Elizabeth Gaskell: Wives and Daughters

(2635 words)
  • Josie Billington (University of Liverpool)

The setting for Wives and Daughters is provincial Hollingford, and its heroine, Molly Gibson, is daughter of the respected local doctor, Mr Gibson, a widower since Molly’s infancy. The main impetus for the story is the doctor’s decision to re-marry in order to provide his vulnerable daughter with a mother. His choice of wife, Mrs Kirkpatrick, a widow and former governess for Lord and Lady Cumnor, the local aristocracy, is happy to be released from the drudgery of keeping herself and her daughter by running a minor, unsuccessful school. But she is far from being a match for the doctor in intellectual and moral seriousness. While there are “no outrageous infractions of domestic peace”, the strain between the couple shows e…

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Billington, Josie. "Wives and Daughters". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 09 February 2007
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=8841, accessed 01 October 2016.]