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Frequent Contributor
Posts: 2,344
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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North & South - Chapters XXXIII – XXXIV

These chapters seem to be building up to something. Margaret is thrown into confusion by the incident with Leonards and Frederick at the train station, prior to which she had seen John & he had seen her & Frederick waiting for the train. John has no idea who Frederick is.

Margaret is thrown into such confusion due to the station incident, worry about Frederick, her grief at her mother’s passing, and her feelings about John that she tries to talk her father out of inviting him to the funeral. However, when the Thornton carriage is offered to attend the funeral, she displays contradictory feelings:

“’Oh, don’t let us have these forms,’ said she. ‘Let us go alone – you and me papa. They don’t care for us, or else he would have offered to go himself & not have proposed this sending an empty carriage.” [page 262 – Chapter 33 – Peace] Her reaction surprises her father and causes her cry and become agitated.

At the funeral, John asks Dixon after the Hales, and is less than pleased when he hears that Margaret is doing fine. He’s dealing with his own conflicted feelings: being rejected by Margaret, still loving her, seeing her with an unknown man at the station, and seeing their familiarity and affection. Margaret never sees John or learns that he attended the funeral.

Margaret also suffers pangs of guilt when she lies to the police about being at the train station in connection to the incident with Leonards in order to protect Frederick. “A quick, sharp pain went through Margaret’s brain. ‘Oh God! That I knew Frederick were safe!’ A deep observer of human countenances might have seen the momentary agony shoot out of her great gloomy eyes…” [page 268-9 – Chapter 34 – False & True]

She is relieved to learn that Leonards’ death was not the result of the push Frederick gave him. The shock of the visit, the possibility of an inquest, and all she’s been under finally take a toll on Margaret, and she faints dead away when the police inspector leaves.
Liz ♥ ♥

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
Inspired Contributor
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: North & South - Chapter 28 'Comfort in Sorrow' and Nicholas Higgins

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 were you able to understand the Lancashire dialect?:smileysurprised:) Here is an extract from the Victorian Web:-

'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.'
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