North and South (N&S) is a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. There is TV adaptation of the same by BBC (2004) starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. I do not recall how I stumbled upon the novel/mini-series, it must have been around the time I was high on Mr. Darcy fever. In University, it took me ages to get the novel (hardcopy) from the library. When I eventually got hold of it, it was recalled before my time was up as other students made claims on it. Since then I must have watched the mini-series a million times, read the novel a dozen times. I read the html version on Project Gutenberg, they have great collection online. Of late, I have started listening to the audio of N&S and other classics, downloaded from YouTube.
I am glad that I watched the BBC miniseries before I read the book, the mental picture/visual I got of Mr. Thornton was that of Richard Armitage. I think Mr. Thornton has outwitted/outshined Mr. Darcy as period drama’s most popular hero and rightly so. People still discuss N&S as if it happened yesterday. In fact, there are many fan fiction sequels to N&S. I have read one of the sequels but couldn’t enjoy as much as I hoped to.
Well N&S is a story of two lovers, Margaret Hale and Mr. Thornton. Margaret is from the South (of England) and Mr. Thornton is a (cotton) mill owner in an industrial town in the North called Milton. Margaret Hale’s father decides to give up his clergyman job and moves to Milton to start over. Margaret, her mother and their servant Dixon accompanies him to Milton. Mr. Hale takes up a new job as a tutor in Milton and Mr. Thornton becomes one of his pupils and a proper one, he comes to study Latin and Greek literature at the Hales’ home after his day job. Margaret and the mill owner takes instant dislike to each other initially; she hates his guts and he hates her pride and snobbishness. Things change overtime of course. In N&S, Elizabeth Gaskell has illustrated the life style difference between the North and the South. While Milton North is full of working class people, their living condition is mere poverty but they work hard mostly in the mills, even the children work their share. Whereas, in the South, people indulge in entertainment such as social gatherings and dancing etc.
Margaret and Mrs. Hales sees themselves as socially superior to the Milton people even Mr. Thornton. They consider trade (business) as beneath them and scorns those who are involved in trade. For Margaret this feeling change overtime. She keeps herself busy by making friends among the working class. One friend is Bessy Higgins and her father Nicholas Higgins. She often takes food to them and their neighbor the Bouchers with six little children. Mr. Thornton is often seen at the Hales’ house for his lesson with Mr. Hale. He and Margaret argues about almost everything yet she admires his knowledge of the world and he likes her lady like grace. The chemistry between the two is evident although they do not admit anything.
Due to poor medical technology then many people die; first it was Bessy Higgins, followed by Mr. and Mrs Boucher, Jane’s lover, Mrs. Hale, Mr. Hale and Mr. Bell too. Although, in the miniseries, Mr. Bell doesn’t die, he goes to Argentina to live. Therefore, the story has elements of tragedy, comedy, romance etc. About the same time, the workers strike and the mills close for certain period of time. During at time, Mr. Thornton proposes to Margaret, she rejects him but regrets immediately afterwards.
To be continued — to be edited —