Last Updated on May 26, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 618
Mary Smith is the young narrator of Cranford. The events of the novel are colored by Smith’s worldview, which is characteristically genteel and rural in nature. While Smith is not a permanent resident of Cranford, she visits the town quite often.
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Mild-mannered and passive, Matilda is a spinster who allowed her older sister Deborah to dictate her affairs. The death of her sister leaves Matilda helpless, as she had never lived independently. She highly values the codes of propriety that define “ladies” and “gentlemen,” and she requires much convincing before she consents to sell tea to support herself, which she at first feels is degrading. She relies heavily on her friends and is very much afraid that the decrease in her fortunes after her bank closes will result her being unable to see them anymore.
Thomas was once in love with Matilda, but she believed that she was first and foremost responsible for caring for her mother and thus refused his advances. He lacks the confidence to repeat his advances when he returns to the village after Matilda’s mother dies.
Miss Pole and Mrs. Forrester
Miss Pole and Mrs. Forrester are the closest friends Matilda has in the village, and they stay loyal to her despite her decline in fortunes.
Peter is Matilda and Deborah's brother. He was once a devious young man who played a trick on his mother and was sent to India by his father as punishment. His years of banishment appear to have mellowed him, as he sacrifices everything in order to return to England and support Matilda.
Glenmire is a kind and gentle woman who, unlike her snobbish sister-in-law Mrs. Jamieson, thinks little of her class. The other women of the village consider her to be approachable and relatable; she marries a doctor, a man beneath her in terms of social position, demonstrating her egalitarian principles.
Mr. Hoggins is a doctor in the village. As one of the few men in a community of women, Mr. Hoggins is not involved much in the ladies' society due to his gender; therefore, he tends to keep to himself.
Deborah has a hard and calculating mind, which enables her to handle both her own affairs and those of her younger sister, Matilda. Though she does not quite have her sister’s intellect, her self-confidence enables her to be a leader among the other spinsters until her death.
One of the few married women in the village, Mrs. Jamieson thinks of herself as somewhat above her friends, and she only grudgingly invites them to a dinner party where her noble sister, Lady Glenmire, is expected. She feels little familial loyalty, dismissing Glenmire as having poor taste when she marries a doctor. However, she remains the social leader of the spinsters—perhaps because of her status as a married woman.
While he does not quite live up to the spinsters' notion of gentility, Captain Brown is a selfless man who suffers because his elder daughter has a terminal illness. He dies when he is hit by a train while attempting to rescue a child from the vehicle’s path.
Mary Brown is Captain Brown's elder daughter. She has a good heart but is distressed—and, by consequence, irritable—due to the pain of her illness and her knowledge of her impending death. The spinsters show their kind nature in pushing past this irritability and helping her.
Jessie is Captain Brown's younger daughter. She is left without any family following the deaths of her father and sister, but she does have the sympathy of the spinsters and the love of Major Gordon, whose proposal she gladly excepts.