Saturday, 23 November 2013

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell





North and South is Elizabeth Gaskell's second social novel, and fourth romance.

With it, the author gives us a perfect description of the discrepancies between the South,with his quieter way of living, and the industrialized North.

The relations between the work force and the factories masters are at the fulcrum point of the story. Such as the problems that arise between them. The contrast between the emerging middle class of self made man _ as is Mr. Thornton's case _ and the poor working class who tend to be disregarded as just another cog in the wheel.
At a time where these people's own humanity tended to be forgotten, the Hales, an ex clergyman, his wife, and their daughter Miss Margaret Hale arrive at Milton, where Mr. Hale is determined to make a new living for themselves.

I'm afraid this last sentence may induce you in error.

I don't see Mr. Hale as a non conformed man. He didn't uproot his family in order to make a difference in Milton. He moved to Milton because it was easier for him, since he could rent a house there who belonged to a friend of his! (law of the lesser effort...)

I'm afraid Mr. Hale didn't win my respect throughout this book. He was a poor excuse of a  man. Never to be bothered with life's unpleasantness, leaving his wife to collect the results of his rash decision.

Here we had a family, surviving in the country where the father used to be a clergyman. But then Mr. Hale starts having doubts regarding his faith....which could be explained by not having anything to do!!

So without talking with his wife, who was already sick and tired of her small, boring, barely surviving country life, he decides to move them to some place who couldn't be different from their Helstone house.
An industrialized city with its polluted air...can you see where this is going, right?

Through this the author gives us many descriptions on how Margaret Hale takes all of this in stride.

It isn't fair to compare a novel written almost two hundred years ago with our set of values. I'm perfectly aware of that.
But it would also be hypocrite of my part to not point out what I disliked on account of this being a classic.

As such i disliked the preachy tone of the novel. Something to be expected, since Elizabeth Haskell belonged to a Christianity branch called Unitarianism.

Then Margaret Hale's character is cast as almost an angel in this novel.

But I'm afraid she didn't get any points with me. Basically because during most of the novel, I didn't felt the character's growth. She behaved as what was to be expected of her.
For instance, I didn't feel her friendship with Bessy. For me, it just felt like charity.

She starts out as this proud young lady (a female version of Mr. Darcy) with her prejudices and upper class way of thinking, and in that way, she continues throughout most the book.

Of course there will be a lot... A LOT... of dead people throughout the book to make her feel despondent enough to lower her expectations...
lol I'm sorry! But I can't help seeing it the way I do!

Mr. Thornton on the other hand was what saved the novel for me. As a male version of Elizabeth Bennett, he is to be disdained by the proud Miss Hale, who is appalled on receiving a marriage proposal by someone such as him! Oh, the outrage!

The way he falls in love with Margaret is a little ridiculous to be sure. And the way the author spends two or three pages on the description of his feelings a little absurd, and exaggerated. But, as I've said so many times:
No internet can make a person a little insane!!

Mrs Thornton, John's mother is alongside her son, another winner in this book. She's a strong, proud character, and she makes this book stronger for it. She's like a mother lion defending her cub!

Higgins, Bessy's father also turns out to be one of the pivot characters in the story. Due to a various number of circumstances, his relationship with Margaret's father and with Mr Thornton will evolve to something unexpected. Gaskell wanted to show us the difference it makes, when one just listens to the other side.
And she was successful in this.

His accounts of his reunions with Mr. Thornton were even amusing (in a sort of strange way) ....two stubborn men, with different ways of thinking, and interests, who come to realize than they respect one another.
To what has the world gone to?? lol

Bottom line: Not my favorite classic, although i can't help appreciate it by what it's worth: An accurate account of human and social relations throughout the industrial revolution.

As a romance, well better see the 2004 BBC adaptation with Richard Armitage! ;)


Those eyes *.* ...okay, I'm digressing!

On further note:
The City of Milton was inspired in Manchester, where Elizabeth Gaskell lived.

North and South was published or edited by Charles Dickens. The title was chosen by this one.

This was initially published as a serialized series of 20 episodes during September 1854 to January 1855. This posed some problems to the author who felt constrained in her work.

She wanted to write 22 episodes, but was "compelled to desperate compression" To limit the story to 20"

Well I have absolutely no idea about what Elizabeth Gaskell would have written in those two episodes that didn't see the light of day ._or did they? _  But had they been about Miss Hale, and her fiancée Mr. Thornton... well how can I say this..??

Dickens! You should have minded your own business!!

Then there was his complaints that he found North and South "wearisome to the last degree"

Ah! What is that expression...
Oh, I know! The pot calling the kettle...
Wearisome! This from the man who wrote Boring Expectations...Great only in his delusional mind!!


Buy "North and South"
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