Gaskell, Thackeray, and Joyce
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This study notes that Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Wives and Daughters presents an ambiguous assessment of the involuntary charm of Cynthia (the daughter): it is natural to her and not subject to judgment since she cannot help having it, yet the effects that it has and the mischief it causes are shown to be morally reprehensible—effects that Thackeray might have found comical. James Joyce has nothing good to say about charm; it’s actually factitious and rather annoying. In a sense, it does not really exist since it is always transparently vulgar or commercial. Joyce has his Bloom reducing the charm of music to a numbers game, enjoyable up to a point, but at the same time foolish. Where Gaskell is ambiguous, Joyce is ambivalent.