8.06.2012

North and South (RAL #1)

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS


Firstly -

My initial thought when I heard North and South was :  like, the Civil War, right?

Of course I realized that it wasn't waaaay before I signed up for the readalong, but still.  I totally felt like a doofus. 

Secondly -

How in the biblioworld have I not read anything by Gaskell or even HEARD much about her?  Why are there not more people reading her WORDS?!  I am in literary love with her.  You see, I've been foggy brained for the past four or so days due to sinuses going all wackadoo.  I seriously spent two days in bed watching the tele because I couldn't focus on anything remotely wordy.  And normally that would have been FINE except I really wanted to continue reading.

So, what's North and South really about?  The industrialization of Europe perhaps with a sprinkle of marrying for love or money and various other turn of the century sorta themes.  I'm talking scope here, people.  But let me talk INTRICATE now.  PERSONAL even.

So what's happened in the first fourteen chapters?
 
Margaret is our opinionated heroine.  She lived for a wee bit in London with her cousin, Edith,  but longed to return to her frolicly life in Helstone where her pops (Mr. Hale) is the pastor.  Helstone is conveyed as this fairy tale land where one can traipse around in idyllic play, drawing and nature-gazing all day.  In fact, when Mags describes Helstone to the Very Interested Mr. Henry Lennox he kids her of her starry-eyed adoration.

Upon Edith's marriage to Captain Lennox (another one), Mags returns to Helstone and is THRILLED and all is merry, even if a wee bit awkward with that whole love confession from Henry. 

And then, Mr. Hale becomes withdrawn and decides that he is having a crisis of faith and must leave the church, i.e. HELSTONE.  Mags is distraught.  Mrs. Hale is distraught.  Mr. Hale can't handle the distraughtness so HE is distraught.  And all move to Milton, which is, like, the Opposite of Helstone.  It's smoky and manufacturery. And there's poor folk all around.  And worst yet.  UNEDUCATED FOLK.

Enter Mr. Thorton, runner of a mill.  Mr. Hale loves him; Mags can't stand him.  He has a mother, who is sharp and strong and a sister who is sickly and sickly.  Mags also meets up with Bessie - one of those poor and uneducated folks - who she gets a Soft Spot for.

Cut Mags some slack

Aiiighty.  I'm diggin' Mags. Really.  I know that there are many who are all she's a snotty little snot who has a fierce case of Ms. Judgeypants but I disagree.  She's just TRADITIONAL.  She loves nature and farming and small towns and neighborly functions like visiting and talking about classical literature.  Milton and therefore everything else associated with Milton is none of the above.  

Also, let's focus here people.  She just lost her home - the place she loved the most.  This wasn't a Dorothy and the Oz moment where home disappeared and she then realized how important it was to her.  Rather, all she could think about in London was how amazing Helstone was.  Aaaand then she gets stuck being the person to break the news to her mom?  What is up with that?  I wanted to throttle Mr. Hale.  Seriously.  Like, there are times when I come across a parent of a child I teach and I want to have one of those you-are-the-parent-not-the-child lecture?!  Well, that was me with Mr. Hale. 

In **my** opinion, Margaret should get an award for taking on the emotional brunt of this whole experience.  After the move BOTH parents are losing it slightly.  Mr. Hale can't stand to watch his daughter and wife lose it and Mrs. Hale has sickened herself (is this for real or for fake people? Still haven't figured it out).  Mags is the glue in this sucky sandwich. 

And how sad was it...

Bessie oh Bessie.  This is terrible.  The convos with her pop are horrible.  The whole Miss, of course there's a part of me waiting for death; wouldn't you be if you had to consider life like this for another twenty-thirty-forty years? *sob*

Oh and Mr. Thorton?  HIS dad offed himself?  Do we find out more about THAT? I'd like to know what was going on there before Thorton had to step up and be a man.  Were they struggling? I got the impression that the struggles only happened shortly after dad's suicide when he had to take over being the man of the household. 

And I'm still not getting

What was the religious indecision by Mr. Hale.  I don't get the sense that he stopped believe in god, do you?  I read some of the notes in the back of my book and they said that Gaskell kept it pretty vague for a reason.  Is that just in my book?  What does anyone else gather...

