Tuesday, December 29, 2020

157. North and South

North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1855. 521 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: 'Edith!' said Margaret, gently, 'Edith!' But, as Margaret half suspected, Edith had fallen asleep.

Premise/plot: Sometimes I think the more I've read a book, the harder it is to summarize...well. Margaret Hale, our heroine, is uprooted from her Southern (rural) home when her father leaves the Church and moves the family north to the industrial town of Milton. It is a time of much adjustment--her father making the transition the smoothest of all perhaps; her mother having the roughest time of it. For Margaret it marks a 'wilderness' time of sorts--as she grows more self aware and begins to look and listen more closely to the world around her. She dares to think of others more and her own comfort less. It's definitely a growing time--with some awkwardness thrown in, because it's realistic. Margaret is far from a perfect, ideal woman. 

Mr. John Thornton, our hero, is drawn to Margaret despite their differences of opinion. He's much more forgiving of her pride and prejudice--her immaturity and innocence--than many others might be. This isn't so much a growing time for him. Not really. True, he has lessons in patience and actually LISTENING. But from the start he is considerate and compassionate. Though some might readily compare North and South to Pride and Prejudice and only Pride and Prejudice, I see some Gilbert Blythe in John Thornton. 

The novel is bittersweet. Margaret endures MUCH LOSS throughout the years chronicled in the novel. 

My thoughts: I love this one so much. It is one of my all-time favorite favorite favorite FAVORITE books. The movie and the book are different as night and day. Really in the movie, it's very much a re-do of Pride and Prejudice. Mr. John Thornton is just cut and pasted from Mr. Darcy. This just isn't true to the book at all. 

It is my opinion that Margaret is like MR. DARCY and ELIZABETH BENNET all at the same time. She is the one who has to GROW UP and mature. She is so very proud and extremely prejudiced. She is a bit insufferable at times!!! But her character arc is lovely to see. The Margaret we see at the end of the novel is not the Margaret we first meet. 


