I think I must be the only costume-drama-loving-female in all of America who did not see the 2004 (2005 USA) adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South – where my head was that year I do not know – and add to that a further confession of never having read the book! – I am ashamed of myself! Can I have lived this long so in the dark? Are my English degrees so worthless in the light of this omission?
I have a good number of Gaskell’s books on my shelves, but there they sit awaiting that future day to begin my Gaskell immersion. But all this endless chatter on the airwaves [as well as a few friends imploring me to see the movie – largely a Richard Armitage thing…], I finally broke one of my cardinal rules – I saw the movie before reading the book. There were advantages of course to this sequence – every appearance of John Thornton on the page most pleasantly brought the absolutely lovely Mr. Armitage to mind – not a bad punishment for breaking this long-held rule of mine! – but I digress…
The story [for those of you more in the sand than me…] – Margaret Hale, a young woman from rural southern England [Austen’s Hampshire to be exact], daughter of a clergyman, proud of her roots and her class, must adjust to the changes in her life when her father resigns from his clerical post and moves the family to the northern industrial town of Milton [Gaskell’s fictitonalized Manchester]. Margaret gradually discovers her own strengths in taking on the many domestic duties of her now ill mother and those of their former servants. But Margaret carries with her the prejudices of the gentrified South with her “queenly” snobbish views of the industrial North and the manufacturers and tradesmen who run the mills. She is soon introduced to John Thornton, a self-made “Master” of one of the cotton mills and a local magistrate, well respected by his peers and his employees, yet aware of his shortcomings in the social and intellectual worlds outside of Milton. He comes to Reverend Hale for tutoring and intellectual stimulation – but it is Margaret who soon captures his heart, his passions aroused in spite of himself, all too sure of his own unworthiness in her eyes…
Margaret opened the door and went in with the straight, fearless, dignified presence habitual to her. She felt no awkwardness; she had too much the habits of society for that. Here was a person come on business to her father; and, as he was one who had shown himself obliging, she was disposed to treat him with a full measure of civility. Mr. Thornton was a good deal more surprised and discomfited than she. Instead of a quiet, middle-aged clergyman, a young lady came forward with frank dignity – a young lady of a different type to most of those he was in the habit of seeing. Her dress was very plain: a close straw bonnet of the best material and shape, trimmed with white ribbon; a dark silk gown, without any trimming or flounce; a large Indian shawl, which hung about her in long heavy folds, and which she wore as an empress wears her drapery. He did not understand who she was, as he caught the simple, straight, unabashed look, which showed that his being there was of no concern to the beautiful countenance, and called up no flush of surprise to the pale ivory of the complexion. He had heard that Mr. hale had a daughter, but he had imagined that she was a little girl … Mr. Thornton was in habits of authority himself, but she seemed to assume some kind of rule over him at once…. [p 72-3] He almost said to himself that he did not like her, before their conversation ended; he tried so to compensate himself for the mortified feeling, that while he looked upon her with an admiration he could not repress, she looked at him with proud indifference, taking him, he thought for what, in his irritation, he told himself he was – a great rough fellow, with not a grace or a refinement about him. Her quiet coldness of demeanour he interpreted into contemptuousness, and resented it is his heart … [p.74]
And Margaret’s view of Thornton:
“Oh! I hardly know what he is like,” said Margaret lazily; too tired to tax her powers of description much. And then rousing herself, she said, “He is a tall, broad-shouldered man, about- how old, papa?”… “About thirty, with a face that is neither exactly plain, nor yet handsome, nothing remarkable – not quite a gentleman; but that was hardly to be expected.”… “altogether a man who seems made for his niche, mamma; sagacious and strong, as becomes a great tradesman.”
Ahh! the pride and prejudices are set on each side, each thwarting their developing relationship – and a scenario not unlike Austen’s Pride & Prejudice unfolds. Margaret’s ingrained dislike of northern ways are gradually tempered by her sympathetic friendship with a family of mill workers and her growing appreciation for Thornton’s true nature; and Thornton’s own views of his employees and his responsibility to them are enlarged by Margaret’s very “democratic” views of an industrialized social system gone awry. It is a compelling read – [alert! there are some spoilers here ]–
Gaskell wrote North and South in 1854-5 – it appeared in serialized novel form in Dickens’s Household Words [Gaskell felt the ending was “unnatural” and “deformed” (1) – she added and edited for its publication as a book in 1855]. North and South is another of her works to focus on the social ills of the day – religious doubt; “Master” vs. hands and accompanying union struggles; male vs. female in the male-dominated industrial world; the responsibility of the owner / ruling classes to involve themselves in the lives of the less fortunate. But this novel has a more romantic telling than her previous works and perhaps why it remains one of her most enduring titles.. [ See my previous post on Gaskell for some background.]
