Unless you’re new to WoM or have been ignoring the comments on Lori’s posts, you probably know that I LOVE North and South – the book – and that I have a love/hate relationship with the 2004 movie adaptation. And, for some reason, Lori thought I might want to share with all of you why I like it so much, and she thought you might want to read my answer. She was right on the first point, but the jury’s still out on the second…
It was a simple enough question: Why do you love this book? But as I thought about it, it didn’t seem to have a simple answer.
I thought about all of the things that we’ve talked about here on WoM – the characters, the storylines, the relationships, the social impact – I thought about scenes that I love and how they made me feel – I thought about lots of things, but I still didn’t have an answer.
I thought about it in the context of other books that I love. Some of my favorites – ones I’ve read multiple times – The Martian Chronicles, The Hunger Games trilogy, The Light of Western Stars – How did North and South make it into this weird little shortlist? What do they all have in common?
They have people overcoming great adversity, having life-altering adventures, creating beautiful relationships in the midst of personal drama – they’re amazing stories! But really, I think I like them because I see pieces of myself in them.
No, thankfully I have never had to explore or colonize Mars, fight an oppressive regime, kill my peers in a futuristic gladiator arena, defy my social class, escape from Mexican vaqueros, or deal with great personal loss. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t relate to those books…
In North and South, I see myself in the characters’ struggle to be emotionally open and to allow themselves to get close to those around them – in their lack of vulnerability that results in feeling misunderstood and undervalued. Maybe those seem like strange things to draw from this story. I don’t know, maybe they are. But they speak to me.
Most of my early life I felt like no one really understood me. I know that most adolescents feel that way and that some of them are just making it up in their dramatic little heads. Well, I wasn’t making it up. People really didn’t know me because I wouldn’t let them. They were left to assume that the person they saw was the entirety of the person I was. Unfortunately, that person was often irritable, alone, had a biting wit, and could be mean. Because in reality, I was insecure, immature, and plagued by a conscience that wouldn’t let me forget my failures. So, sometimes I said horrible things and always I refused to be vulnerable and mostly people were content not to look further. I can’t say that I blame them.
But it wasn’t true. I wasn’t really that person – or I wasn’t ONLY that person, I should say. And I had a lot more to offer than people were able – or sometimes willing – to see. I had inside of me another version of myself that wanted to develop. But for a long time, I wouldn’t let it. Instead of being honest, I chose to hide behind an unforgiving wit and a cold façade. So, I was moody and felt misunderstood because of my own choices – because I equated emotional vulnerability with weakness. Only those closest to me could catch a glimpse, from time to time, of the person I wished I had the courage to be.
How bad was I? I’ll tell you a very unflattering story:
When I was a kid (around age 9 or 10, I think) a nice, cute boy at church had a crush on me. One day, he gave a silk rose to his friend and had the friend deliver it to me. I was so embarrassed by this expression of emotion and I was so afraid of what my family would think, I went into the bathroom and angrily tore the rose apart. I threw open the bathroom door, found the messenger, slammed the pieces of the rose back into his hand, and said, “Give it back to him!” Then, I went into the bathroom and cried.
That poor kid didn’t deserve that treatment. And I felt awful for doing that to him. (I also felt awful for gouging a hole in his arm with my fingernail on the playground on another day, but I digress…) I felt awful and he was a nice kid. So why did I do it? Why was I so horrible to him?
In short, I was embarrassed by his attention and his affection. I wasn’t ready to receive it. So I fought back with the only emotion I could safely display: anger. (This story bears a vague resemblance to the proposal/rejection scene in North and South, doesn’t it? Don’t remember? Watch the movie version here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_FcSm1wUu0 )
As an adult, I look back and regret my hideous behavior. And I realize I can relate both to Margaret’s angry rejection of Thornton and to her subsequent shame.
As a mother, I imagine how that kid’s mom felt about this bratty monster of a girl who kept hurting her little boy. And I realize I can relate to Hannah’s hatred for the girl who kept hurting her little boy.
