century where the wife had died young due to disease/childbirth issues -- this was well before any modern medicine. (Sidenote: in some cases, the male would wind up with 15-20 living children by the later years of a second marriage.)

So I assume if in their society also second marriages were happening, it was just never a part of Molly's thinking -- a young girl might never think of it unless brought up in discussion by an adult. And so much of this story is about that issue -- created families -- that is is interesting that it just springs up, in a way, for Molly's household.


message 9: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments Rebecca wrote: "Denise, Do you think he loved his first wife? I got the sense through Molly she felt he did so that he would never remarry?"

I have to admit that I am not currently reading the book, and have only read it once, so I am working from memory. I did really love this novel.

I can think of two possibilities here: Either you're right, and he loved his first wife so much he had no interest in marrying again until he realized that it would be (in his, and society's mind) good for Molly. Or perhaps Molly just interpreted his disinterest in other women as being due to his great love for her mother, and it wasn't necessarily true.


message 10: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments The person that Mr. Graham remembers as his first love with great fondness is not Molly's mother, but someone named "Jenny". I have no idea whether we will ever learn anything more about this Jenny, but I am looking forward to finding out.


message 11: by Rebecca (last edited Mar 08, 2012 07:59AM) (new)

Rebecca Me to Be a she crops up a lot. I wondered if the reflection is a "What might have been?

Chapter 10 I thought it was sweet how Roger handled Molly. Some men now days would have run from the sobbing.

Cynthia reminds me like alot of girls who live in my town. Looking for men to take care of them so they don't have to work or so they have some one to share with financial responsibilities. It doesn't seem to involve love, commitment, companionship

Molly's comments on her "being pretty". Betty saying Fine feathers make fine birds. Is that along the lines of the clothes make the man?

Cynthia's true colors are showing but so are Mr Gibson's. I wonder whose will be more accepted?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I don't know whether Ms Gaskell intended Chapter 10 to be a bit whimsical, but I Coukd not help but laugh at bit at how Dr Gibson and Hyacinth (love that name...) fell into the marriage discussion. The back and forthing in Hyacinth's mind conversation struck my funny bone. Dr Gibson seemed ready/not ready and kind of tripped stumbled into a proposal. This will not be a marriage of passion will it?

However, Molly certainly had a bit of a crying jag over the whole thing. She realizes that she will no longer be the only "girl" in Dr Gibson's life. I felt her to be spoiled and unwilling to be a bit happy for her father. Yes, he was marrrying to provide a mother figure for Molly, but maybe Hyacinth will provide some comfort as well to Dr Gibson. (although I tend to doubt that!)

Roger does come through for Molly and my hope is that they will find something together, perhaps not love(although that is what I am hoping for), but at least friendship.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Well so far I don't like molly's new mother. Molly is seventeen let her alone leave her room they way she likes it. Her father should say something but As of right know I don't think he will. Though I have to say Molly can keep her temper I would have blown up right at the beginning.
I think Molly's father just married quickly becouse he thought his daughter needed a mother. As I have already said she is seventeen she really does not need a mother she had her nurs. Till new stepmother gut read of her.


message 14: by Jane (new)

Jane (janesteen) | 20 comments Victorian fiction is full of men remarrying. Due to the prevalence of home births, no contraception leading to frequent pregnancies, the state of scientific knowledge about bacteria and no antibiotics, women frequently died in childbirth, died shortly after from infections, or were rendered invalids and died fairly young. It wasn't that unusual for a man to marry twice or even three times!

So Mr. Gibson (not Dr. Gibson, it's interesting to note) is being rather unusual by waiting several years to remarry. Which I attribute partly, perhaps, to his character, but mostly I think because he and Molly fall into an "in between" class, as Mrs G. makes very clear. As a professional man he's socially superior to most of the village people, but he's not the social equal of the Hamleys (even though they're just country squires) and he's way below the earl's family. He's very limited as to his choices; as a sensible man he'd try to avoid marrying down, and marrying up would be extremely unlikely.

