"ECONOMY." writes William Cobbett in Cottage Economy (1821-22), "means management, and nothing more; and it is generally applied to the affairs of a house and family, which affairs are an object of the greatest importance, whether as relating to individuals or a nation." Due to the influence of the dismal science of political economy, the nineteeth century witnessed a narrowing of this concept to denote a specialized instrumentality rather than the integrated totality formerly encompassed by the term. In the novels of Mrs. Gaskell the standard of "economy" is applied in its older, undissociated sense, encompassing the regulation, rather than the mutually exclusive demarcation, of material and moral life. Throghout Gaskell's fiction the rightness or the wrongness of a household usually finds its objective correlative in the manifest management of that household. In Cranford (1853) everything from managing household expenditures to managing one's life is regualted by considerations of economy. The innumerable "small economies" practiced by Gaskell's characters are among innumerable such arrangements forming the larger social and narrative economy of Cranford/Cranford. Minor though they might seem, the sundry small events of village life are the principal on which Cranford draws for its barely eventful subsistence. In the same way, Cranford's narrative reflects the formal properties of economy. What finally emerges from his management of a slender store of incident is the identity between the local economy of Cranford/Cranford and larger fictional economies underlying Gaskell's narrative.
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