  • Whenever I have seen you lately, you have been carried away by a whirlwind of some other person's making.
  • But the cloud never comes in that quarter of the horizon from which we watch for it.
  • But the truth was, that Dixon, as do many others, liked to feel herself ruled by a powerful and decided nature.
  • 'I cannot bear it. I cannot bear to see the sufferings of others. I think I could go through my own with patience. Oh, is there no going back?'
  • But the future must be met, however stern and iron it be.
  • The question always is, has everything been done to make the sufferings of these exceptions as small as possible? Or, in the triumph of the crowded procession, have the helpless been trampled on, instead of being gently lifted aside out of the roadway of the conqueror, whom they have no power to accompany on his march?
  • 'Oh, mamma, that shows you never saw Mr. Thornton. He looks like a person who would enjoy battling with every adverse thing he could meet with--enemies, winds, or circumstances. The more it rains and blows, the more certain we are to have him.
  • 'Take care you don't get caught by a penniless girl, John.' 'I am not easily caught, mother, as I think you know. But I must not have Miss Hale spoken of in that way, which, you know, is offensive to me. I never was aware of any young lady trying to catch me yet, nor do I believe that any one has ever given themselves that useless trouble.'
  • Perhaps our Milton girls have too much spirit and good feeling to go angling after husbands; but this Miss Hale comes out of the aristocratic counties, where, if all tales be true, rich husbands are reckoned prizes.'
  • 'Papa, I do think Mr. Thornton a very remarkable man; but personally I don't like him at all.'
  • 'I believe, perhaps, more than yo' do o' what's to come. I read the book o' Revelations until I know it off by heart, and I never doubt when I'm waking, and in my senses, of all the glory I'm to come to.'
  • And looking back upon the year's accumulated heap of troubles, Margaret wondered how they had been borne. If she could have anticipated them, how she would have shrunk away and hid herself from the coming time!
  • And yet day by day had, of itself, and by itself, been very endurable--small, keen, bright little spots of positive enjoyment having come sparkling into the very middle of sorrows.
  • 'Loyalty and obedience to wisdom and justice are fine; but it is still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly used-not on behalf of ourselves, but on behalf of others more helpless.'
  • 'I know we differ in our religious opinions; but don't you give me credit for having some, though not the same as yours?'
  • I never lived in a place before where there were two sets of people always running each other down.'
  • 'Nay, Bessy--think!' said Margaret. 'God does not willingly afflict. Don't dwell so much on the prophecies, but read the clearer parts of the Bible.' 'I dare say it would be wiser; but where would I hear such grand words of promise--hear tell o' anything so far different fro' this dreary world, and this town above a', as in Revelations? Many's the time I've repeated the verses in the seventh chapter to myself, just for the sound. It's as good as an organ, and as different from every day, too. No, I cannot give up Revelations. It gives me more comfort than any other book i' the Bible.'
  • She seems to have a great notion of giving herself airs; and I can't make out why. I could almost fancy she thinks herself too good for her company at times. And yet they're not rich, from all I can hear they never have been.' 'And she's not accomplished, mamma. She can't play.'
  • 'I cannot forgive her her pride,' said his mother; 'I will befriend her, if there is need, for your asking, John. I would befriend Jezebel herself if you asked me.
  • Only, he knew what she was doing--or not doing--better than he knew the movements of any one else in the room.
  • I shall put myself at her feet--I must. If it were but one chance in a thousand--or a million--I should do it.'
  • How dared he say that he would love her still, even though she shook him off with contempt?
  • Read me--not a sermon chapter, but a story chapter; they've pictures in them, which I see when my eyes are shut. Read about the New Heavens, and the New Earth; and m'appen I'll forget this.'
  • 'No one loves me,--no one cares for me, but you, mother.' He turned away and stood leaning his head against the mantel-piece, tears forcing themselves into his manly eyes.
  • 'Margaret!' said Mrs. Hale, rather querulously, 'you won't like anything Mr. Thornton does. I never saw anybody so prejudiced.'
  • Margaret the Churchwoman, her father the Dissenter, Higgins the Infidel, knelt down together. It did them no harm.
  • And it was no thought of her son, or of her living daughter Fanny, that stirred her heart at last; but a sudden remembrance, suggested by something in the arrangement of the room,--of a little daughter--dead in infancy--long years ago--that, like a sudden sunbeam, melted the icy crust, behind which there was a real tender woman.
  • Thinking has, many a time, made me sad, darling; but doing never did in all my life.
  • My theory is a sort of parody on the maxim of "Get money, my son, honestly if you can; but get money." My precept is, "Do something, my sister, do good if you can; but, at any rate, do something."'
  • 'Not excluding mischief,' said Margaret, smiling faintly through her tears. 'By no means. What I do exclude is the remorse afterwards.
  • Sorrows is more plentiful than dinners just now;
  • Oh papa! it's a hard world to live in!'
  • 'The exact truth!' said he. 'Very few people do speak the exact truth. I have given up hoping for it. Miss Hale, have you no explanation to give me? You must perceive what I cannot but think.'
  • 'I will walk slower for your own sake. I like you twenty times better than Hamlet.' 'On the principle that a living ass is better than a dead lion?' 'Perhaps so. I don't analyse my feelings.'
  • 'I begin to understand now what heaven must be--and, oh! the grandeur and repose of the words--"The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." Everlasting! "From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God."
  • I must not think so much of how circumstances affect me myself, but how they affect others, if I wish to have a right judgment, or a hopeful trustful heart.
  • Margaret herself had probably the worst temper of the three, for her quick perceptions, and over-lively imagination made her hasty, and her early isolation from sympathy had made her proud;
  • but she had an indescribable childlike sweetness of heart, which made her manners, even in her rarely wilful moods, irresistible of old; and now, chastened even by what the world called her good fortune, she charmed her reluctant aunt into acquiescence with her will.
  • 'How shall I ever tell Aunt Shaw?' she whispered, after some time of delicious silence. 'Let me speak to her.' 'Oh, no! I owe to her,--but what will she say?' 'I can guess. Her first exclamation will be, "That man!"' 'Hush!' said Margaret, 'or I shall try and show you your mother's indignant tones as she says, "That woman!"' 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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