‘But the cloud never comes in that quarter of the horizon from which we watch for it.’
When Margaret Hale is uprooted from Hampshire and moves to the industrial town of Milton in the North of England, her whole world changes. As her sympathy for the town’s mill workers grows, her sense of social injustice piques and she passionately fights their corner. However, just as she disputes the mill owner, John Thornton’s treatment of his workers, she cannot deny her growing attraction to him. Highlighting the changing landscape of nineteenth-century Britain and championing the role of women in Victorian society, Gaskell brilliantly captures the lives of ordinary people through one of her strongest female characters in literature.
After a decade spent living with her aunt in London, nineteen-year-old Margaret Hale returns home to her beloved village of Helstone only to discover that her pastor father has had a crisis of faith and is moving the family to the North of England. In the industrial town of Milton, Margaret is horrified by the dirty air, the shocking poverty, and the pervasive mistreatment of the working class. John Thornton, a student of Margaret’s father and the self-made owner of a local textile mill, finds Margaret haughty and naive, but is drawn to her beauty nevertheless. As tensions between workers and masters mount, a strike appears inevitable. Margaret’s sympathies lie with the downtrodden laborers of Milton, but her heart increasingly yearns for Thornton, whose strength and depth of character will be revealed in a time of profound crisis.
Both a timeless romance and a richly detailed social novel, North and South is a masterpiece of Victorian literature.
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'How am I to dress up in my finery, and go off and away to smart parties, after the sorrow I have seen today?'
Elizabeth Gaskell's compassionate, richly dramatic novel features one of the most original and fully-rounded female characters in Victorian fiction, Margaret Hale. It shows how, forced to move from the country to an industrial northern town, she develops a passionate sense of social justice, and a turbulent relationship with mill-owner John Thornton. North and South depicts a young woman discovering herself, in a nuanced portrayal of what divides people, and what brings them together.
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Milton is a sooty, noisy northern town centred around the cotton mills that employ most of its inhabitants. Arriving from a rural idyll in the south, Margaret Hale is initially shocked by the social unrest and poverty she finds in her new hometown. However, as she begins to befriend her neighbours, and her stormy relationship with the mill-owner John Thornton develops, she starts to see Milton in a different light.
The book is a social novel that tries to show the industrial North and its conflicts in the mid-19th century as seen by an outsider, a socially sensitive lady from the South. The heroine of the story, Margaret Hale, is the daughter of a Nonconformist minister who moves to the fictional industrial town of Milton after leaving the Church of England. The town is modeled after Manchester, where Gaskell lived as the wife of a Unitarian minister. Gaskell herself worked among the poor and knew at first hand the misery of the industrial areas.
The change of lifestyle shocks Margaret, who sympathizes deeply with the poverty of the workers and comes into conflict with John Thornton, the owner of a local mill, also a friend of her father. After an encounter with a group of strikers, in which Margaret attempts to protect Thornton from the violence, he proposes to her, telling her that he is in love with her; she rejects his proposal of marriage, mainly because she sees it as if it were out of obligation for what she had done. Later, he sees her with her fugitive brother, whom he mistakes for another suitor, and this creates further unresolved conflict. Margaret, once she believes she has lost his affection, begins to see him in another light, and eventually they are reunited.
‘“I'll not listen to reason,” she said, now in full possession of her voice, which had been rather choked with sobbing. "Reason always means what someone else has got to say."’
First published in serial format in a magazine, Gaskell’s Cranford is a delightfully light-hearted series of stories about early Victorian life in a country village.
Following the lives of two spinster sisters, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah as they gossip about the inconsequential goings-on of the community around them, Gaskell’s best-loved work affectionately comments on the role of women in society at that time and the changing face of the Victorian world.
‘We're their slaves as long as we can work; we pile up their fortunes with the sweat of our brows, and yet we are to live as separate as if we were in two worlds...’
Set in the industrial unrest of 1840s Manchester, Mary Barton is a factory-worker's daughter living a working-class life in Victorian England. She soon attracts the attentions of the mill-owner's son, Harry Carson, and in the hope that marrying him will improve her prospects and help her to transcend class boundaries, she rejects her former lover Jem Wilson.
However, when Harry is shot the main suspect is Jem and Mary finds herself torn between the two men. At the same time, she discovers that her father, John Barton, who has been active in fighting for the rights of his fellow workers is implicated in the murder. Gaskell's exploration of the class division and the oppression of the working-class is demonstrated effectively through the character of Mary, highlighting how lack of communication and mistrust can arise through such vast differences in lifestyle and wealth.
Cranford recounts the events and activities in the loves of a group of spinsters and widows who struggle in genteel poverty to maintain their standards of propriety, decency, and kindness. Tales of the heroism and self-sacrifice of Captain Brown, the surprisingly betrothal of Lady Glenmire, and the future for pretty but poor Miss Jessie support a web of subtle but serious themes that include the movement from aristocratic to middle-class values, the separate spheres and diverse experiences of men and women, and the curious coexistence of customs old and new in a changing society.
Often referred to as Mrs. Gaskell, the author preferred Cranford to all her other works, which include a popular biography of her friend Charlotte Brontë. Praised by Charles Dickens as "delightful, and touched with the most tender and delicate manner," the novel remains a favorite with students and aficionados of nineteenth-century literature.
An Accursed Race
Curious, if True
A Dark Night's Work
Doom of the Griffiths
The Grey Woman and other Tales
Half a Life-time Ago
Life of Charlotte Bronte
Lois the Witch
The Moorland Cottage
My Lady Ludlow
North and South
The Poor Clare
Round the Sofa
Wives and Daughters
After a break with the church forces Margaret Hale's family to the cotton-manufacturing town of Milton, she finds herself in the midst of the industrial revolution. There, she must contend with workers' strikes, conflicts between the classes, and the attentions of Mr. Thornton, an important manufacturer. A fascinating exploration of the relationships between workers and masters, NORTH AND SOUTH is a sweeping novel that brings Victorian England to life.
Mrs. Gaskell had some of the characteristics of Miss Austen, and if her style and delineation of character are less minutely perfect, they are, on the other hand, imbued with a deeper vein of feeling. She was the friend of Charlotte Bronté, to whom her sympathy brought much comfort, and whose Life she wrote. Of Cranford Lord Houghton wrote, “It is the finest piece of humoristic description that has been added to British literature since Charles Lamb.”
As men and women, workers and masters come into violent conflict, it seems opposites can never meet. But do John and Margaret's power struggles hide deeper feelings? And, when it seems Margaret has lost everything, can she find the one thing she never expected?
The plot of Mary Barton concerns the poverty and desperation of England’s industrial workers. Fundamentally, however, it revolves around Mary’s personal conflicts. She is already divided between an affection for an industrialist’s son, Henry Carson, and for a man of her own class, Jem Wilson. But Mary’s conflict escalates when her father, a committed trade unionist, is asked to assassinate Henry, who is the son of his unjust employer.