And this comparison to Austen’s Pride & Prejudice cannot be ignored [just the title alone echoes Austen’s work] — Jenny Uglow in her introduction to the book (2) and in her fabulous biography of Gaskell (3) called North and South an “industrialized Pride & Prejudice,” “sexy, vivid and full of suspense” (4) – and indeed this states the case most eloquently. At last year’s JASNA AGM in Chicago on Austen’s legacy, Janine Barchas spoke on Gaskell’s North and South being the first of many Pride & Prejudice clones (5). The basic formula of P&P is what keeps people coming back for more, an annual re-read one of life’s many pleasures – and one can readily make a list of the similarities, all too clear despite Gaskell’s never making mention of her debt to Austen – this conflict of pride and prejudices, though often a gender reversal in Gaskell’s work [see Barchas’s article for a complete analysis of Margaret as Darcy and Thornton as Elizabeth], the awakening of their passions, and the emotional growth of Margaret and Thornton, the similarities in the secondary characters [Thornton’s sister Fanny is certainly as silly as Lydia; Mrs. Thornton’s visit to Margaret is almost a word for word Lady Catherine exhorting Elizabeth]; Thornton anonymously saving Margaret from a shameful exposure just as Darcy saves Elizabeth by forcing Wickham to do right by Lydia; and a final resolution of two people who finally overcome their own limited mindsets; and of course the turning point in both novels is the proposal scene, halfway through each book, the language similar, the devastating results the same.
But in Austen, who never felt comfortable with writing what she did not know, the mind of Darcy is never fully exposed to the reader [and the reason for the endless stream of sequels from Darcy’s point of view! – and also why the Andrew Davies adaptation with a glaring, agonized Colin Firth has such a strong hold on us all…] – but Gaskell was no prim Victorian in bringing the thoughts of Thornton to the page – he is clearly obsessed with Margaret from their first meeting noted above – and when he is visiting the Hales for tea, he focuses relentlessly on her arm and her bracelet:
She stood by the tea-table in a light-coloured muslin gown, which had a good deal of pink about it. She looked as if she was not attending to the conversation, but solely busy with the tea-cups, among which her round ivory hands moved with pretty, noiseless daintiness. She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the replacing of this troublesome ornament with far more attention that he listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see her push it up impatiently until it tightened her soft flesh; and then to mark the loosening – the fall. He could almost have exclaimed – “there it goes again!” [p. 95]
Thornton watches her, listens to her, seeks her out, thinks of her all the time, and only when he believes he must protect her virtue does he express these pent-up feelings to her. Her rejection of him is devastating, though only unexpected because he believes she can do no less than submit to him – Gaskell clearly gives us a picture of a passionate, inconsolable man, almost beautiful in his agony – we do not need an Andrew Davies to draw this picture for us. It is as though Gaskell needed to put some finishing touches on the Darcy of our imaginations…
His heart throbbed loud and quick. Strong man as he was, he trembled at the anticipation of what he had to say, and how it might be received. She might droop, and flush, and flutter to his arms, as her natural home and resting-place. One moment he glowed with impatience at the thought that she might do this – the next he feared a passionate rejection, the very idea of which withered up his future with so deadly a blight that he refused to think of it…
He offers his love, she rejects him:
“Yes, I feel offended. You seem to fancy that my conduct of yesterday was a personal act between you and me; and that you come to thank me for it, instead of perceiving, as a gentleman would – yes! a gentleman,” she repeated….. – he says she does not understand him; she says “I do not care to understand” – [p.242-3] … and she afterward thinks, “how dared he say that he would love her still, even though she shook him off with contempt?” [p.245]
As only Hollywood [and the BBC] can do, there is the usual mucking about with the novel – a few changes [how they first meet, how they at last connect for starters!], deletions and insertions, a few character shifts, to make the movie more palatable to a contemporary audience – and though one can always quibble with the results of these probable midnight discussions [and I so often ask – WHY did they DO that? Why not just leave the book as it is, PLEASE!] – but that all aside, this movie is just lovely, no way around it… Daniela Denby-Ashe is a beautiful heroic and compassionate Margaret, and Richard Armitage SO perfect as John Thornton – he brings Thornton’s internal life so beautifully to the screen – it is a pitch-perfect performance [and the spring-board for his subsequent career – not to mention the Armitage online sites, the Facebook pages, YouTube concoctions, endless bloggings, women the world over in a communal swoon about this man!] [and alas! we ALL suffer for his NOT being the latest now-in-production Knightley incarnation…] Really, this all makes the 1995 Darcy-fever / Colin Firth insanity look like a kindergarten flirtation. I should just do an Armitage post with all the many links, pictures, readings – but I AM struggling here to stick to the book!
