Cranford | Study Guide

Elizabeth Gaskell

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Cranford | Character Analysis

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Miss Jenkyns

Miss Jenkyns is a very opinionated, domineering woman with a strict sense of propriety and a keen awareness of social stratification. She leads a small group of women who get together often for tea and cards. Miss Jenkyns sets the rules of their interactions and unhesitatingly directs her younger sister Miss Matty's behavior and choices. When Miss Jenkyns passes away, her presence remains because her rules and proclamations are still followed.

Miss Matty

Miss Matty demurs to her sister Miss Jenkyns even after her death. She is very concerned about doing things properly and without harming anyone else. Miss Matty is held in high regard within her circle of acquaintances and is adored by her housekeeper Martha. Miss Matty and the narrator are very close and the narrator is a frequent guest in Miss Matty's home.

The narrator

The narrator lives in a large town with her father but she frequents Cranford often enough that she is an accepted member of the aristocratic inner circle. The narrator and Miss Matty have a close relationship and the narrator is often privy to Miss Matty's thoughts and motivations. When Miss Matty struggles financially, the narrator takes initiative and acts as a moderator to strengthen Miss Matty's position.

Miss Pole

Miss Pole is a strong-willed spinster who tends to embellish the facts. She believes herself to be quite familiar with men despite never being married or courted. Miss Pole often gives Miss Matty advice and is responsible for arranging a reunion between Miss Matty and her one-time love Mr. Holbrook. She enlists the narrator for help in guiding Miss Matty toward being an independent woman after her sister Miss Jenkyns's death.

Mr. Holbrook

Mr. Holbrook is a lifelong bachelor who once courted Miss Matty. After Miss Jenkyns's death, Mr. Holbrook's cousin Miss Pole arranges for Mr. Holbrook and Miss Matty to be reunited. The ladies go to Mr. Holbrook's farm for dinner and he asks Miss Matty to stuff his pipe which was considered to be a great honor when they were younger. After the dinner Mr. Holbrook expresses an interest in seeing Miss Matty again but he also determines to fulfil a lifelong dream and visit Paris. Shortly after his return, he passes away and leaves Miss Matty heartbroken.

Mrs. Jamieson

Mrs. Jamieson is considered by the other ladies of Cranford to be the authority on propriety and social standards. She is consulted on etiquette and procedures. Mrs. Jamieson also determines who can be allowed into their inner circle and who cannot. She is a proponent of a stratified social ladder and when adjustments must be made to her standards she provides complicated reasons which the other ladies do not claim to understand well enough to dispute.

Peter

As a young man, Peter delights in carrying out elaborate pranks. He dresses in Miss Jenkyns's clothes and parades around the yard pretending to hold an infant. Peter's father Mr. Jenkyns is mortified and he publicly beats Peter. Peter runs away and joins the military. He comes home briefly but is recalled and presumed dead. Decades later he is prompted by a letter from the narrator to return to Cranford. He is reunited with Miss Matty and becomes an accepted member of the Cranford elite.

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