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The Half Brothers Essay

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The narrator’s message is that nobody should ever marry anyone out of their social class. She wants the reader to be aware of this by showing the reader through the negative result of this conflict. The short story “The Half Brothers” is an example of Elizabeth Gaskell’s strong moral sense and interest in the difficulties faced by ordinary people and how they have to find the strength to live their daily lives. In this story, Elizabeth expresses her concern for poverty and suffering.

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This story involved a lot of conflicts throughout and is told from the point of view of one of the brothers. He tells this story about the tragedy which caused the death of his brother.

From the beginning we find out that the narrator’s mother had not lived a very pleasant life, she was twice married and wasn’t happy with her first husband, “She never spoke of her first husband, and it is only from other people that I have learnt what little I know about him.” The first two events in the story are the death of her first husband and then the death of her little baby. The baby girl’s death had such a great impact of sorrow and pain that she couldn’t even cry or drop a tear but felt as if her heart had been torn apart.

The narrator’s mother decides to marry William Preston, clearly not for love, but for a matter of survival, “as William Preston’s wife, she would never need to do anything.” During the Victorian period, women were viewed as weak without men because they had no status and without a man to support the household or give them that status. The Victorian Period wasn’t a perfect time to live in. Life wasn’t easy compared to how it is nowadays, especially for a single parent being a woman. William Preston became very jealous after he realised his wife loves her son more than him, “he took a positive dislike to Gregory.”

His wife died soon after giving birth to her second son(the narrator). Just before she died, she tells Gregory and her new son to look out for each other. As the two step-brothers grew up, we can see that they were two very different people. We see that the narrator was the “darling”, “the tenderly beloved,” and “the young master.” In contrast, Gregory was described as “lumpish and loutish”, “awkward and ungainly”. The narrator is given everything he wants including good education whereas Gregory is forced to work as a Sheppard. The narrator admits that he also treated Gregory badly, following his father’s example, he feels guilty, “I am ashamed my heart is sore my poor orphan stepbrother.”

One day, the narrator goes on an errand and gets lost in a snow storm. Gregory finds him and they are both lost and had to spend the whole night in the freezing cold. Gregory gave the narrator his coat and holds him to keep him warm. By the time they are discovered, Gregory had died from saving his brother. This makes William Preston feel awfully guilty. When he eventually dies he desired that “he might lie at the foot of the grave, in which, by his desire, poor Gregory had been laid with our mother”.

In comparison, the conflicts in these three stories are caused by similar events which led to conflict. It was the money problems which were the main root to these conflicts, because of money, it was essential for women in those days to marry to a man who can provide for her. In “To Please his Wife,” conflicts are shown to be most involved in Joanna and Shadrach’s marriage. The marriages have not worked because Joanna simply did not marry Shadrach for love but just over jealousy. This led to her continuous hatred of her old best friend, Emily as after she married Shadrach, Emily’s wealth was increasing compared to her.

The marriage in “The Half-Brothers” was a financial plan, it was essential that Helen remarries to a man who could provide for herself and her son, therefore the family was not bonded by love and so is weak. This shows that women of that time did not have much freedom as social and economic pressures made it hard for them to choose a single life. Similar to the couple in “To Please his Wife,” the pair in this story do not marry for love either.

Unlike the other two stories, in “The Parvenue,” the narrator in this story actually does marry for love, “my heart throbbed with gladness, as I thought that he surely loved me.” Although she and her husband were deeply in love, the marriage did not last very long before it led to conflict within the family. The marriage did not go well because of the difference between their social status. The narrator was poor and was raised up in a working class family whereas Lord Reginald is a rich wealthy man. During the Victorian period, women would be seen as weak without men because they had no status without a man to support the household to give them the name.

The writer of “The Parvenue” shows a clash of class between the two main characters, the narrator and her husband with her unappreciative family. The writer enables the reader to see in the position of the narrator by writing the short story in a first person view; this way it allows the reader to experience and acknowledge the specific problems that faced the couple. It is shown in the story that the narrator wasn’t comfortable having married a richer man of higher social class as she herself had been brought up in a lower class than her husband. Because she and her family were poor, they did not know how to handle the money, as her husband, being in the higher class didn’t understand her, this led to conflict.

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