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North & South Review by Elizabeth Gaskell

by fantasydragon01

As a side note, this piece WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!


Margaret Hale is a nineteen-year-old woman who enjoys living in the South of England in the county of Hampshire. The sun shines, and the lands about are green and bright with flowers. Margaret is the daughter of Richard Hale, a clergyman of Helstone Parsonage, and her mother is Maria Hale. Everything seemed to be perfect according to Margaret, until one day, she received shocking news from her father: he was to leave the Church of England, due to doubts of his faith. Since the people from the South would know about him being a dissenter, they would mock and scorn him. To avoid such humiliations, the Hale family must move to the north of England, in the manufacturing town of Milton in the county of Darkshire. Margaret was shocked at such news, and did not understand why her father would leave the Church of England and move to the North. Mr. Hale claimed that it was for conscience’ sake. In the month of November, the family, along with their servant, Dixon, packed their bags and tearfully left their beloved home in the South.

A couple days later, the family reached the town of Milton. It was the complete opposite of Hampshire. The latter was bright, clean, and full of verdant valleys. Milton had mills, factories, and smoke. Mr. Bell, an old friend of the family, was a native of Milton, and agreed to help them search for a house and for a job for Mr. Hale. The family managed to find a house and settled there.

It was not easy for the Hales to get used to their new surroundings. Mrs. Hale became a ill due to the sudden change in environment. Despite this, the family met new people and became acquainted with them. One of these people is John Thornton, a cotton manufacturer. He would often visit the house to receive lessons from Mr. Hale, who found the job of teaching the classics and rhetoric. Meanwhile, Margaret became aware of the conditions of the town. Factory workers seemed miserable and poor, which convinced Margaret that the state of these people was terrible. She sympathized with them greatly and wished that she could do something about it. Among the workers are Nicholas Higgins and Bessy Higgins, with whom Margaret became friends with. While in the factory, cotton became stuck in Bessy’s lungs and she became sick, but that did not stop Margaret from visiting the Higgins family. She learned more about the workers’ conditions and found out that Nicholas and other workers are planning to throw a strike at the cotton manufacturers, because they did not give their employees sufficient pay.

Though John Thornton became acquainted with the Hales, Margaret did not like him. He criticized the South by saying that it was a dull place. Margaret, offended by his words, counteracted by saying that the North is a miserable place.

To make matters worse for the family, Mrs. Hale’s sickness increased and the family felt that she was at the point of death. She said that her dying request would be to see her son again before she dies. Frederick Hale had left England a couple of years ago and was accused of mutiny. He currently lives in Spain. If he were to return to England, government officials would seize him and hang him.

One day, Margaret had gone to Mr. Thornton’s house to borrow a water mattress for her ill mother. She picked the wrong time to go, for that was the day in which the workers would strike. The multitude of people, mostly young boys, assembled in front the home, driven mad with anger and hunger. Margaret, who felt pity for the workers, told John to go down to the rioters and face them like a man. She accompanied John to his balcony, for she knew that he was not safe alone. She had to protect him from the fierce crowd. Margaret tried to mollify the angry workers by saying that John is one man and they are many and that they should not use violence. John tried to protect Margaret from the workers by bidding her to go inside. Undaunted by the strikers, Margaret tried again to speak to them. She hardly finished two sentences when a man picked up a rock and directed it towards John. It missed and instead hit Margaret on her forehead and cheek. She fell almost unconscious in John’s arms. He was enraged at such cruelty. As soon as this happened, the police came and drove the angry mob of people away. John carried Margaret into his living room and went for a doctor. Mrs. Thornton, John’s mother, tended to Margaret’s wounds. Margaret became more conscious and pleaded that she returns back to her home, so that her parents will not worry about her. Mrs. Thornton reluctantly agreed to this idea and sent a cab driver to accompany her back.

The next day, Mr. Thornton came to Margaret’s house to express his gratitude for her protecting him from the rioters. When they were alone in a room, John proceeded to thank Margaret for her bravery. He went on to say that no woman had ever performed such a deed for him. He explained that he had great feelings for her. Margaret did not want to hear more, yet John continued to express his love for her. He said that he never loved a woman before in his life, as he was busy with work and other matters. He asked her to accept him, but she, offended by his words, rejected him. She only thought of him as her father’s friend. Her actions to him at the strike were not personal. John left the house truly broken-hearted and sad. It was because of this rejection that Margaret and John avoided each other at all costs and seldom spoke to each other. They were secretly mad at each other. However, they later regretted being irate, but they were too arrogant to talk and apologize to each other.

Margaret’s burdens were doubled when her mother was at death’s door. She wrote to her brother, Frederick, to come secretly to England so that he can see his mother for the last time. A stroke of luck hit the Hales, for one evening, Frederick clandestinely came to England without government officials noticing him. Mr. Hale and his two children were with Mrs. Hale when she passed away.

