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Choisya
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Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Chapter 28 'Comfort & Sorrow' Nicholas Higgins, Class & Religion

[ Edited ]
(I have moved this under its own chapter heading in case it gets lost.)

I wonder what folks thought of this chapter and Higgins' comments on religion, which are very typical of those I heard from people I knew in the North of England in my childhood and also follows the 'Dissenters' theme of the novel mentioned at the beginning. (And were you able to understand the Lancashire dialect?:smileysurprised:) Here is an extract from the Victorian Web about this chapter:-

'One of the more powerful scenes in North and South takes place when Nicolas Higgins, the textile worker, visits Mr. Hale after Higgins' daughter, Bessie, dies of consumption, which various forms of air and industrial pollution have induced. Although Higgins admits that he still believes in God, he makes a powerful indictment of established religion, which he sees as a weapon of the capitalist mill-owners against their employees. A cultural relativist, Higgins tells the former clergyman:


"I reckon yo'd not ha' much belief in yo' if yo' lived here — if yo'd been bred here. I axe your pardon if I use wrong words, but what I mean by belief just now, is a-thinking on sayings and maxims and promises made by folk yo' never saw, about the things and the life yo' never saw, nor no one else. Now, yo' say those are the true things, and true sayings, a true life. I just say, where's the proof? There's many and many a wiser, and scores better learned than I am around me — folk who've had time to think on these things — while my time has had to be gu'en up to getting my bread. Well, I sees these people. Their lives is pretty open to me. They're real folk. They don't believe i' the Bible — not they. They may say they do, for form's sake; but Lord, Sir, d'ye think their first cry i' th' morning is, 'What shall I do to get hold of eteranl life?' or 'What shall I do to fill my purse this blessed day? Where shall I go? What bargains shall I strike?' The purse and the gold and the notes is real things; things as can be felt and touched; them's realities; and eternal life is all a talk. . . . If salvation, and the life to come, and what not, was true — not in men's words, but in means hearts' core — dun yo' not think they'd din us wi' it as they do wi' political 'conomy? They're mighty anxious to come round to us wi' that piece o' wisdom; but t'other would be a greater convarsion, if it were true.'"

Note Gaskell's use of class and local dialect for characterization and to further her rhetoric of realism. This indictment, which incidentally demonstrates working-class intellectual ability to her middle class reader, sounds remarkably like that made by the Evangelicals he attacks (most North Country capitalists came from the evangelical and dissenting groups than from the Established Church) on what Wilberforce called "nominal Christians." Higgins also makes a point much like those Carlyle, Thoreau, and Ruskin makes in their attacks on the status-quo.'


I am also interested to know how Americans view the class dimension of the novel - the interplay between Margaret and the Higgins family and the attitude of Thornton towards his workers, Margaret's intervention in the strike etc. The class issue is one of the very important aspects of the novel and part of Margaret's educational Bildungsroman

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-19-200709:05 AM

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NORTH AND SOUTH, Ch. XXVIII (Vol. II, Ch. III): Shakespearean Parallels

[ Edited ]
Thanks for bringing these issues up again, Choisya. As there are in Shakespeare's plays, are there parallels between what is happening between the major characters and the minor characters? Is EG giving us a hint about what Mr. Hale's doubts are through Nicholas?

Are there other, chained parallels? Was Margaret's initial attitude toward the Thorntons similar to John's initial attitude toward his employees?


Choisya wrote:
I wonder what folks thought of this chapter and Higgins' comments on religion, which are very typical of those I heard from people I knew in the North of England in my childhood and also follows the 'Dissenters' theme of the novel mentioned at the beginning.

...

I am also interested to know how Americans view the class dimension of the novel - the interplay between Margaret and the Higgins family and the attitude of Thornton towards his workers, Margaret's intervention in the strike etc. The class issue is one of the very important aspects of the novel and part of Margaret's educational Bildungsroman

Message Edited by pmath on 01-19-200711:41 AM

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LizzieAnn
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Re: NORTH AND SOUTH, Ch. XXVIII (Vol. II, Ch. III): Shakespearean Parallels

I don't think Margaret's inital reaction mirrors John's. Margaret looks down on John & everyone else. She's a "gentleman's" daughter and the others are not - they are "working" people. She lumps them altogether as beneath her.

John, however, has lived a life that's gone down & up. He's a man who worked his way up to become a miller owner. While there does seem to be a hierarchy among the industrial people, it's not as rigid. People can better themselves, or not.

As Margaret spends time in Milton, she finds that the lines here are different. While she's a gentleman's daughter, she's also the daughter of a tutor; which, puts her below the mill owners who have the wealth & power.

This lines become more blurred as time passes. While in the South, she may have visited the village people & even care for them in her position as daughter of the vicar. It would have come about more as an obligation. Here, the relationships she makes are those she choses. So distinctions exist, but on a different plain.



pmath wrote:
Thanks for bringing these issues up again, Choisya. As there are in Shakespeare's plays, are there parallels between what is happening between the major characters and the minor characters? Is EG giving us a hint about what Mr. Hale's doubts are through Nicholas?

Are there other, chained parallels? Was Margaret's initial attitude toward the Thorntons similar to John's initial attitude toward his employees?

Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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