So, in the novel when Margaret has trouble expressing her innermost feelings because she’s afraid of people’s judgment or afraid of admitting her own emotion, I can relate. When the stoic John Thornton feels emotionally unknowable and underappreciated, I can relate. When Hannah hides her grief – her emotions – behind her stern façade and sharp tongue, I can relate. When Higgins pushes too hard for the union and regrets hurting Boucher, I can relate. Pieces of them are pieces of me.
Stopping there, the story would be tragic. Thankfully, these characters overcome. Margaret finds someone who grants her permission to express herself. Thornton finds someone who sees his true value and the deep well of emotion under that stoic expression. Hannah finds the validation she wants for her son and the promise of a joyful tomorrow. Higgins finds friendship and a renewed purpose.
What I love about this story is that everyone grows. It’s hopeful! These characters show us that we don’t have to stay the people that everyone thinks we are or expects us to be. We can be something more than that. We can just be us – the very best version of ourselves. Yes, we are flawed and we will make mistakes and we’ll judge unfairly and we’ll struggle with – everything. We’re a mess! But since we’re all a mess, we can extend grace to each other – and accept grace from each other – and grow.
I love North and South because it’s so familiar and so redemptive.
Yeah, that’s what I love…Well, that AND the last scene in the study. I really, really love that. Seriously, have you read that lately?!
What about you? Have you found pieces of yourself in this book?
Note from loriBear: *thank you Courtney for agreeing to write this post. Be sure to go and have a look at Courtney’s “bio” on our “Contributor’s” page. You can also get a hint of Courtney’s blog by viewing her post about this post on her blog! lol that was a bit of twist there wasn’t it. Also … I’ve already commissioned another post from Courtney. You can’t frequent WoM without knowing Courtney is very passionate about the book ending of North & South. I put her on notice that a post, defending her stand will be required in the future .. stay tuned.
How often have you seen this statement? In my seven years since discovering North & South, this thought has been presented on more than one occasion. After a few times, I will admit, I got quite annoyed, now I’ve settled into a much more patient place. This very thought was once again brought up in a discussion on another web discussion platform.
The question was asked quite honestly.. with a desire to understand. How could Thornton be this confident mill owner and then at the same time feel himself unworthy? The question arose in her mind after examining the ending that she states plainly to love dearly.
“Oh Mr. Thornton, I am not good enough.”
“Not good enough! Don’t mock my own deep feeling of unworthiness.”
The fan goes on to say that she understands Margaret’s feelings of unworthiness, given her lie about Fred. Yet she didn’t understand why Thornton would feel himself unworthy. She then went on to quote other parts of the novel like:
“I dare not hope. I never was fainthearted before; but I cannot believe such a creature cares for me”
“…a great rough fellow, with not a grace or a refinement about him.”
In reading her thoughts, I did feel compassion for her struggle. Many in our modern age struggle with this element in Thornton’s character. It’s hard for some to understand and grasp the balance of ‘confident commanding master’ and ‘humble, tender, loving man’. Yet, it’s the complexity of Thornton’s character, the factor that he possesses all of these qualities that make him such an amazing man.
What can appear as “low self-esteem” to some, is only Gaskell revealing the man beneath the stern master. The quote from early in the story, “I dare not hope. I never was fainthearted before; but I cannot believe such a creature cares for me…”, true to Gaskell’s brilliance of writing, delivers many things at once. To be honest, it’s easy to miss the true beauty of this line. It is but a small segment of a larger, more powerful scene yet it still delivers a punch all on its own. We see the two sides of Thornton. ”never was fainthearted before”, displays his strength and intelligence and then “I cannot believe such a creature cares for me…” delivers the depth of his passion for Margaret. This man is bursting at the seams and he doesn’t know how he can contain himself any longer. His love for Margaret is unchartered territory for him. I could go on about this.. but let’s move onto the more practical side of this feeling that Thornton has “low self-esteem”.
