Thomas Cooper, “Merrie England’—No More!”
What are some implications of the title? What was “Merrie England”?
Who seems the audience for this short “story”?
Cooper founded and edited three radical newspapers for working people in the industrial Leicester area of central England, a center of the hosiery (stocking) trade. How may the story’s content and manner have been affected by the desire to appeal to such readers?
Do you find any significance in the fact that the story takes place in the year in which Cooper was arrested and imprisoned?
Are the events of the story far in the readers’ past? What seem the economic conditions at the time?
Is the story's setting important? Unusual? (open streets)
What is the most important incident of the plot? What causes the reader to have sympathy for John and his family?
How are the working people of the story presented? Are they moral? Simple-minded? Uninformed? Cohesive?
Which topics of debate and conversation seem most important to the working people of the story? What views are suggested about the purpose of the use of religious doctrines to defend class difference?
What is the point of the debate about “moral force” vs. “physical force”? Which side of the argument seems presented as more reasonable?
What is the narrator’s role in the story? Does this change?
What arguments are used against the sincerity of religious practitioners?
What is surprising about the ending? What happens to its characters? Is its lack of closure anti-climactic? Modern? Thought provoking?
To what extent is this story successful as an argument? Where might you find similar stories today?
Ernest Jones, Woman’s Wrongs: “The Poor Man’s Wife”
Jones published Woman’s Wrongs as a serial in his newspaper, “Notes to the People” (1851). How may this story have been influenced by its circumstances of publication and intended audience?
What are differences in Jones’ approach from that of Cooper? What are some contrasts in tone and emphasis? Some similarities in topic and theme?
According to his preface, what does Jones believe should be the role of fiction?
How is the readers’ response to the events of the story affected by the title, “The Wrongs of Woman”? How are the problems of lower-class women emphasized in the story? What kind of reforms do these prompt the reader to desire?
How is Margaret Haspen characterized? At what points of the story does she show unusual resolution?
How is John Haspen presented? Which is more important to the story, or do they form a compound protagonist? Is their shared importance to the story effective in making the author’s point about the problems of poor wives and mothers?
What sequence of events causes the Haspen family’s downfall? Is Haspen entirely to blame? Is the reader expected to feel sympathy for him?
How are class differences presented?
What roles do Latchman and Barrowson play in the story? The Haspens’ children Catherine and Mary?
Would you describe this story as melodramatic? Are its melodramatic features helpful or harmful in creating its effects?
What are features of the execution scene and its aftermath? How does the author intend for the reader to respond?
What does the story present as the sources of prostitution? Would this have been a common middle-class view in the literature of the time?
Are there potential tensions between the attempted feminist and working-class sympathies of the plot? If so, why may this be so? Do we view John Haspen more as a domestic tyrant or an oppressed worker?
Which of these two stories do you think is more effective in conveying its message? As a story?