[but as an aside, if you haven’t seen Armitage as the evil Guy of Gisborne in BBC’s latest Robin Hood, get thee hence to your nearest video store and see the first two seasons now – there was never such fun in obsessing over the ultimate bad guy – a man just shouldn’t look and sound this lovely! – and after that, see The Impressionists [he is the young Monet], and then for a complete hoot see the last two shows of The Vicar of Dibley…] – but back to North and South [who can resist?], is there any scene in ANY movie to compare to “Look back – Look back at me” ?? !
[though even I have to admit it has to run a close second to Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember at his wrenching discovery of the painting in Deborah Kerr’s bedroom]…
But again, I digress! – Gaskell has given us a story similar to Pride & Prejudice in the basics, but set in the northern Victorian world she depicts so graphically – this is darker than Austen, without her language and ironic wit, there are certainly no Mr. Collinses around to give us needed comic relief [though on second thought, Fanny Thornton jumps right off the page as a very real self-absorbed very ridiculous girl and there are indeed many moments of humor] – this is a fabulous read, not easily forgotten with its powerful romance with its strong sexual tensions and the very real social issues of the time with such engaging characters in the lower class world of the mill workers. Read this book – then buy the movie [you will want to see it more than once!] – and thank you Richard Armitage for bringing me to this book in the most delightful roundabout way!
Notes and Further reading:
1. Uglow, Jenny. Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories. NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993, p. 368.
2. Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South, with an introduction by Jenny Uglow. London: Vintage Books, 2008. [page numbers cited are to this edition]
3. Uglow, Jenny. 1993 biography.
4. Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South, 2008 edition, p. xvi.
5. Barchas, Janine. “Mrs. Gaskell’s North and South: Austen’s Early Legacy.” Persuasions, No. 30, 2008, pp. 53-66.
1. North and South, BBC 2004 [2005 USA] starring Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage [see Imdb.com]
2. North and South, BBC 1975, starring Rosalie Shanks and Patrick Stewart [see Imdb.com]
Links: [a very select few to Gaskell, the book, the movie, and finally Richard Armitage, who indeed requires a post all his own…]
- The Gaskell Web, which includes e-links to all the novels and other resources [current to Nov. 2007]
- The Edgar Wright Gaskell Page – biography, plot summaries, links
- North and South e-text at Project Gutenberg
- An entire fansite for the movie at the Foolish Passion.com
- Discussion of the 2004 movie at the Lights, Camera…History blog
- Richard Armitage Online
- The Armitage Army
- Richard Armitage.net
- one of the many YouTube concoctions; another of the proposal scene; and the final scene. [just search “North and South BBC” for a host of others to enjoy – over and over again!]
I’ve read several of Gaskell’s novels, but have not read N&S. That will soon be remedied since it’s July’s read in book club. I was introduced to the movie a couple years ago by a friend (we’re both costume drama freaks!) and had to immediately buy it. It wasn’t until several viewings later that I realized it was based on a book (I’m a little slow sometimes!). A few days ago I listened to the little snippet of him reading Sylvester and I about fell out of my seat at work. I guess melted out of my seat would be a better way to describe it. :D
North and South is definitely my favorite Gaskell novel. I wholeheartedly agree with your comparisons to Pride and Prejudice–the similarities are so fun to compare. And while Thornton’s obsession with Margaret is fascinating, I find her growing obsession with him equally fascinating, if not more so. I find it quite wrenching to read Margaret’s stubborn desire not to acknowledge her love for Thornton. I love to read about how her passion for him grows, from start to finish. In the beginning, I believe that she doesn’t quite fancy him, but is attracted to him nevertheless. She says to Mr. Hale, “Papa, I do think Mr. Thornton a very remarkable man; but personally I don’t like him at all.” After which, Mr. Hale replies, “And I do…Personally, as you call it, and all. I don’t set him up for a hero, or anything of that kind.” Mr. Hale’s response seems a sort of warning to Margaret–don’t set Thornton up as a hero, which of course, she has already done. Thornton’s behavior disappoints her expectations, which is the catalyst for so many of their disagreements. And later of course, when she comes to realize his worth, she completely obsesses with him, especially when she feels that she has lost his esteem. Very similar to Pride and Prejudice, and yet, I find myself more intimately drawn into this story. It’s more sultry, more dark, more sexy. And personally, I like that in classic literature.