Before you can really grasp any of the characters in this novel, you have to understand the world that they live in. Much of Victorian Britain, as with many era preceding it, was controlled by a strict social class system and it plays a heavy role in what is behind many of Thornton’s statements throughout the book that can be confused with “low self-esteem”. What we struggle to understand on this front, is something that readers of the Victorian age would have not only immediately understood… in truth, would have expected. I read an article years ago that spoke of how North & South was not received well by the upper social classes of the time. Many felt the love story was unequally matched. (translation: the upper classes didn’t approve of Margaret falling for a man of the working class)
In Victorian Britain, class separation still ruled society yet it was being challenged. With the evolving industrial revolution, people who were considered “working class” were rising to heights of wealth and power, and this was upsetting the well established social apple cart (so to speak). This very issue plays a heavy role in the message that Gaskell was attempting to communicate in her story. The disadvantage for us, in these modern times, is that Gaskell doesn’t spell this out. Again, because the readers she wrote to understood this without explanation, they were living it.
At the time that Gaskell wrote this wonderful story, though this element was changing… full change had not yet taken place. Thornton, though immensely wealthy, was well aware of his “lack of refinement” by the definition of the class above him. He had not been born into a social class that would have taught him those refinements, in fact, the tragedy of his father’s death also plays a role in his lack of training in this area. His statements on this topic were not a lack of confidence but rather a reflection of what he knew to be true in the society he lived in. His understanding of this and his full opinion on the matter is revealed in more detail in his discussion with Margaret about the true definition of a “gentleman”. To sum up his words, he held himself to a higher standard than that which was thrust upon him by society. He speaks of being weary of the misuse of the word “gentlemanly” but brings out the element of being a “man” to be more powerful. Though it is not said in exact terms, Thornton held himself to a higher standard. Not to please others but “to himself—to time—to eternity.” It was more important to live a life of high morals, honesty and integrity. This is not a man suffering from ‘low self esteem’. (quotes from Ch 20 ‘Men & Gentleman’)
Thornton knew, instinctively, that Margaret would view him as “lacking refinement” and he was spot on. We all know very well Margaret’s prejudice against him in the first half of the book. With comments such as “not quite a gentleman”. If he had not loved her so keenly, I don’t think this would have bothered him much. It was nothing new to him. In fact, if you look closely at the beginning of their acquaintance, though he felt attraction to her, her view of him he found rather amusing. It was only when his attraction began to grow, against his will, that this ‘fact’ began to sting.
Also, his statements about feeling unworthy of Margaret also reflects his humbleness of character. It’s the tender, compassionate and humble side of Thornton that he has had to keep locked away since his father died. Margaret awakens that part of him and forces it to the surface. His passion for her is unchartered territory for him. His love for her and then her cruel rejection of him, knocks him completely off balance. This confident, powerful man is shaken to his core by his love for this rather naive, idealistic southern refined lady. Yet even there, though it takes time, he is able to regain his equilibrium and his strong sense of self.
In truth, loving Margaret redefines him. As I stated above, I don’t believe it is until he meets her that he feels the full brunt of the social class constraints. Though he was well aware of them, it wasn’t until his heart longed for her love, that he felt the full weight of the limitations it put on him.
The last point that I will make comes from another quote in the novel. One of my all time favorites.
“…he passionately loved her, and thought her, even with all her faults, more lovely and more excellent than any other woman…”
He adores her. Because he thought of her (in translation) to be the best woman in the world, it is not so surprising that the humble side of him felt unworthy of her. In truth, it is quite beautiful. Gaskell reveals much the same in Margaret. In the second half of the book, Margaret comes to understand Thornton. She sees him for what he is.. a man like no other. She not only understands, but knows what Thornton stated about being a ‘man’.. was the only way to view a man. Her great sorrow, comes from her understanding that she rejected the best of men. She adores him and this is articulated in her sorrow at what she feels is lost to her nearing the end of the book. Sitting before a fire, even though she and Henry had grown close, she resigns herself to the fact that she would never marry. To her, in that moment, no other man could ever live up to what she knew Thornton to be. Every other man would suffer in comparison.
Gaskell reveals the depth of their love for each other in those last words (quoted above). Their love is pure. Not some idle infatuation. They see each other clearly, faults and all and believe the other to be “more excellent than any other…”
It is not a self-esteem issue.. but rather a thing of real beauty.
So now it’s your turn… have you struggled with this thought? Have you had this very discussion with others? What are your thoughts?
