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The Poor Clare by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

The Poor Clare

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The Poor Clare by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

“The Poor Clare” is a novella written by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, a prominent 19th century British novelist. It was first published in 1856 and is set in the small town of Eltham in Lancashire, England.

The story revolves around Margaret Dawson, a young woman who has recently become a Poor Clare nun. The Poor Clares are a strict Catholic order that is known for their devotion to a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Margaret’s decision to become a nun is met with mixed reactions from her family and the townspeople, with some viewing it as a noble sacrifice and others as a waste of potential.

As Margaret settles into her new life in the convent, she struggles with the strict rules and the isolation from the outside world. She forms a close bond with Sister Monica, an older nun who becomes her mentor and confidante. Sister Monica is a compassionate and understanding figure who helps Margaret navigate the challenges of convent life.

However, Margaret’s world is turned upside down when her brother, Edward, returns from India with his wife and young son. Edward is appalled by Margaret’s decision to become a nun and sees it as a betrayal of their family and their Protestant faith. He makes it his mission to convince Margaret to leave the convent and return home.

The tension between Margaret’s devotion to her faith and her loyalty to her family creates a conflict that drives the plot of the novella. As Margaret struggles to reconcile her love for her family with her commitment to the Poor Clare order, she begins to question the very foundations of her faith.

Gaskell’s writing is characterized by its sensitivity and attention to detail, particularly in its portrayal of the characters and their relationships. The novella is a poignant exploration of the conflict between duty and personal freedom, as well as the role of religion in shaping individual identity.

Through Margaret’s experiences, Gaskell also examines the gender dynamics of the 19th century, particularly in relation to the limited options available to women in terms of education and career choices. The novella sheds light on the expectations and restrictions placed on women during this time period and the toll it took on their mental and emotional well-being.

Overall, “The Poor Clare” is a powerful and insightful work of Victorian literature that continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of identity, faith, and family remain relevant and its vivid characters and vivid portrayal of convent life make it a compelling read for anyone interested in the history of women’s religious orders or Victorian literature.



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