Thank you Angelica for this thoughtful analysis of North and South! – I agree with you – there is much more passion and emotion than in P&P, though the story is so similar – I have been feeling the need to re-read it lately, so you have given me a gentle reminder to do so!
Thank you for visiting.
Oh, you must read this book! – I am afraid I focused so much on the movie and Armitage in this post when it was the book I was trying to tout! – but need those visuals for a blog! I regret in some ways seeing the movie first, as the visual experience is so powerful and hard to let go of when reading the page – I prefer to have my own reading perception then see how the adaptation plays it out – of course there is the other side- that if you have read the book first you are filling in the gaps that the movie skims over.
Funny about Armitage reading “Sylvester” causing you a near faint- it IS very good, [love the way he says “lawn”!] but alas! we must wait until July for its release.
Thanks for visiting again – let me know what you think of the book – you are in for a treat…
I think your post was very well balanced! It was mostly about the book and the plot, some about Gaskell and the times and just enough about Richard to make it perfect.
I’m the discussion leader in July and was wondering if you would be ok with my quoting a few things from your post. You won’t be there, but I promise to give full credit to my source. On the otherhand, if you happen to be in the Houston, Tx area on July 21st, please feel free to join us! You would be very welcome! :)
Very intuitive actor
It is rare that an actor is able to keep a character congruent emotionally and physically. Mr. Armitage’s intelligent portrayal of John Thornton in “North and South,” seamlessly evolved from ironclad to ardent. Good acting and an excellent production overall.
You very concisely summed up all the emotional problems these characters have got going on, thank you! Thornton -is- appealing because of his passion: what woman doesn’t want to think the man of their choice has emotions that strong? And Richard Armitage is appealing because… well. Let me just say: a cravat makes a lot of difference!
Hi all – thanks for your great comments – I very much like Elizabeth your “ironclad to ardent” – a perfect description of Thornton. It is hard to keep the book separate from the movie production – I did find that there was a previous adaptation with Patrick Stewart as Thornton – I will try to see that to compare – but do not think anyone can work the magic that Armitage does, even Stewart – yes the cravat is lovely, but the last scene with the cravat gone missing is one of moviedom’s most delicious moments! But I do hope that people read the book – it is brilliant! – and the ending quite different but just as passionate…
and yes, blarneygirl, you can use anything in the post – and do check all the links and search other blogs- there are a ton of N&S reviews out there – I am 5 years late to the party on this one! sorry to not be in Texas – but happy to know your group is reading this – I am hard at work on my own book group, but alas! they avoid anything that smacks of Jane Austen! [and I love them anyway!]
Thanks all for your comments,
Discovered this post while looking for ways to “humanize” a lesson on the Industrial Revolution. First, saw a reference to Mary Barton, then N&S. I bought the video and immediately saw the possibilities for my 15-year olds. Discussion above is rooted in the work’s literary heritage and merits, does anyone have any suggestions for treating it as a primary source for social commentary for my age group?
Great post! I tried to do something similar in my blog with a post titled MR THORNTON VS MR DARCY (You can have a look at it at
Between the two, most of my blog mates chose Mr Darcy. Which of the two is your favourite? After watching North and South, since Thornton has Richard Armitage’s voice and eyes, I betrayed my beloved Darcy. Now, he has turned into somewhat like … a teenage crush… and has left space to a more deep convinced mature passion for John Thornton!
Thanks Maria for visiting! I have looked at your post and it is wonderful, so thank you for sharing that [I will add it to my above list] – a very thoughtful and comprehensive comparison of these two great literary heroes. I agree with you about Thornton – not sure I can separate the written word from the Armitage portrayal – but in the reading you cannot help but be more drawn to Thornton rather than Darcy because the author is always telling us what is going on his mind, whereas with Darcy we don’t really know and need to use our imaginations [and why we now have a million sequels telling us just that!] – Thornton’s agony is so beautifully portrayed [and Armitage doing it all so well with just a look!] – reading the book is a must because there is so much more there about him – not a character to easily forget! [so like you I may have betrayed my ages-old Darcy fixation…]
Thanks for visiting!