Before the funeral, Margaret had to accompany Frederick at night to a train station so that he can return to Spain safely. Before Frederick went aboard the train, one man recognized him. Frederick pushed the man down some flight of stairs so that he will not contact the government. As soon as that happened, Frederick went aboard on the train.

It was a couple days after Frederick’s departure that a police inspector came over to Margaret’s house to inquire her about the night Frederick left for Spain. He said that witnesses reported Margaret being with Frederick. The inspector asked whether she was with her brother that night. Margaret lied by saying that she was not. The inspector inquired her again, but she still denied the fact that she was with Frederick. Margaret later felt guilty for her misdeed, but she had to save her brother’s life. She did not want to lose another family member.

After Mrs. Hale’s funeral, Mr. Hale decided to go to Oxford alone to visit the family friend, Mr. Bell. Margaret let him go to the city, for she thought it would be good for him. However, the visit turned out to be very different from what she had expected. Margaret bore the fact that her father died in his sleep while in Oxford. Now, she was left alone with her servant, Dixon, penniless. It was decided that Margaret moves back to the South. Mr. Bell and her aunt came to Milton to take Margaret back to her home, while Dixon stays at the home to take care of the furniture and the like. She said farewell to the Thornton family and to the Higgins family. She found out that Bessy, one of her few friends in Milton, had died from her sickness. It was heartbreaking for Margaret to say goodbye to the dear family, but she had little choice.

In the South Margaret revisited Helstone Parsonage, her home. She lived with her relatives in London. She thought that she should start anew with her life. It was not so. Much to her surprise, Mr. Thornton visited her and her relatives. She did not understand why John had come. When she was alone in a room, John approached her and asked her to marry him. Margaret realized that she did love him and it was decided by the two that they should get married.


REACTION: How I loved this book! Everything about it was awesome. The descriptions especially were fabulous. Oh, the emotion, the pain, the heartbreak, THE ENDING!!! *fangirling* 10 OUT OF 10!!

BBC made an adaptation of this in 2004, and I LOVED it. (I recommend reading the book first before watching the show. Just sayin'). I cried when I recently watched it. I cried, laughed, cringed. There were "aww" moments for sure, especially the last scene. Let me just say that I fangirl over this show like crazy. Everything about the adaptation was perfect. The acting, the costumes, the scenery, the characters (especially Mr. Thornton), the music, EVERYTHING! I highly recommend the book and the show. You will not regret it. It now holds a special place in my heart........

Ok, I have to stop fangirling now. :) ;D

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Is this a review?



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890 Reviews

Points: 33
Reviews: 890

Sun Dec 20, 2015 2:18 pm
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PenguinAttack wrote a review...

Hi Fantasydragon!

Let me tell you, I ADORE North & South. It's a beautiful novel and a completely gorgeous miniseries, I completely agree! However, Lava is right when she suggests that your review is less like a review and more like a very detailed summary. I think what has happened here is that you're excitement over the novel, and your desire to let everyone know how awesome it is, has biased your review.

Reviews are sometimes hard to pin down, I'm definitely never sure exactly what to write or how! But I think I have some tips for you to improve on this one. Instead of the detailed recount of the story, give a very brief summary at the beginning. Then, as you're describing the best and worst elements you can include direct quotes from the novel. That way you include the bits you like the most and we don't get too many spoilers about the novel on the whole.

Lava is right in suggesting that talking about tone, narrative style, or the fact that this is a period drama would all be really great ways of expanding on this review. We want to know what you like, why you like it, and how it was done. And the same for all the feelings about bad bits (there are barely any!). And, since you've brought up the pretty awesome miniseries, you could also spend some time talking about the differences between the two. For me, there's a much stronger focus on the machinery problems in the novel than there is in the miniseries. I feel like Gaskell really pushed for some understanding there - and sometimes at the detriment of her storyline, perhaps.

You're clearly passionate about the novel! This is absolutely the best place to start when writing a review, and your tone and your enthusiasm come through so clearly it's a joy to read what you have here. Some more content and a little tidy up would really improve on what you already have. Think of your review as propaganda. It's your job to convince whoever is reading the review that they absolutely should pick up this novel.

Good luck with this, thank you for posting - particularly about such a great novel!

- Penguin.

Thank you for the advice. Hopefully, when I have time, I'll do something about the review. :)

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762 Reviews

Points: 3798
Reviews: 762

Sun Nov 29, 2015 11:27 pm
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Lava wrote a review...

Hi there!

So, I see this is a book that you love and you wanted to share that with he rest of YWS.

While this is marked as an essay/review, your article reads off more like a summary of the entire book and does not offer the reader any information on your critique of the book.
I feel like you could talk about the tone/narrative styles use,d the way the period was portrayed in relevance to the current era.
While you do mention at the footnotes as to why you like, I feel like ifyou incorporated this information in such a way that you discuss the why's and how's and what's in detail about the story, you would have a more solid book review in your hands.

Good luck & cheers!

Thank you. Hopefully, when I have time, I'll do something to the review. :)

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