The aim of the study is to examine Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (1853) to explore to what extent the novel develops a proto-feminist voice through the lives of the female characters. The novel is set in Cranford, inhabited by a group of women limiting themselves into the strict cultural norms of the Victorian period. It presents a patriarchal way of life in contrast to Amazon-like town lives of the women. The Cranfordian ladies are away from being a female community liberated them from patriarchy; conversely, they form just a feminine community that maintains a unity among themselves with patriarchal teachings in their conventional lives by limiting themselves and escaping from capitalist effects even though they end up with interfering with men and capitalism. They lead their lives in accordance with the patriarchal norms because of their marriages or their fathers. Therefore, the study reveals that it is the ladies themselves who oppress each other and make their own lives difficult with their tough social rules. Thus, it indicates that the female characters in the novel do not evoke proto-feminist voice; however, the novel calls the female reader for a feminist action with the ironic portrayal of the patriarchal oppression which the Victorian women put themselves under.

Elizabeth Gaskell, Proto-Feminist, Oppression, Patriarchy, the Victorian Period