Oh and the brother?  He's not allowed back into England because of a mutiny? Over a mean Captain? 

Finally...

I'm really digging Mr. John Thorton.  When he told his family story, my heart just went pitter patter.  What?! I'm all about broken people overcoming adversaries. 

16 comments:

  1. Most awesome post ever in the land. Srsly. Loved reading this, it made me giggle, and it reflects my thoughts spot-on. Except you're probably way past me in the reading because I had to grade papers yesterday...BOO!

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    1. Boo on grading papers. Worst part of teaching, IMO. ;-)

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  2. Loved your post! And I love that you call her Mags. I've been trying to find a sufficient nickname for her because I loathe typing out 'Margaret' all the time. Eventually, I will cut Mags (so borrowing it1) some slack because she made of some strong stuff, but for the time being, I'm calling her out on all the snobby bits.

    I also had a hard time with why Pa Hale left the church. He claims he still believes in the overall idea of God and religion and whatnot, but leaves as a dissenter. Perhaps he just intellectually disagrees with certain details of the Church's and teachings in his older age? Or perhaps the ordeal with his son and his wife's constant nagging has left me a changed man? Who knows!!!

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    1. You can steal Mags cuz I'm stealing Pa Hale. :)

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  3. I concur with Andi. Totally awesome.

    You make a mean argument for Mags, but she hasn't totally won me over yet. She's coming across as a wee bit condescending. Maybe Thornton can cure her of that?

    And I'm confuzzled over the reason behind papa leaving the church, too. And bro and the navy. I need more scandalous deets!

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    1. Yeah I'm glad to know that the bro will make a cameo.

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  4. As to the church, I have always found it a little vague, but I do think that Gaskell was trying to make the point that you can believe in God outside of the regular Church structure dominant in England. She was writing at a time of many different dissenting groups. If you look up her bio, it says she supported unitarianism: the idea of tolerance and uniting all expressions of belief. You'll find hints towards that later on in the novel.

    Anyway, I think that in having her father dissent from his church, in having her brother stand up to what's right in a mutiny, and in other instances in the upcoming part, Gaskell might have been challenging the idea of authoritarian institutions.

    Sorry to go into detail there, the religious aspects of the novel fascinate (and confuse!) me.

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    1. Iris you are going to be my go to person when it comes to questions about this book and Gaskell!

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  5. Sucky sandwich. Ha!!! I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't get the whole religion thing as well. Mr. Hale even scoffs when Margaret asks if it is because disbelief but if not because of that then what? Seems he mentions something about his wife and spending money but no matter how many times I read this passage I couldn't wrap my head around it. Perhaps living too worldly a life?

    And yes, Bessie. There is one really dramatic part in the audio when she's talking to Margaret about how badly her life sucks and I just wanted to cry for her.

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    1. I need to listen to just an excerpt of the audio. I bet it's a gas. (And um, who took over my body and used the word gas to imply hehehe).

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  6. Loved this post! And I'm on chapter 40 and still have not figured out exactly why Mr. Hale left the church...

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    1. Good to hear that it's not just me. I'm thinking she's going to be fairly vague from everything that I've read.

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  7. I love Gaskell and of her works The Cranford Chronicles (3 books about the one town) as well as North and South are my favorite. There is a BBC adaptation of North and South which is worth watching when you're done reading. It's so well done.

    I love Mr. Thorton. He is one of my literary crushes. I just love him. It can't be helped.

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    1. I am definitely forming a crush on Mr. Thorton as well! And I'll have to look for the BBC adaptation after I make my way through this. North and South will not be my last Gaskell that's for sure.

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  8. I have issues with Margaret, especially how she treats Bessy and calls people "shoppy" but I can see that she deserves some slack! I like how she goes head to head with Thornton and makes some good points even though she knows nothing about the industrial world. Really liking Thornton (and kind of liking his mom). I really like how Gaskell writes all sides with positives and negatives (except maybe Fanny and Mrs Hale).

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    1. I absolutely adore Mrs. Thorton (although in this second week I've noticed some codependency issues). Even still she's spunky and witty.

      Also, I admit that Mags has some snooty moments but I allow for it because she's a self-confessed ignorant.

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