For anyone who has had the courage to read all 644 pages of the novel “Wives & Daughters” by Elizabeth Gaskell you may be surprised by two things. First that a novel published in 1866 would have such modern appeal. And second that I chose to do a character review on Mrs. Gibson and not the two younger heroines Molly Gibson and Cynthia Kirkpatrick. But in my modest estimation I feel that Mrs. Gibson has the most cross over appeal, let me explain why.
(Role # 1: Being a 2nd Wife) Close your eyes and imagine that your husband likes you but does not love you. Imagine that he has only married you to provide a mature female influence for his own daughter Molly. Open your eyes because that is reality if you are Mrs. Gibson.
(Role # 2: Being a Stepmother) Immediately upon her marriage Mrs. Gibson becomes both a stepmother and a Dr.’s wife. Meaning she has taken on the responsibility of a 17 year old girl who hardly knows her, and she is married to a man who will be consistently absent and preoccupied with the vast medical needs of the community. This would be challenging enough but one must consider that Mrs. Gibson has a daughter of her own.
(Role # 3: Working Mom) Mrs. Gibson’s life took an unexpected turn when her first husband died leaving her with the financial burden of supporting both herself and her daughter. No time for grieving allowed. And what is more she could only assume one of the only respectable trades available for women at that time, being a governess. This required her to dote and care for the children of the wealthy while placing her own child at a boarding school. What single working mother can not relate to the feelings of guilt that would plague her at times?
Regardless of our age and position most women naturally want to enjoy the honeymoon phase of our marriage. But if you are Mrs. Gibson you would have to face the realization that your husband views you as a mere companion. Your stepdaughter tolerates you only for the sake of her beloved father, and you have a daughter who bears the scars of abandonment. You try to mother your stepdaughter and she resents it. You try to reconnect with your daughter and she is a stranger. And to make things worse the entire village views you as a modern day equivalent of a gold digger!
Nevertheless, despite her many foibles I have so much respect for the way Mrs. Gibson navigates life’s many challenges. Mrs. Gibson is the epitome of ambition and resilience and that is why I have chosen to do a character review featuring Mrs. Gibson and all her modern day counterparts!
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