Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Hollingford. English provincial town that provides the main setting in which country life and her central figures interact as their stories unfold. Molly Gibson, the central figure and moral fulcrum of the novel, lives her whole sheltered life in Hollingford, growing up in a single-parent home. Mr. Gibson, her father, a well-known and respected doctor, is usually seen making his rounds with house calls, up and down many dirt roads, from morning until evening. Although he is not a native of the town, his practice and domestic life are here. Molly Gibson herself is greatly attached to the town. However, her father, as a man of scientific and rational bent, has little patience and energy for the rustic and parochial manners and peculiarities of the locals. He lives there primarily for the sake of his daughter, for all she knows and is conversant with is in Hollingford. However, despite her familiarity with the town and its people, she is often susceptible to her own timidity and modesty because Hollingford is a small community of simple people.

Hollingford is representative of many English country towns with old but fading aristocracies; its leading citizens are the count and countess Cumnor. Other residents include figures such as the two Misses Browning, as typical of small English country towns. These women represent the past, frowning here and there with disapproval at change.

Hollingford is a rather dull and...

(The entire section is 570 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cecil, David. Early Victorian Novelists: Essays in Reevaluation. London: Constable, 1934. Establishes Gaskell’s importance in comparison with the other great Victorian novelists. Contains a lengthy essay on Gaskell, including critical discussion of Wives and Daughters.

Gérin, Winifred. Elizabeth Gaskell: A Biography. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1976. A highly personal rather than scholarly discussion of Gaskell’s work. Includes a chapter on Wives and Daughters.

Horsman, Alan. The Victorian Novel. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1990. Includes a chapter on Gaskell, in which Horsman analyzes the way she discussed the problems of a changing society in her work. Analysis of Wives and Daughters emphasizes the effect of outsiders in a self-contained society.

Lansbury, Coral. Elizabeth Gaskell. Boston: Twayne, 1984. A chapter considers Wives and Daughters in detail.

Lansbury, Coral. Elizabeth Gaskell: The Novel of Social Crisis. London: Elek, 1975. Evaluation of Gaskell’s work. Emphasizes the economic and social aspects of Wives and Daughters.

Rathburn, Robert C., and Martin Steinmann, eds. From Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1958. A collection of essays. Includes a chapter on Gaskell by Yvonne French, who presents an overview of Gaskell’s life and work and gives a balanced analysis of Wives and Daughters.

Rubenius, Aina. The Woman Question in Mrs. Gaskell’s Life and Works. 1950. Reprint. New York: Russell & Russell, 1973. Discusses women’s issues and focuses on the treatment of these matters in Wives and Daughters.