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North and South
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Archived Group Reads 2013 > North and South - Vol. II - chs. XVIII-XXVII (end)

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Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments Please discuss Volume II, chapters XVIII "Margaret's Flittin'" through XXVII "Pack Clouds Away" here. This is the end of the novel, so no more spoilers possible!

message 2: by Trudy (last edited Sep 28, 2013 10:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Trudy Brasure | 93 comments It's hard to believe that Margaret and Thornton did not see each other for over a year. Not only has Thornton lost in the game of love, he has to watch his business collapse around him. He has amazing strength to endure his losses with humility and resolve to go on. He could have turned bitter and biting, but he does not. At the time his business must close, he had been more and more involved in trying to improve his workers' lives.
Margaret seems to spend most her time in the south thinking about the north, and a certain mill master in particular. ;)
Some readers have expressed the opinion that they thought the ending of the story was rushed - that Margaret and Thornton weren't ready to be so swiftly reconciled. I disagree. In these final chapters I think Gaskell is very plainly showing us a contrite, lovesick girl. She loves John, but feels there is no hope of ever regaining his affection. She even tells her cousin point blank that she will never marry. I think it's safe to assume her heart is John's and knows it will never be given to any other but him.
I love the penultimate chapter, where both struggle to act calm in the social situation despite their desperate longings.
The ending is pure bliss. Read it slowly, and you can catch all the elements of a beautiful marriage contained in their exchange: passion, tenderness, humor, devotion, and resolve.
We know they'll face all the challenges ahead of them as a solid team.

Julie | 5 comments I am so happy with the ending and don't feel it either rushed or extended. Overall I enjoyed the novel and felt that Margaret and Mr Thornton would be together in the end from early on, as I'm sure a quite a few others will have too. Wasn't it nice of Mr Lennox to allow our couple the opportunity to get together alone?
I loved the eloquence, although I was occasionally frustrated by the length of the sentences. One towards the end of the book was 71 words long and a quick google search suggested anything over 29 is difficult to read. I'm not completely convinced of this number - my own sentences are frequently longer than this. Maybe someone reading this will have to tell me the sad truth on this one!?!
I like the thought that there are still challenges for the couple as they set off into their future together. Mrs Thornton's main gripe with Margaret was that she was possibly a fortune hunter. Now that that has been gotten around, I see her as a staunch ally of Margaret, who she may view as a more natural daughter than her own in values and behaviour.

Becky | 170 comments This is honestly my favorite Victorian love story. I don't remember feeling particularly rushed at the end. I loved how it wrapped up, and felt that it was appropriate for the characters, both went through a transformation that allowed them to come together and understand one another. This was the book that convinced my Gaskell is my favorite of the female authors from the time. The breadth and scope of her writing ability just seems amazing, and I feel that she describes her characters and involves you with them so much more than other Victorian writers.

Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments I know that when the novel was being written for serialization, due to the constraints of that form, Gaskell felt that the ending had to be rushed, and she was not happy with it. When the novel was later published in novel form, she expanded the ending.

The ending is very romantic and satisfying. And a little touch of humor at the very end. I love the last line, as Margaret anticipates Mrs. Thornton's reaction:

'How shall I ever tell Aunt Shaw?' she whispered, after some time of delicious silence.

'Let me speak to her.'

'Oh, no! I owe to her,—but what will she say?'

'I can guess. Her first exclamation will be, "That man!"'

'Hush!' said Margaret, 'or I shall try and show you your mother's indignant tones as she says, "That woman!"'

Jane (janerbrown) I rated North and South 4 stars, I finished on Monday and am very satisfied with the ending. I really enjoyed the book and the way the characters developed through out the novel. The labor unions issues are relevant even today. The Victorian love story was my favorite part. I highly recommend North and South, and look forward to reading more of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels.

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 103 comments Denise, that last bit was stunning. It's a beautiful book. Was so pleased with the happy ending!

Erin (miss_eepy) | 32 comments I finished the book last night. Gaskell reallly tried to keep the reader guessing up til the end, leaving Henry Lennox open as a romantic option for Margaret (though we pretty much all knew that it would be Mr. Thornton). The very end seemed very abrupt to me. I actually looked up the text online to make sure that my ebook wasn't missing a page or two. I did enjoy the love story aspect of the novel, though I was much more intrigued by the interaction between and within the various social classes, as well as the religious, economic, and political aspects. I may need to get my hands on a Norton Critical copy to delve more deeply into the background.

message 9: by Denise (last edited Oct 18, 2013 07:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Denise (dulcinea3) | 400 comments Erin, the Norton Critical edition has a lot of information on the industrial aspects of the era, strikes, etc., which did help understand a lot of what happened in the novel. As I recall, there was also a series of communicatons between Gaskell and Dickens, while the novel was being serialized in Dickens' publication. I'm sure there was lots more, too, as usual with these editions, but can't remember it all unless I pull it back out! With a Norton Critical edition, it takes me as long to read all of the additional content as the novel itself!

