Based in the industrial unrest of 1840s Manchester, Mary Barton is a factory-worker's daughter living a working-class life. She soon attracts the attentions of the mill-owner's son, Harry Carson, and in the hope that marrying him will improve her prospects and help her to transcend class boundaries, she rejects her former lover Jem Wilson. However, when Harry is shot the main suspect is Jem and Mary finds herself torn between the two men. Gaskell's heartfelt exploration of the oppression of the working class laments the lack of communication and mistrust that can arise through such vast differences in lifestyle and wealth.
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