My Male Perspective: Margaret of the North

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Here’s my male perspective: Margaret of the North

Margaret of the North by Evy Journey continues the story of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. Gaskell’s novel has been made into a 2004 BBC mini-series of four 50-minute episodes. It stars Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage.

This novel, Margaret of the North, sensitively gives us the ensuing life of Margaret and Thornton. But it’s more than just a romance. It tries to develop some of the themes of Gaskell’s novel. Gaskell describes the upheavals of the industrial revolution in England.

“…changing times—modern poverty, rage, desperation, militant trade unionism and class antagonism.” (Roberto Dainotto)

Margaret is more independent and rebellious than the typical Victorian woman. She ignores some social taboos on women of that time. She challenges authority when she sees injustice. I might even argue that she uses her sexual power when she leads Thornton to change some of his views and how he deals with workers.

Margaret builds a medical clinic for workers. Was the author thinking of Gaskell’s admiration for Florence Nightingale? Margaret teaches children to read. To help them escape impoverished lives. Margaret, thus, continues to leave the sealed off feminine domestic world. She goes into the masculine public world through philanthropy. She manages her inherited fortune when she helps others less fortunate

You see the tender, sensitive, loving side of Thornton in his meetings with Margaret. You also see it in what he does for his workers.

The roles of both Margaret and Thornton get blurred. They learn new ways of meeting each other. They treat each other more as individuals.

Thornton’s world opens up. He and Margaret visit Paris. They see great changes it the city. New roads and new buildings. A new face.

The author adds historical upheavals in art to economic ones. She brings what she knows about the birth of modernism when she describes what the newlyweds saw in Paris. She places them in lively Parisian cafes, also a sign of the times. Rapid changes are clearly taking place in many cities. Thornton enjoys the trip. He admits that “careless ease” has a purpose.

Margaret of the North: a romance, yes. But a romance situated in changing times, changing social and gender roles, and social and artistic upheavals.

Posted by Richard Journey, Ph.D. He wrote his dissertation on “Married Women’s Changing in the Context of Changing Social Possibilities.”

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