Monday, September 24, 2007

North and South

I love this book.

The writing is nineteenth century and may not be accessible for all readers, but I find this style soothing and rhythmic. More than anything, though, the book touches the romantic inside me.

A vast majority of the story has little to do with romance. Gaskell focuses much of the text on industrialization, unionization, and the human condition. These topics are not too terribly interesting to me, and I would normally feel impatient with these passages. But I was more than willing to read them in order to learn more about Margaret Hale and John Thornton’s relationship.

Despite writing the book in 1855, Gaskell has a good sense of humor and an almost modern-day sensibility. For example, Edith, Margaret’s cousin, writes a snarky letter about her baby son:

"I think I love him a great deal better than my husband, who is getting stout and grumpy . . . I retract all I said just now . . . Cosmo is quite as great a darling as baby, and not a bit stout, and as ungrumpy as ever husband was" (278).

And John Thornton is the ideal 21st-century male. He is a strong and successful businessman. He has power and authority and raises himself from poverty to start his own manufacturing business.

But Thornton is also incredibly sensitive. He is the consummate gentleman and loves Margaret deeply and passionately; he is considerate to her parents, hand delivering and handpicking fruit for her ailing mother and spending hours with her father. He is stern and serious but also “in touch” with his emotions: at more than one moment, Margaret’s actions bring him to tears.

Can you tell that I am in love with John Thornton? I’ll just have to add him to my list of heroes who put real males to shame.

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