A friend recommended the movie to me just over a year ago and I fell in love with the story, Mr Thornton, and well… Richard Armitage too. I immediately went on eBay and bought the movie and have watched it 3000 times and have recommended it to so many of my girlfriends.
I was so excited to see that you had suggested ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ and ‘Robin Hood’, because those were my next Armitage discoveries [as well as great BBC series discoveries too!]
So now, over a year after my ‘North&South’ discovery, I JUST finished the book and have gone online in search of others who feel the same way. I was very excited to stumble across your blog – everything you said was what I had experienced and thought. You also brought up some points that I hadn’t noticed too!
I wnated to say that although I wanted the BBC to follow more closely to the ACTUAL plot, I was impressed with how similarly ‘passionate’ the endings were. Since I saw the film first I was worried that the novel’s ending was going to be somewhat ‘bland’ and well, typically ‘Victorian.’… but I was definitely in for a surprise!
Hello bianker – thanks for your comments. Glad to know that you have joined the elite group of Richard Armitage devotees – as well as Gaskell’s North & South, THE BOOK! I also found all the various blogs, etc. out there about the movie, the book and RA – I think I was living under a rock in 2005 when it first came out.
Yes, the BBC ending is so very different, but yet as you say, the same – the passions beautifully displayed in both – I think the BBC wanted to have the movie start and end with train scenes, so it worked very well, so cannot quibble. But the book has so much passion in it, and so very glad that you too have discovered it in a round-about way [with thanks to RA!]
And I think you beat me with 3000 viewings, but I am getting there!
I, like you, wondered where I was when this wonderful movie was released. Also, questioned the book list for my high school advanced reading class, Ms. Gaskell was definitely not represented. I discovered the movie on youtube, of all places, and once I found out it was based on a novel, I ran out to the library. I finished reading it in a few days, anxious to see what further insights could be gained into these characters.
I appreciated the movie’s portrayal of the initial antagonistic relationship between Margaret and Thornton, as they exchanged ideas and challenged each other’s opinions. You would also have to be daft if you didn’t believe that Richard Armitage was actually Thornton while reading the book (at least if they were experienced in that order); he was superb.
I found myself in the camp of people that wished the book would have continued for a few more chapters. I felt a little like Moses on the edge of the Promised Land, enduring the journey, but not getting to experience the destination. The book brought a greater intensity to Thornton’s anguish over another “lover” in Margaret’s life. I could feel his heart wrenching every time Lennox’s name was mentioned. The unrequited love of Thornton doesn’t spurn him towards bitterness, but seems to open his heart and peel away the rough exterior to reveal a compassionate man, which ultimately leads to his love being returned. Therein lies the definition of true love, that which forces us to become a better version of ourselves, not for self but because of the love for the other. What a beautiful thing!
Glad I could join the discussion late in the game!
Michelle, thank you for your insightful thoughts about this book – yes, the movie brought us to it, and how glad I am of that! – [on the high school reading list would have been very nice!] – and I agree about the ending – the book is wonderful in its depiction of their anguish being in the same room together, and the planned absence of Lennox such a gift on his part – the movie scene I would not want to be edited out [too lovely to look at!], but the book is so much more powerful – and you say so beautifully about Thornton becoming a compassionate man in his knowing, loving and understanding Margaret – you have reinspired me – think i might have do a re-read!
Thanks for visiting – never too late to enter the discussion!
[and I so often ask – WHY did they DO that? Why not just leave the book as it is, PLEASE!]
Because a straight adaptation of any novel or play to the screen – big or small – does not work. To take an entire novel or play and adapt it to the screen with every detail intact simply does not work. Sometimes, what is written in the novel or the play does not translate very well on the screen. Either it does not work dramatically, or the translation ends up dragging the screen adaptation’s pacing.
I think that it is about time that many fans realize this.
