Mary Barton first appeared in 1848, and has since become one of the best known novels on the 'condition of England', part of a nineteenth-century British trend to understand the enormous cultural, economic and social changes wrought by industrialization. Gaskell's work had great importance to the labour and reform movements, and it influenced writers such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle and Charlotte Bronte. The plot of Mary Barton concerns the poverty and desperation of England's industrial workers. Fundamentally, however, it revolves around Mary's personal conflicts. She is already divided between an affection for an industrialist's son, Henry Carson, and for a man of her own class, Jem Wilson. But Mary's conflict escalates when her father, a committed trade unionist, is asked to assassinate Henry, who is the son of his unjust employer.