I think Victorian readers would have interpreted both Mr. Gibson and Mrs. Kirkpatrick as social climbers, examples of the new middle classes that were beginning to become a strong social force. I noted that much was made of the pretentious name "Hyacinth" which the two women bear - I think it was supposed to signal social climbing to Mrs. G's readers.


message 15: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Mar 10, 2012 04:52PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Jane wrote: "Victorian fiction is full of men remarrying. Due to the prevalence of home births, no contraception leading to frequent pregnancies, the state of scientific knowledge about bacteria and no antibiot..."

Interesting is the reasons from both parties on marrying, Hyacinth's to get out of work while Gibson's to provide a mother for his daughter. Love does not seem to be a consideration.....definitely a marriage of convenience. It strikes me as being sad, with perhaps no one really happy at all with the situation.

Jamie, I don't like the new Mrs Gibson either.....she does strike me as a huge social climber type personality.


message 16: by Jane (last edited Mar 10, 2012 05:03PM) (new)

Jane (janesteen) | 20 comments Think about Jane Austen - money, social position and the family are always reasons to be taken into consideration in marriage. In Austen love tends to triumph, though. Mrs. G. obviously sees everything with a much more cynical eye! There's a distinct note of foreboding about the whole marriage...


message 17: by Nina (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments Jane wrote: "I think Victorian readers would have interpreted both Mr. Gibson and Mrs. Kirkpatrick as social climbers, examples of the new middle classes that were beginning to become a strong social force. I noted that much was made of the pretentious name "Hyacinth" which the two women bear - I think it was supposed to signal social climbing to Mrs. G's readers."

Interesting, I didn't think about the (social) climbing aspect of the name but that is a very good point. I saw it as a very flowery name to indicate Mrs Kirkpatrick's love for finery and appearances. She is very content to look pretty in a pretty room - if she tries to get Molly to do the same I expect conflicts in their future life together.

Also, it doesn't bode well that Mrs Kirkpatrick doesn't want her daughter to be present at the wedding because she fears she (Cynthia) will outshine her (Hyacinth). She is a very vain woman, isn't she? There is also a comment from Mrs Gaskell somewhere that the long separation of mother and daughter has cooled down Mrs K.'s maternal affections. Considering Mr Gibson's greatest reason for marrying was for Molly's sake, I fear he has made a bad choice. You are right, Marialyce, it wasn't exactly passionate love that brought them together.

Roger handled the crying situation very well, I think. He seems very kind and I hope he will be a good friend to Molly in this distressing time.

As for Mr Gibson and Jeanie...When he visits the Miss Brownings Mrs Gaskell mentions that his wife wasn't even his second, nor his third love. Mr Gibson is not set up as a passionate or romantic man and I wonder how he will find married life now.


message 18: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments This is OT, but all this talk about Hyacinth and social climbing keeps reminding me of Keeping Up Appearances! LOL!!! Now, there is the ultimate social climber, and she is named Hyacinth!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Oh yes, she is hysterical! Haha!


message 20: by Christyb (new)

Christyb | 44 comments This is definately not a marriage of passion, but one of convience. I just cannot like Hyacinth. She does not want her own daughter to attend the wedding for fear of being overshadowed, she used the money Mr. Gibson gave her for the wedding to pay off her debts. I think she is getting the better "deal" in all this. Mr. Gibson wants Hyacinth to "raise" Molly, but I dont see any mothering instinct in her. I really liked Roger, and the way he gave Molly advice. I found him to be kind and gently towards Molly.


message 21: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments Hyacinth is definitely very self-centered.


message 22: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Mar 15, 2012 04:53PM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Not a motherly type whatsoever. Hyacinth is always first in her mind, not much room in her heart for anyone else....and that means her new husband., poor man.