Thanks for your thoughts – actually I am a “fan” who DOES understand the differences between the mediums and need for such additions, changes, reworking, deletions, etc… between film and book – and generally I am very liberal and accepting of what is presented – film is really a very subjective presentation of one person’s view of the book – if that does not agree with my vision or imagination, then I can choose not to view it again – but usually I see it as being valuable for itself, different from the book and to be enjoyed as such – I do not see the need to denigrate it. In North & South, I understood the need for the changes – and I can always read the book again and fill in where the film skims… the ending scene in the movie is so beautiful and everything that is said in the book is conveyed – but I did wonder why the change here – shooting the scene as it is the book would have been just as if not more powerful – I accepted this because of the way the film began [on a train] and ended [on a train] – an important circle…
But you cannot disagree that sometimes those decisions that get made to alter the book just don’t make sense, when the scene or character is pivotal to the plot [for instance why in the various Sense and Sensibility adaptations is Margaret so often left out entirely – she is actually very important to the plot and the future of the Dashwood family.. [ Emma Thompson saw this need, but chose to leave out the important scene of Willoughby arriving in the middle of the night to defend himself to Elinor – a trade-off – she conveyed it all with his viewing the marriage scene from afar in a 2 minute shot… ]
So just defending my comment that despite a dislike for some the various changes in any given book-to-film- I always come back to “if the film gets people to read the book, then I am all for it… – and they are two different things, so enjoy them each in their stead…”
Thanks for visiting!
I agree that sometimes changes made in a film adaptation of a novel are either unnecessary or do not make any sense.
But I have also encountered scenes or characterizations straight from a novel that should have been changed or eliminated in the movie or television adaptation. A prime example would be the William Elliot character from “PERSUASION”.
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I just finished reading the book (you can get it online for free). This book is right up there with my all time favourites Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. I love the passion. I love the turn of phrase of these old books; it’s like poetry. It is a big dogged at first as you get used to the old English and dialects but after a chapter you get into the feel of it.
I saw the mini series a couple of years back and was swept off my feet by Richard Armitage. (he can park his boots under my bed anytime). For anyone who would like to see more(and I really DO mean MORE) of Armitage check out Between the Sheets……..ah be still my beating heart!
thanks for the review. It’s wonderful to find like-minded spirits.
How nice that you found my review! – like you, I had seen the movie first and wondered if I’d been living under a rock for so many years to never have read the book! – It was a delight to discover it – glad you found it so as well! – and even better to picture Armitage in the role while reading it!
Thanks for visiting and sharing!
ps: might need to put N&S in my viewing queue for the holiday – and I might even be up for a re-read…!
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I first saw North and South and the read the book. I thought RA was perfect until I read the book. The Mr. Thornton in the book has a looseness about him in general circumstances that contrasts vividly with the aprehension he feels when in the pressence of Miss Hale.
RA on the other hand is quite stern all the time.
Tatiana: I wonder if the difference in the way RA portrays Thronton and the impression one gets reading the book might not be due to the fact that many of the scenes in which Thornton shows his looser side are not present in the miniseries (or truncated or melded in with another scene)? Im thinking of the many discussions with Mr. Hale in which she is present and the social gatherings, particularly in London and then in a more general sense (unconnected with the romance) much of his relationship with Higgens.
Your analysis is amazing. I also adore Elizabeth Gaskell and her North&South. By, the way, I love your blog.
Thank you for your blog! This is the first time I’ve read one of your articles but I enjoyed it very much.
I am wondering if our preference for Thornton over Darcy might also be due to cultural differences. Of course it is a pleasure to be given a more intimate portrayal of the male love interest, and it certainly goes far to endear him in our hearts. But I think many modern women would prefer a man that displays a character more in line with our vision of “manliness,” that is hardworking and successful in business, a man’s man in a gritty world. Darcy is dandy, but past our early twenties who doesn’t sort of grow out of a man like Darcy who, as a gentleman of his time, offers nothing but the more idle pursuits of pleasure?
Further I think its the contrast between Thornton’s “granite” character and his tenderness for Margaret that captures our imagination. Darcy is snotty and aloof, Thornton is tempered, industrial. His transformation to an ardent lover is more appreciated as a true transformation, an awakening of something inside himself. (As opposed to Darcy who doesn’t change so much as admits Elizabeth into his circle of approval.) Everyone falls in love at a dance, but to find love amidst strife, death, and industrial waste? You know its gotta be real.
I’d be curious to explore more of the themes in this story, such as the search for “Truth,” very different for each character and with different results, the role of religious conversion (seen in Mr. Hale, Frederick, and even Higgens), and the contrast of place. For example Milton and Oxford (and the characters that belong to each) are contrasted in the sense that Milton is activity minus purpose (or higher truth) and Oxford is purpose devoid of activity (higher truth pursued with little relation to the real world).
Great book and so much to think about. Thanks!
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