Title: North And South
Author: Elizabeth Glaskell
Original language: English
Publication: England, 1854
Margaret has spent most of her youth growing up alongside her cousin in her aunt’s estate in London. Her parents, residing in Hampshire, call their daughter back to their side, only to have them all move to the North of England in a town called Milton. Margaret hates every thing about their new home and spends her time pining for the wonderful South she was forced to leave behind. Eventually, however, she finds herself befriending the working class people and comes to chastise Mr. Thornton, a charismatic mill owner and master, for his cold hard ways. Margaret struggles to find a compromise between the North and the South, and finds herself in the midst of a major change in society.
Margaret is a charming character, albeit pig-headed and pretentious at times. Her upbringing has been completely different to that of those who live in Milton. She is a refined ‘society’ young woman and, initially, abhors everything and anything that has to do with the working class. However, Margaret’s transformation is phenomenal. She grows tremendously as a character, shedding her selfishness and prejudice, in favour of an all-rounded view of the world she inhabits.
Mr. Thornton is equally as stunning as Margaret. He is very misunderstood by her throughout most of the book, but strives to make himself good in her eyes. He is seen as a cold, manipulative master when in reality, he is anything but. His love for Margaret knows no bounds and, even after their countless disagreements, he still pursues her with all the fervor of a true gentleman.
The backdrop of the book is a political one. In Milton, the working class tries to find equal footing alongside their masters. They yearn for equality of the classes, but do not try to overtake the rule of the upper class. Margaret is all too happy to lend her support to the cause, attending rallies, facing down people of her own class and, spending considerable time with the workers at Mr. Thornton’s mill.
Trough countless hardships and losses, Margaret shines through and retains her dignity and will to fight. This stunning socialist view of Victorian society wins points on every single level. Great characters and character development, interesting backdrop and, most of all, exquisite writing and execution on behalf of the author.
Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the short TV series produced by the BBC. The casting was perfect, the costumes and sets were gorgeous and, most importantly, the story was true to the book. If you’re considering reading N&S, I highly recommend watching the TV series afterwards, if only to put a face to the names.