At a time when England was experiencing tremendous growth and change, Elizabeth Gaskell began her first novel, North and South, highlighting the condition of industrial England. Staggering poverty coupled with immense prosperity offered a duality unmatched by any other time period in England’s economic history. “The whole assemblage of buildings is commonly called Manchester, and contains about four hundred thousand inhabitants, rather more than less” (Broadview 58). Manchester, England, presented the stark contrast between middle and lower classes, as men became not only masters, but masters of men. A natural division between masters and men prevailed and problems began to occur within the class system – “the working people’s quarters
…show more content…
And through the medium of its central characters, John Thornton and Margaret Hale, the reader almost immediately recognizes the need for reconciliation among the English classes, the importance of human pain and suffering, and the value of social responsibility. Margaret Hale is the catalyst for this reconciliation, and with quiet strength, goodness, and compassion, she sets-out on a journey that would reveal women as the ideal mediator of conflict. Margaret’s journey is “a social one wherein she seeks to reconcile town and country, factory and forest, masters and men to each other” (Pikoulis 180). Her influence (words and deeds), her acceptance of the surrounding people and circumstances, and her willingness to learn the cultural class signs her proves her power to enact change among the classes relations to include the relationship between men and women, masters and their employees. At a time when women served as mediators through personal contact with the working classes, Margaret Hale is charged with this responsibility, and acting as the bridge between the classes, she is seen as the perfect minister, offering the avenue of understanding, reason, guidance, and charity so as to foster the relationship for change.
Margaret Hale has a strong character from the outset. She is intelligent and independent; a woman of immense control, “soft feminine defiance,” and a toughness of will equal to any male (Elliot 28). The story contemplates both sides of the unrest between