[From "'What Must Not be Said': North and South and the Problem of Women's Work," by Catherine Barnes Stevenson]

Catherine Barnes Stevenson, writing of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, states:

There is an essential evasion, a silence, at the heart of Gaskell's text. The mechanism of repression, however, is not the subconscious, and the repressed content is not female lust. . . . What "must not be said" in North and South is that women work for money as factory laborers and as authors. That forbidden speech structures the novel's representations, leaving its traces in the text in the characterizations of Margaret Hale and Bessy Higgins and in the conflicts women experience between speaking the truth and fulfilling family obligation. This silence, when interrogated, is eloquent: it speaks about the actual deceptions depicted by the novels plot, about the effects on the text of its mode of production as a weekly serial for Dickens's Household Words, about the middle-class woman writer's problematic attitude toward working-class women as well as toward her own status as a worker.


Victorian Web Overview Elizabeth Gaskell North and South

Created c.1994; last modified 25 March 2000