The Uneven Relationship b/w the Employer and the Weaver in Gaskell’s Mary Barton

Excerpt: “At all times it is a bewildering thing to the poor weaver to see his employer removing from house to house, each one grander than the last, till he ends in building one more magnificent than all, or withdraws his money from the concern, or sells his mill, to buy an estate in the country, while all the time the weaver, who thinks he and his fellows are the real makers of this wealth, is struggling on for bread for his children, through the vicissitudes of lower wages, short hours, fewer hands employed, &c” (Gaskell 23).

This excerpt appears in Chapter III of Mary Barton during the narrator’s discussion of John Barton’s involvement in the Trade’s Union. In the excerpt, a multitude of commas and coordinating conjunctions such as “and” and “or” work together to create what becomes a run-on sentence of the narrator’s train of thought regarding the relationship between the employer’s splurging and the weaver’s hard work. When describing the standard employer’s lifestyle, the narrator uses words like “grand” and “magnificent,” conveying the extravagant nature of the employer’s material acquisitions, such as an “estate.” In the next section of the sentence, the narrator discusses the weaver’s perspective, and he uses terms that are indicative of lack to do so. The words “struggling”, “vicissitudes”, “lower”, “fewer” and “short” all demonstrate the weaver’s position at the short end of the stick in the wealth distribution system. While the employer reaps the benefits of the weaver’s hard work, the weaver is the fuel for a never-ending cycle from which he receives nothing.

The formation of this sentence illustrates the uneven cycle or exchange between the employer and the weaver. The description of the employer’s abundant life is substantially longer than that of the weaver’s life. The uneven nature of the descriptions, which puts more emphasis on the employer, indicates that the employer receives many more benefits from the labor cycle than the individuals who do the labor.


One thought on “The Uneven Relationship b/w the Employer and the Weaver in Gaskell’s Mary Barton”

  1. Hi bigstepper12, I really like what you are saying here. It is interesting to me how you interpreted the run on sentence. First of all, I didn’t fully notice it was there until you pointed it out. when you did, I thought that the reason Gaskell created a run on sentence was because the life of the workers seems to continue in the same way that they have always lived, impoverished. I think what you said was really interesting though because I never would have thought of it that way but it makes a lot of sense. You also see it as a never-ending cycle but we kind of see it in two ways. I viewed the cycle, at first, as only on the poor workers but including both the employers and the employees makes the analysis a lot stronger in my opinion.

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