Funny, he waited all this time to marry and then gets a real winner....That old saying holds true marry in haste, repent in leisure.


message 23: by Janie (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments One reviewer claimed that Mrs Kirkpatrick's tears at the proposal, which were due to her relief that she would never have to work again, was relatable. I did not find that relatable at all. I find it kind of appalling. Its obvious from my comments in the Tess thread that I've got a little feminism in me, but I'd rather work for a living than depend on a man to provide for me... and I'm married and I've been in both situations. That bit of the plot was the nail in the coffin of my life for Mrs. Kirkpatrick. She's trouble for sure.

Gaskell is a master at writing these characters. She understands these little facets of personality so well and writes them just as well. These social and relational issues are so very relevant to our contemporary culture (at least it is to mine!).


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Janie wrote: "One reviewer claimed that Mrs Kirkpatrick's tears at the proposal, which were due to her relief that she would never have to work again, was relatable. I did not find that relatable at all. I fin..."

They definitely are, Janie....look at the people who love and watch the various housewives of........shows. Talk about a much bigger case of safety and not having to lift a finger at home philosophy!
Mrs. K marries to get out of work too just like some of these women....


message 25: by Becky (last edited Mar 16, 2012 11:45AM) (new)

Becky | 170 comments I think its important to realize that modern feminism of "work for yourself" doesn't necessarily translate well to Victorian novels. I dont think we understand just how hard they had to work, even as housewives. I highly recommend America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines for a really good understanding of wifely duties. Mrs. Kirkpatrick would have been severely limited in her legal rights as a widower, limited in the amount of money she'd be able to obtain no matter how much hard work she did, and then, there is probably the general lonliness and exhaustion that she must feel being in charge all of the time of a stressful situation. Her tears are completely excuseable in my opinion. She was broke, she is in monetary trouble, she has to pinch every penny, a marriage is the equivalent of someone writing a very large check and saying "here you are, you dont have to worry any more." They were tears of relief and possible pent-up depression (growing older while pinching pennies must be terribly distressing in a time like that).

Now I dont particularly care for Mrs. Kirkpatrick, I think she is cold. I don't think she really cares too much for her daughter, though I do think she cared for her first husband. I also find her flighty and selfish. I was absolutely furious at her for forcing Molly to change her room, she can be heartless and ruthless in promoting herself. I just don't think that her relief in finding a good match is fair. Like I said modern feminism really doesn't apply to these characters, our situations are provided for us by the hard work for hundreds and thousands of civil workers, suffragists, and women's rights movement workers to create a society where we have opportunity beyond marriage. I work, I was in the Army for 8 years, I will always work rather than depend on my husband, but that doesn't mean we cannot show some sympathy to these women who were literally bound by the society they were in.

I really don't care that much for Mr. Gibson. He seems cold and withdrawn too. I don't know if this stems from some fear of loss, or if he is just an acerbic character. I dont really foresee a very happy marriage between the two. They are perfect strangers in every respect. I can't fathom engaging someone who I knew nothing about.

Molly as always is a charm. I really love this central character, she is a bit more vivacious than some of Gaskell's other protagonists. I really like Roger too, he seems good natured, and kind. I look forward to more character development between him and Osborne. They seem to really care about something, but I sense between all their silent communications, that there is something the audience doesn't know yet?


message 26: by Becky (new)

Becky | 170 comments ((( Also, I don't mean to derail the subject, but for the readers that are finding that feminist streak in them, I also really suggest the book A History of the Wife, it is absolutely fascinating, and has really opened my eyes a lot when reading any sort of classic)))


message 27: by Janie (new)

Janie (justjanie) | 57 comments Thanks for the book suggestion, Becky. I fully admit to reading from my own contemporary semi-feminist viewpoint and not totally understanding where they were coming from. Maybe I'll understand by the end of the novel, but that reaction just triggered a reaction in me... as I sit here in 2012 as I read my book after a long day on the job. ;) I'll definitely check out A History of the Wife. It sounds fascinating.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Thanks Becky! It has always been my issue with reading Vic lit that the woman characters seem so wishy washy (to my 21st century eyes of course.) I will be on the lookout for those two books you mentioned.


message 29: by Becky (last edited Mar 16, 2012 11:59AM) (new)

Becky | 170 comments Those are two of my favorite books ever, history or non. Before them I studied military/maritime history rather exlusively, now I'm obsessed with women's history and medical history.

