A Forgotten Era: North and South

SEPT / OCT 2014: BY ROSIE WILSON

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Ah, North & South, a tale neglected in my circle of friends. The story begins with a dissenting vicar, Mr. Hale, uprooting his family’s lives in southern country Helstone and moving north to industrial Milton. His daughter Margaret struggles with leaving behind her old life. Mr. Hale, in discovering new ways to earn income, offers tutoring and meets Mr. Thornton. Cue the head-butting (or should I say sparks?) between Margaret and Thornton. The author weaves in a commentary on the industrial advancements of the age, particularly the cotton industry and the working condition for factory employees. We witness the struggle from all sides. Thornton runs the mill, Nicolas Higgins leads a union strike, Boucher is a worker negatively affected by the strike, and Margaret is moved by compassion for the starving children and families of the strikers. It was a real issue in this time period. People died because of the cotton intake into their lungs. Working conditions were a far cry from what they are today. The story wouldn’t be the same without this underlying message, and it’s addressed well.

The tale pivots and bursts with conflict as Margaret’s tale goes on. She faces many challenges such as loss, misfortune, false accusations, and internal conflict. I wish I could elaborate, but I won’t spoil it for you, so let’s talk about Margaret. Dear, dear, Margaret. Prejudiced yet kind, passionate and stubborn, these are words that describe Gaskell’s well-crafted heroine. In fact, she reminds me terribly of Lizzie Bennett in Pride & Prejudice. Not entirely but there are similarities. A trait I particularly liked in Margaret was her determination to help people such as the Higgins and later Boucher’s children, regardless of how it made her look. She also faithfully obeyed her mother and cared for her father, doing her best to bring them happiness, even though her relationship with her mother was rocky. Margaret’s actress, Daniela Denby-Ashe, did an amazing, amazing job. She became Margaret, completely embodying the character, and that’s the best praise I can personally give. I think she suits the role quite well. When I do get around to reading the book her face will be how I imagine Margaret.

Moving right along, let’s talk about Thornton! He is tall, dark, mysterious, and handsome. Clearly, he’s the model hero. Our first encounter with the puzzling mill owner leaves us unimpressed and even a little unsure if we’re supposed to like him or not. Especially when we catch him beating a worker senseless for smoking. Our opinion doesn’t change easily or quickly for us or for Margaret; but somewhere in episode two, we glimpse Thornton’s potential. Then we begin to see past his cool demeanor and into his heart. Though it doesn’t appear so at first, Thornton has a deep appreciation and care for his employees. However, he will not tolerate foolishness or less than average effort. He values integrity and hard work, and he wants his employees to respect and honor that. But here’s the sad fact, people: poor Thornton believes that no one, other than his mother, will ever love him. There is such a depth to him and such heart and soul poured into his personality. Suddenly he’s changed from the brusque man we first met. Richard presents this very well. His features and broody demeanor compliment the character. Honestly, you forget he’s Richard Armitage. He, like Daniela to Margaret, becomes Thornton.

To draw this article to a close, North & South is a stunning tale that only very few, if any, of my friends have even heard of. Its art and beauty deserves acknowledgement. It is strange to me that the many fans of Austen have not tapped into Gaskell’s masterpiece. Or maybe they have and I simply haven’t met them. This miniseries by BBC is incredibly overlooked, and well worth the four hours it takes to watch. (Trust me, once you get started it’s hard to stop!) I have watched it over and over again as the occasion called for it. Each time, I’ve delved deeper into each character and take away something different. I intend to pick up the book very soon, as I find available time, and I cannot wait. The beauty and intensity of this lovely story will stick with me for quite some time. Margaret and Thornton hold their place as one of my favorite literary couples of all time. If you haven’t heard of North & South, I encourage you to check it out. You won’t regret it. ♥

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Rosie Wilson is a college senior with a passion for the written word. In the last few years she has rediscovered her childhood love for reading, and now she blogs at Writings of Rosie. It is her greatest pleasure to endorse Godly fiction as she loves to interact with fellow bloggers as well as with published authors on a daily basis. She desires to one day inspire other hearts to come to Christ through her stories. Next to reading, Rosie loves to write, spend time with her friends and family, and play guitar with her cousins.

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