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Family and Society in the Works of Elizabeth Gaskell

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E. Holly Pike

Most studies of Elizabeth Gaskell's fiction have concentrated on her «social problem novels,» with some attention being given to her «comic novels» as a separate body of work. This analysis of Gaskell's fiction argues that these seemingly disparate works deal with the same theme: the proper constitution of society. Through a discussion of nineteenth-century ideas about social structures and an examination of Gaskell's major works, this study traces the change in Gaskell's conception of the ideal structure of society and shows her development as a realist novelist.