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Half Brothers - How far can you sympathise with Helen, Gregory, William Preston and the narrator of the tale? How does Elizabeth Gaskell guide your response?

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HALF BROTHERS How far can you sympathise with Helen, Gregory, William Preston and the narrator of the tale? How does Elizabeth Gaskell guide your response? Out of all of the characters in the story, I think that Helen and Gregory are the two that are easiest to sympathise with. William Preston is a harder character to sympathise with. The way that Elizabeth Gaskell portrays these characters in the tale, is a great influence on these thoughts. From beginning to end, Helen seems to have led a very tragic life. The start of the story consists of a very depressing amount of death and poverty and this could trigger a sympathetic reaction from the reader. After three years with her first husband, he dies of tuberculosis and leaves her with a young child, barely able to walk and many burdens such as a lease on their farm that she is stuck with for another four years. As if that wasn't enough, half of the stock on the farm was dead and the rest had to be sold to deal with 'more pressing debts'. All this made her life very difficult as there was no immediate source of income. The way all of this information is provided to the reader is also a reason for the quantity of sympathy generated for Helen. All of these tragic events in Helen's life are included in one single sentence. ...read more.


It merely says 'In an hour, she was dead'. I think that Elizabeth Gaskell used such a short sentence to show how final her death is. Here, the reader would probably feel a lot of sympathy for Helen. Looking back over her life shows what a tragic life she led and also how selfless she was as a person. With Helen dead, Gregory was very much on his own. There is a contrast between the treatment of the narrator and the treatment of Gregory. The narrator is spoilt by William Preston, whereas Gregory is scolded. Gregory is also neglected by his Aunt Fanny. William Preston had always blamed Gregory for his mother's death and soon, a pattern appears to be forming. William Preston begins to use Gregory as a scapegoat. For example, William Preston would kick Gregory's dog Lassie, Lassie would yelp and Gregory would be blamed for not training the dog correctly. This generates a lot of sympathy for Gregory because there is hardly ever a reference by Elizabeth Gaskell to him actually doing something wrong. Elizabeth Gaskell also makes references to people's opinions of Gregory and they also generate sympathy for him. For example, he is described as 'lumpish, loutish, awkward and ungainly' and there is repetition of the words 'stupid' and 'dull' because he doesn't do well at school. He is also considered to be stupid and certainly not handsome. ...read more.


I think to blame the narrator would be very harsh. Overall, I think that all characters can be sympathised with to a certain extent. In my opinion, Gregory is the easiest to sympathise with because of the way the story is written. It is obvious by the styles used, that Elizabeth Gaskell wants the reader to feel sympathy for Gregory. After Helen's death, there is hardly ever any reference to Gregory, unless he is being badly treated or involved in an undesirable situation. This gives the impression that he is always involved in such things and leads an unhappy life. Helen is another character that is easy to sympathise with. She seems to lead a very tragic life, with the death of her husband, then her daughter, the misery of her marriage with William Preston and finally she dies herself. Elizabeth Gaskell also wants the reader to sympathise with her and uses similar styles to gain the desired sympathy. Because the narrator gives opinions in the story I think he can be sympathised with to a certain extent. I think the main reason behind the feelings towards the narrator are triggered by the self criticism involved. William Preston is definitely the hardest character to sympathise with. Although he expresses his regrets after Gregory's death, his previous actions have to be brought into account and I think that he does more wrong than right in the story. Elizabeth Gaskell portrays him as a selfish character and I think that this is the main reason why he is hard to sympathise with. ...read more.

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