Okay.. don’t fall over! Yes I’m actually here and I’m actually posting something! LOL. I do apologize everyone for being away for so long. This new venture my husband and I have taken on has totally taken over my life, leaving little free time for any of my passions! Yet, I can promise you this much, WoM is never far from my thoughts. I have asked a few to do “guest” posts so we can keep things going. I’ve gotten a couple back and I hope to be able to post more consistently with these friends support. If you would like to submit a post for consideration I would be happy to review it.
So let’s dig into the topic for tonight.
Some of you might be wondering.. what is Queen’s Mill? Queen’s Mill is an authentic Cotton Mill, built-in 1894 and stayed a working mill until 1982. It is also the mill that was used in the production of North & South. In the picture below, you will see this famous mill’s first scene. Little trivia, the man in the foreground, where a more white suit, is employed by Queen’s Mill and there to oversee the machines when they are in full production. The women in the background are extra’s hired by the film crew to be the Marlborough Mills workers.
Announced in an article in the Guardian, a British magazine, the Queen’s mill was raised to a Grade 1 level historical site. For those of us outside the UK, the article explains:
Grade I is the highest category, only bestowed on 2.5% of roughly 350,000 listed buildings in England, marking the mill as of exceptional importance.
The article goes on to quote a historical official:
Nick Bridgland, leader of the English Heritage listing team in the north, described it as a unique building of international significance. “Queen Street Mill is a remarkable survival of a working, steam-powered textile mill from the heyday of Lancashire’s cotton production. The textile industry was one of the great drivers of Britain’s industrialisation and so has international importance. The survival of such a complete mill is unparalleled and merits listing at the highest grade.”
Who will ever forget these two scenes. They are permanently imprinted on my mind and heart.
It is a personal goal of mine, should I ever be blessed to travel to England (which is one the places I most wish to visit.) Queen’s Mill will be on my list to see. Of course, I also wish to visit Dalton Mills, the historical wool mill that was used for the outer model of Marlborough Mills. Dalton Mills, which was under reconstruction, plans to turn it into flats and office space suffered a devastating fire about a year ago. I need to look for updates on the status of them mill. Stay tuned for details.
I felt this wonderful article deserved a place on WoM. If you have a chance to read the original article I encourage you to do so! *You can get to the article by clicking on the picture below.
What do you think ladies? Are you happy to see this iconic mill preserved from the era of our beloved N&S? Have you had the pleasure of touring this mill for yourself? Tell us all about it! Have some pictures to share.. send them to me and I will post them here!
Just want to comment to tell me that you are still with us? I hope you all will!
Hello everyone, did you think that I had fallen off the face of the earth? LOL.. well at times I’ve wondered if indeed I have done just that. Yet.. here I am.
What many of you may not have realized is one week ago yesterday, WoM passed the one year mark. I wanted to do a special post on that day and sadly this business just got in the way. I have a new appreciation for all of you dear friends out there who have worked full-time jobs, taking care of their homes and families and then also doing all those things that go along with being the “woman of the house!” I’ve always had a busy life, yet adding a busy work schedule, on top of everything else has really been a challenge. A good challenge but a challenge all the same. I’m not there yet.. but I am pressing forward!
Though I have been very busy, getting myself settled into this new business and all its responsibilities, WoM and my beloved Mr. Thornton has not been too far from my thoughts. Along with my LONG list of “To Do’s” for work, I’ve also had an item on the list .. “Write post of WoM” I’ve been working on one but it is still in the works!
In belated celebration of our milestone here at WoM.. I wanted to share something with you all that is just fun. We all are busy trying to get things ready.. make things perfect for our families for the holidays. So I wanted to post something that would take you all away, just for a few minutes and maybe feed that desire for romance and fun. So here goes…
How many of you out there had the pleasure of following the Vlog on YouTube called “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” ? It is a modern retelling of the Jane Austin classic novel, Pride & Prejudice”. I have to say, it was pure brilliance! Clean, clever and full of fun! It took 100 -5 minute episodes to tell this story, starting in April of 2012 and finishing in March of this year.
Going to the website this evening, I discovered that the series won a prestigious Emmy award. Not at all a surprise. I am ecstatic that this wonderful production received such recognition. If you have not had the pleasure of watching this vlog/series production, I will include a link to the website as well as the first episode below.
