North and South (Paperback)
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Summary At the heart of North and South is the relationship between the two main protagonists: proud ex-parson's daughter Margaret Hale and equally proud mill owner and industrialist John Thornton.
They have different backgrounds, different attitudes and different sensibilities. They represent different worlds - she the world of the gentry from the agrarian and intellectual south of England, he the self-made men of the industrial north.
They meet, they clash, they misunderstand each other. For the relationship to ultimately be resolved, they have to find a point of balance, a place of harmony, where the prejudices engendered by their differing backgrounds can give way to a new way of thinking and acting.
The difficulties in the relationship of Margaret Hale and John Thornton are played out against the turmoil of 19th century England. Gaskell weaves into the novel the differences in attitude between the north and the south of the country, the conflict between capitalists and labour and the shifts in class and gender relations.
North and South is a social novel by English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. Along with Wives and Daughters (1865) and Cranford (1853), it is one of her best known novels and has been adapted for television twice, in 1975 and 2004.
While Gaskell's first novel Mary Barton (1848) focused on relations between employers and workers in Manchester from the perspective of the working poor, North and South uses a protagonist from southern England to present and comment on the perspectives of both mill owners and mill workers in an industrializing city.
North and South is set in the fictional industrial town of Milton in the North of England. Forced to leave her home in the tranquil rural south, Margaret Hale settles with her parents in Milton where she witnesses the brutal world wrought by the industrial revolution and employers and workers clashing in the first organised strikes.
Sympathetic to the poor, whose courage and tenacity she admires and among whom she makes friends, she clashes with John Thornton, a cotton mill manufacturer who belongs to the nouveaux riches class and whose contemptuous attitude to workers Margaret rejects.
The novel traces both her growing understanding of the complexity of labor relations and her impact on well-meaning mill owners, and her conflicted relationship with John Thornton.
Gaskell based her depiction of Milton on Manchester, where she lived as the wife of a Unitarian minister.
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About the Author
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, nee Stevenson (29 September 1810 - 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs. Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. She is perhaps best known for her biography of Charlotte Bronte. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and as such are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature.