1. When was this story written? What themes and values underlie its unfolding? How unconventional do you think the narrator's point of view would have been at the time?
  2. Does "Lizzie Leigh" represent themes found in other Gaskell stories and novels? (the need for mercy and forgiveness, displacement, orphans, the importance of everyday events)
  3. What purpose is served by opening the story with the father's death and mother's grief? What associations are evoked by the snowy Christmas season?
  4. What are some features of Elizabeth Gaskell's style? Do you think the story develops at the right pace? How is suspense created?
  5. What character contrasts are emphasized in the plot? Of what traits of character do you think the narrator approves?
  6. What assumptions does the narrator seem to make about proper female character and conduct? Would these have been values shared by others of her time?
  7. What coincidences and connections bring about the reconciliation of Lizzie and her mother?
  8. How does the behavior of Mr. Leigh, Will, Tom, Mr. Parker, Susan Parker and Mrs. Leigh affect the outcome of the plot? Which characters make contributions of which the narrator approves?
  9. What aspects of Lizzie's behavior make the reader more sympathetic toward her? What symbolic purpose may be served by the death of little Nanny? How would the ending have been affected had Nanny been permitted to live?
  10. How do the final fates of the characters reflect their lives? Are there Victorian aspects to the story's closure? Why do you think Gaskell portrays an outcome in which Lizzie Leigh remains unmarried and withdraws from all but roles of charity?
  11. Why do you think the plot element of her daughter's death is included?
  12. Does Lizzie's final fate remind you of any other stories from the same period--e. g., Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter or Esther in Gaskell's Mary Barton?
  13. Are there religious aspects to the story, and if so, what view of religion does Gaskell seem to hold? Would most/many of her audience have agreed with her?
  14. What may have been her purpose in writing this tale? Is the story didactic? Sentimental? If so, is this a flaw?
  15. How is Lancashire dialect employed throughout the tale?
  16. Can you compare the moral of this tale with that of Silas Marner? Had Eliot written this story, how might it have turned out?