Mrs. Gaskell’s universalist Unitarian faith is different than what I thought universalists believed. Salvation for her is wrought through the purging of sins through circumstantial suffering, instead of blanket forgiveness without repentance. If this is to occur eventually for everyone, then it seems there must be some preconceptions. I will submit a couple.
1) People sin mainly through ignorance. Mrs. Gaskell presents her harming characters as knowing not what they do.
2) Everyone has their breaking point. God knows the right amount of pressure to apply to bring each person to realization and then repentance. But does everyone really want to know their sins and then repent of them? There are two characters who do not seem to come to this realization in the scope of this book. Instead they end up separated from the community. So will separation from the people being saved be the crucible for their inevitable repentance? It is not revealed. But if she is consistent, it would have to. She seems to want to leave that question in the air, possibly in order to cause fear of certain states of thoughtlessness.
I find her view of sinners very charitable and emulatable. She seems to have a realistic grasp of human weakness. Towards the end I thought she got a little melodramatic, however. Now I’m wondering if the whole thing was, but I was unaware at first as I have a similar tendency.