For those of you who did have the pleasure of following this fun story, I wanted to be sure that you all knew about the newest production. It is called ‘Emma Approved’. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that this new production will follow and modernize the Jane Austen classic story of Emma. I’m looking forward to watching this story unfold with the same clever modern twists and play on words.
*Series can also be watched via the website: ‘Emma Approved’.
The series is well on it’s way with 19 episodes already posted on Youtube. (the 20th due to be released tomorrow, Thursday, Dec 12th) I hope you will all take a few minutes to follow this wonderful production. You won’t be disappointed.
And for those of you who have not yet seen ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’, shame on you! LOL Just kidding! I have posted the first episode of that series as well. I will warn you .. it’s addictive and since all videos are available and posted on both the website and YouTube, you might want to make yourself a sandwich and a nice cup of hot tea.. cause you will be there for awhile!
Be sure to leave a comment with what you think about ‘Emma Approved’ and/or ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’. I would love to chat with you all about it. Tell me what you found to be the most clever twist on the original story. What were your favorite moments. What did you think were the funniest? *I will post my favorite episode in the comment section soon!
And here’s to hoping that one day they might consider a industrial classic by an author name E. Gaskell!
**And YEA!! The snowflakes are back!! I miss them and wished they would have continued through January last year.
Though this time of year tends to be busy for us all, I have no doubt that many of you have noticed that I have been rather silent for the past few weeks. Though the festive season is sneaking up on me quite quickly, this is not the full reason for my silence.
My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a digital distribution company. The sale in set, the contract signed and the transfer will be in place one week from today. The process has left both my husband and I a bit daunted at the enormous tasks head of us. About two weeks ago, we traveled to Canada to undergo an intensive three day training on the tasks and procedures that are required to run this business. My husband made a comment on the last day of this training session, “I feel like I’ve been thrust back in school!” I discovered that the older I get the less space there is available to absorb new information. After awhile, things begin to spill out over the edges! lol
Though I joke, there is truth to all I’ve said. Traveling home from this training, I nearly left my iPad on one of the planes. (thankfully I was able to recover it) then only days after arriving home, I actually forgot to pick up my car from the mechanic. Thankfully, though the last few weeks have been a mad dash to prepare and then also continue to study the ins and outs of this business, I have been able to regain some elements of control over my brain! LOL
We chose for a multitude of reasons to place the ownership of this business into my name. My current title is “president”, giving definition to part of the title of this post..’the unwilling pres’. My husband will be deeply involved but will still be working his regular job. That leaves much of the day to day responsibilities to me. I’ve taken each task and each day one at a time. It’s a good thing because there is still so much more to learn.
Needless to say, because I’m in the process of learning this new responsibility, my time to reflect on my beloved North & South is greatly limited. I have a series of posts planned and I do hope to have the first of this series written by the anniversary of WoM, which is a little over a week from now. We’ll see what we can get done. In the mean time, I’ve asked Trudy and Courtney to write a couple of posts, so that I can keep the discussions flowing. Thank you to both Courtney and Trudy for their willingness to step up and help me out.
For those that may be asking the question, “what does digital distribution” mean? In a nutshell, we have a digital warehouse that currently houses educational ebooks. There are plans to expand the warehouse to house more digital content yet for now, this is enough to keep us very busy.
One of the ways this digital content is distributed is from the company’s main ebook store, Dedicated Teacher. If you are interested, you can have a quick look around by clicking on the image below. If you are interested in more information about the content.. let me know in your comment and I will post the way to reach me directly.
Thank you ladies for you patience during this silence.
For all of you here in the states.. I wish you all the Happiest of Thanksgiving! Don’t eat too much turkey!
DEVIL’S KNOT – OFFICIAL TRAILER – YouTube.
Hey everyone, here is a trailer of the movie coming out about my cousin. Again, my cousin is played by Colin Firth. When you hear him say.. “Ron Lax” .. that is him.
I will be honest with you, this is not the sort of movie that I seek to watch. Yet.. out of respect for my cousin, who passed away just weeks ago, I will buy the ticket and go!
Here is also an article about the movie.