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North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

North and South 2

Title: North and South.
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell.
Genre: Literature, fiction, romance, social criticism.
Country: U.K.
Language: English.
Publication Date: 1855.
Summary: Forced to leave her home in the tranquil rural south, Margaret Hale settles with her parents in Milton, an industrial town in North England, where she witnesses the brutal world wrought by the industrial revolution and employers and workers clashing in the first organized strikes. Sympathetic to the poor, whose courage and tenacity she admires, and among whom she makes friends, Margaret, whose intensity, spiritual isolation and passion electrify the book, clashes with John Thornton, a cotton mill manufacturer who belongs to the nouveaux riches and whose contemptuous attitude to workers Margaret despises. Primarily a study of the contrast between the values of rural southern England and the industrialized north; but through the medium of its central characters, is is also a profound comment on the need for reconciliation among the English classes, on the importance of suffering, and above all on the value of placing the dictates of personal conscience above social respectability.

My rating: 8.5/10
My review:


♥ Yet within a mile, Margaret knew of house after house, where she for her own sake, and her mother for Aunt Shaw's, would be welcomed, if they came in gladness, or even in peace of mind. If they came sorrowing, and wanting sympathy in a complicated trouble like the present, then they would be felt as a shadow in all these houses of intimate acquaintances, not friends. London life is too whirling and fill to admit of even an hour of that deep silence of feeling which the friends of Job showed, when 'they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him; for they saw that his grief was very great.'

♥ But Margaret went less abroad, among machinery and men; saw less of power in its public effect, and, as it happened, she was thrown with one or two of those who, in all measures affecting masses of people, must be acute sufferers for the good of many. The question always is, has everything been done to make the suffering 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?

♥ "And this imagination of power, this practical realization of a gigantic thought, came out of one man's brain in our good town. That very man has it within him to mount, step by step, on each wonder he achieves to higher marvels still. And, I'll be bound to say, we have many among us who, if he were gone, could spring into the breach and carry on the war which compels, and shall compel, all material power to yield to science... I won't deny that I am proud of belonging to a town - or perhaps I should rather say a district - the necessities of which give birth to such grandeur of conception. I would rather be a man toiling, suffering - nay, failing and successless - here, than lead a dull prosperous life in the old worn grooves of what you call more aristocratic society down in the South, with their slow days of careless ease. One may be clogged with honey and unable to rise and fly."

♥ "Poor wench - poor old wench - I'm loth to vex thee, I am; but a man mun speak out for the truth, and when I see the world going all wrong at this time o' day, bothering itself wi' things it knows nought about, and leaving undone all the things that lie in disorder close at its hand - why, I say, leave a' this talk about religion alone, and set to work on what yo' see and know. That's my creed. It's simple, and not far to fetch, nor hard to work."

♥ "Loyalty and obedience to wisdom are fine; but it is still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly used - not on behalf of ourselves, bit on behalf of others more helpless."

♥ She was talking to Fanny; about what, he could not hear; but he saw his sister's restless way of continually arranging some part of her gown, her wandering eyes, now glancing here, now there, but without any purpose in her observation; and he contrasted them uneasily with the large soft eyes that looked forth steadily at one object, as if from out their light beamed some gentle influence of repose: the curving lines of the red lips, just parted in the interest of listening to what her companion said - the head a little bent forwards, so as to make a long sweeping line from the summit, where the light caught on the glossy raven hair, to the smooth ivory tip of the shoulder; the round white arms, and taper hands, laid lightly across each other, but perfectly motionless in their pretty attitude.

♥ "He cannot be a gentleman - is he?"

"I am not quite the person to decide on another's gentlemanliness, Miss Hale. I mean, I don't quite understand your application of the word. But I should say that this Morison is no true man. I don't know who he is; I merely judge him from Mr Horsfall's account."

"I suspect my 'gentleman' includes your 'true man.'"

"And a great deal more, you would imply. I differ from you. A man is to me a higher and a completer being than a gentleman."

"What do you mean?" asked Margaret. "We must understand the words differently."

"I take it that 'gentleman' is a term that only describes a person in his relation to others; but when we speak of him as 'a man,' we consider him no merely with regard to his fellow-men, but in relation to himself, - to life - to time - to eternity. A cast-away, lonely as Robinson Crusoe - a prisoner immured in a dungeon for life - nay, even a saint in Patmos, has his endurance, his strength, his faith, best described by being spoken of as 'a man.' I am rather weary of this word 'gentlemanly,' which seems to me to be often inappropriately used, and often, too, with such exaggerated distortion of meaning, while the full simplicity of the noun 'man,' and the adjective 'manly' are unacknowledged - that I am induced to class it with the cant of the day."

♥ "It was not fair," said she, vehemently, "that he should stand there - sheltered, awaiting the soldiers, who might catch those poor maddened creatures as in a trap - without an effort on his part, to bring them to reason. And it was worse than unfair for them to set on him as they threatened. I would do it again, let who will say what they like of me. If I saved one blow, one cruel, angry action that might otherwise have been committed, I did a woman's work. Let them insult my maiden pride as they will - I walk pure before God!"