Yes I think we all want to throttle them sometimes :D. Its impossible to miss coming from today. My issue is usually with their extreme devotion and faith, because it always acts of some deus ex machina, rather than as a simple plot point. And, like I said, I dont like Mrs Kirkpatrick, I want to slap her, hard. The further I go int he book the better the word "detest" seems to describe my feelings. I do love Molly though.


message 30: by Julie (new)

Julie (juliemoncton) | 31 comments Marialyce wrote: "...However, Molly certainly had a bit of a crying jag over the whole thing. She realizes that she will no longer be the only "girl" in Dr Gibson's life. I felt her to be spoiled and unwilling to be a bit happy for her father. ...."

Marialyce - So glad you mentioned about Molly's behavior. She seems to cry VERY easily. Although I agree with other people's opinion that she is very sweet, she has no backbone. Both she and Tess seem to be very passive and let others direct their lives. In Molly's defense, she is honest and loyal to her friends, but she seems a bit weepy and I wish she had more spunk like other Victorian heroines (Jane Eyre or Maggie Tolliver). I like Hyacinth's daughter Cynthia more.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Julie, I, too, like women who have some spunk in them. I think Molly is very sweet too, but sometimes a person can be too sweet I think. Cynthia is more worldly, a stronger person I believe. She could withstand a lot, while Molly seems to be the type that would fall apart at the least resistance.


message 32: by Janice (JG) (last edited Mar 30, 2012 07:44PM) (new)

Janice (JG) Thank you for the book recommendations, Becky -- they sound fascinating and I'm looking forward to sharing them with my daughters.


message 33: by Sera (new)

Sera There is a reference to Mr. Gibon having had more than one love in addition to his first wife. Now I really want to hear about this backstory.

Mr. Gibson and Hyacinth also allude to the fact that they do have some romantic feelings for each other but they are definitely secondary to their other motives.

Hyacinth is a horrible mother and person. I kept trying to find acceptable reasons for her behavior but I was unsuccessful.

Also, what do you think of Harriet? She's awful, too, and look at who had responsibility for raising her - Hyacinth!


message 34: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments Oh, I don't know. I grew very fond of Harriet as the book progressed. Admittedly, I doubt that Hyacinth had much of an influence on Harriet's redeeming qualities.

Wait and see.


message 35: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments Hyacinth is horrible, but I found her very amusing.


message 36: by Sera (new)

Sera I'll stay open-minded about Harriet :)


message 37: by V.R. (new)

V.R. Christensen (vrchristensen) I LOVE Harriet! I find her inspiring. My own Claire Montegue is shaped after her. I think she's wonderful!


message 38: by Denisa (new)

Denisa Dellinger | 3 comments This is my favorite Gaskell book. I love Molly. In the beginning there was a party at the estate and She met Hycenth for the first time. The ride home with her father on the back of the horse after she had fallen asleep, was so sweet. Molly told her father that she wanted to be tied to him or some such phrase. She didn't want to be apart from him. Her father was gentle and loving. He picked one of the worst women he could to marry. She had him fooled. The best thing about the marriage was having Cynthia as a sister. She was so different and she came with a secret and a little scandal, which made the story interesting. But she loved Molly. I hated that the step mother got rid of her mothers things and remade her bedroom with out telling her.


message 39: by Denise (new)

Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments Denisa, this is my favorite Gaskell so far, too! I think that Molly and Cynthia were both better off with someone to be a friend and sister.


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