Mary Barton and Her Struggle with Love and Money

     “Mary Barton”, written by Elizabeth Gaskell, is an industrial novel that not only touches on the financial statuses of the working and upper classes, but it also contains a theme of love and struggle that comes along with it with the characters of Mary Barton, Jem Wilson, and Henry Carson.  In the beginning of the novel, Mary is a bright “bonny lassie of thirteen or so, who came bounding along”, full of energy and positivity toward life (Ch. 1).  When Mary thinks of love at this point in her life, she dreams of being a married lady, rich enough from her husband’s wealth to take care of herself and receive a better standing in life, and to take care of loved ones.  She is “fond of power… [and] the money-spending”, which will later come into play with Jem Wilson and Henry Carson, a lower-class man and an upper-class man, begin to propose marriage to this young girl years later (Ch. 2).  Mary, like most young people, want to be able to have money and material items because owning items that cost money indicates your social and financial status and level of happiness, to an extent.  One aspect of her life that seems to be more important than money and material things is family.  Mary loves her father, John Barton, and she “knew his ways, and coaxed and planned for the future so cheerily” when John started to look into apprenticeships for his daughter (Ch. 3).  Mary and her father have a very close relationship, which only strengthens after the untimely death of her mother, Mrs. Mary Barton. With her growing into a young woman throughout the novel, Mary begins to think about her duty as a woman in this era, and she receives not one, but two marriage proposals from two young men in her life.  The first one to propose was Jem Wilson, a lower-class man who has a “heart as true as ever man had to love” Mary, although his financial status is on the same level of Mary (Ch. 11).  This equality of money between the two indirectly causes Mary to shut down and become agitated with Jem.  She rejects this proposal, not yet knowing her true emotions regarding Jem, determined to show the people around her who she should  marry, which is a man more similar to Henry Carson. However, as soon as Jem leaves, Mary breaks down with “her head hidden in her hands, and every part of her body shaking with the violence of her sobs” because she has realized that she truly loves Jem instead of the wealthy Henry (Ch. 11).  This is the major turning point in Mary’s love life, because shortly after, Henry comes to her with his own marriage proposal.  She immediately rejects him and his proposal, telling him to never speak to her or think of her ever again.  This shows a maturity in her emotions because she does not accept the wealthy man’s proposal over her true love’s proposal just because of the financial status.  Mary has grown from the beginning of the novel in this sense because she had planned to marry into the upper-class and has since come to the realization that marriage should occur out of love, and not money.  

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