♥ Their intercourse had been one continued series of opposition. Their opinions clashed; and indeed, she had never perceived that he had cared for her opinions, as belonging to her, the individual. As far as they defied his rock-like power of character, his passion-strength, he seemed to throw them off from him with contempt, until she felt the weariness of the exertion of making useless protests; and now, he had come, in this strange wild passionate way, to make known his love! For, although at first it had struck her, that his offer was forced and goaded out of him by sharp compassion for the exposure she had made of herself, - which he, like others, might misunderstand - yet, even before he left the room, - and certainly, not five minutes after, the clear conviction dawned upon her, shined bright upon her, that he did love her; that he had loved her; that he would love her. And she shrank and shuddered as under the fascination of some great power, repugnant to her whole previous life. She crept away, and hid from his idea. But it was of no use. To parody a line out of Fairfax's Tasso -


'His strong idea wandered through her thought.'



She disliked him the more for having mastered her inner will. How dared he say that he would love her still, even though she shook him off with contempt?

♥ "And above all there was to be no going again the law of the land. Folk would go with them if they saw them striving and starving wi' dumb patience; but if there was once any noise o' fighting and struggling - even wi' knobsticks - all was up, as they knew by th' experience of man, and many a time before. They would try and get speech o' th' knobsticks, and coax 'em, and reason wi' 'en, and m'appen warn 'em off; but whatever came, Committee knew they were right in their demand, and they didn't want to have right all mixed up wi' wrong, till folk can't separate it, no more nor I can th' physic-powder from th' jelly yo' gave me to mix it in; jelly is much the biggest, but powder tastes it all through.

♥ It would have been a relief to him, if he could have sat down and cried on a door-step by a little child, who was raging and storming, through his passionate tears, at some injury he had received. He said to himself, that he hated Margaret, but a wild, sharp sensation of love cleft his dull, thunderous feeling like lightning, even as he shaped the words expressive of hatred. His greatest comfort was in hugging his torment; and in feeling, as he had indeed said to her, that though she might despise him, contemn him, treat him with her proud sovereign indifference, he did not change one whit. She could not make him change. He loved her, and would love her; and defy her, and this miserable bodily pain.

♥ Margaret the Churchwoman, her father the Dissenter, Higgins the Infidel, knelt down together. It did them no harm.

♥ "Let us go up-stairs, and do something, rather than waste time that may be so precious. 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.

♥ "I don't think God endued me with over-much wisdom or strength," he added, falling back into his old position.

Mr Bell blew his nose ostentatiously before answering. Then he said:

"He gave you strength to do what your conscience told you was right; and I don't see that we need any higher or holier strength than that; or wisdom either. I know I have no that much; and yet men set me down in their fool's books as a wise man; an independent character; strong-minded, and all that cant. The veriest idiot who obeys his own simple law of right, if it be but in wiping his shoes on a door-mat, is wiser and stronger than I. But what gulls men are!"

♥ "Her Aunt Shaw loves her in her own quiet way; but she forgets to love the absent."

♥ "Nothing like the act of eating for equalising men. Dying is nothing to it. The philosopher dies sententiously - the pharisee ostentatiously - the simple-hearted humbly - the poor idiot blindly, as the sparrow falls to the ground; but philosopher and idiot, publican and pharisee all eat after the same fashion - given an equally good digestion.

♥ "I begin to understand now what heaven must be - and, oh! the grandeur and repose of the words - 'The same yesterday, today, and for ever.' Everlasting! 'From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.' That sky above me looks as though it could not change, and yet it will. I am so tired - so tired of being whirled on through all these phases of my life, in which nothing abides by me, no creature, no place; it is like the circle in which the victims of earthly passion eddy continually. I am in the mood in which women of another religion take the veil. I seek heavenly steadfastness in earthly monotony. if I were a Roman Catholic and could deaden my heart, stun it with some great blow, I might become a nun. But I should pine after my kind; no, not my kind, for love for my species could never fill my heart ti the utter exclusion of love for individuals. Perhaps it ought to be so, perhaps not; I cannot decide to-night."

Wearily she went to bed, wearily she arose in four or five hours' time. But with the morning came hope, and a brighter view of things.

"After all it is right," said she, hearing the voices of children at play while she was dressing. "If the world stood still, it would retrograde and become corrupt, if that is not Irish. Looking out of myself, and my own painful sense of change, the progress of all around me is right and necessary. I must not think so much of how circumstances affect me myself, but how they affect others, if I wish to have a right judgement, or a hopeful trustful heart.

..."And I too change perpetually - now this, now that - now disappointed and peevish because all is not exactly as I had pictured it, and now suddenly discovering that the reality is far more beautiful than I had imagined it."

♥ He was but like many others - men, women and children - alive to distant, and dead to near things. He sought to possess the influence of a name in foreign countries and faraway seas, - to become the head of a firm that should be known for generations; and it had taken him long silent years to come even to a glimmering of what he might be now, to-day, here in his own town, his own factory, among his own people. He and they had led parallel lives - very close, but never touching - till the accident (or so it seemed) of his acquaintance with Higgins. Once brought face to face, man to man, with an individual of the masses around him, and (take notice) out of the character of master and workman, in the first instance, they had each begin to recognise that 'we have all of us one human heart.' It was the fine point of the wedge; and until now, when the apprehension of losing his connection with two or three of the workmen whom he had so lately begun to know as men, - of having a plan or two, which were experiments lying very close to his heart, roughly nipped off without trial, - gave a new poignancy to the subtle fear that came over him from time to time; until now, he had never recognized how much and how deep was the interest he had grown of late to feel in his positron as manufacturer, simply because it led him into such close contact, and gave him the opportunity of so much power, among a race of people strange, shrewd, ignorant; but, above all, full of character and strong human feeling.
Tags: 1850s, 19th century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, british - fiction, fiction, literature, my favourite books, romance, social criticism (fiction)
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