message 10: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (miss_eepy) | 32 comments Yes, I agree -- the Norton Criticals are awesome! I have the Hard Times one, since I'd read that book for a college course a few years ago. I looked in it last night and saw the Dickens/Gaskell correspondence that you'd mentioned. There are also several essays related to strikes that would be relevant to North and South. Unfortunately, the print in it is a bit too small for me right now, as my eyes are healing from cartaract surgery/LASIK. The Kindle has been wonderful, since I can change the print size :)

Trudy Brasure | 93 comments There are also a couple of biographies of Gaskell that delve into the some of the behind-the-scenes workings of N&S.
As to the plot, I didn't think Henry was an option at all. Margaret plainly tells Edith she will never marry, believing she had lost Thornton's regard forever. Of course Henry was still hoping he had a chance! ;) But he was only interested in molding Margaret to HIS ideal. Thornton was the only one who really understood and accepted Margaret for who she was and could be.

message 12: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (miss_eepy) | 32 comments Yes, Margaret tells Edith that she'll never marry, but Edith doesn't believe her for a second. Margaret and Henry seem to reconcile as friends and on business terms within the last few chapters, and there seems to be some pressure or assumptions from the family concerning them. Henry clearly doesn't see her rejection coming -- and maybe some readers didn't either. Henry seems to be used as a plot device by Gaskell to make the reader wonder or worry a bit about who Margaret will marry -- not that I believe it was a very effective one.

Nancy Trowbridge | 4 comments I wonder if Gaskell meant to portray Henry as the biggest loser the story begins with him being rejected by Margaret & it ends with him being rejected by Margaret.

message 14: by Erin (last edited Oct 20, 2013 04:11PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (miss_eepy) | 32 comments Nancy wrote: "I wonder if Gaskell meant to portray Henry as the biggest loser the story begins with him being rejected by Margaret & it ends with him being rejected by Margaret."

Great point! The novel focuses on the many tragedies that Margaret endures -- but at least SHE gets a happy ending!

Trudy Brasure | 93 comments Erin wrote: "Yes, Margaret tells Edith that she'll never marry, but Edith doesn't believe her for a second. Margaret and Henry seem to reconcile as friends and on business terms within the last few chapters, an..."
Edith doesn't know Margaret's inner thoughts and feelings and has no idea why Margaret would have made such an absolute statement. But the reader knows the emotional struggles Margaret is going through. It's fairly clear that she can't stop thinking of Thornton and her missed opportunity to find happiness in marriage. The reader also knows that Margaret has made a vow to herself to live from now on as truthfully as she can. Marrying someone else when she's in love with another would be living a life of deceit.
Margaret has the money and independent will and strength to carry out her own destiny. I believe Henry's part in the the novel is to show the reader that Margaret isn't like other girls, looking for a comfortable match. She rejected Henry the first time because she was not in love with him. We understand at once that Margaret isn't willing to compromise on marriage, she believes love is an essential element.
Her rejection of even the possibility of marrying Henry at the end highlights her resolution and choice. She'll marry the man she loves - Thornton - or no one at all.
I don't think Thornton would have ever married either. He knew Margaret was his one great love.

message 16: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisainnortheast) | 6 comments There were a lot of characters in the book so I had to look up who was who on the internet to keep things straight. Overall, this was a great read, albeit a bit sad with Margaret’s parents and Mr. Bell dying and with her brother being forced to live so far away. It was an undeniable page turner until the very end, because the romance between Margaret and Mr. Thornton was not acknowledged until the final words. However, I would like to have seen more of an open discussion or acknowledgement of their affection for each other rather than just hand holding. I would also like to have heard the reactions of Aunt Shaw and Mr. Thornton’s mother even though there was little doubt about how shocking they would have found it. I just would have liked to have seen how their shock was resolved. Also, the issue of Margaret’s brother seemed unresolved. Was she ever going to visit him and his wife?

Some of the discussions on class got a little monotonous for a romance novel, but I understand why that theme was central to the novel (hence the title). However, I liked the point that disdain for class went both ways. For example, Mr. Thornton’s mother hated Margaret for her status, just as the Shaw’s looked down upon those without rank and money. My last thought on the class issue is that at the time of the novel I think it was more palatable for the reader to accept Margaret as marring a “commoner” because she did not have the type of ‘exquisite’ beauty that would have rendered her less suitable for such a match. So even though this novel was progressive (for the time) on the issue of intermarriage between classes, it seemed to need to give an element of plainness to the main character to allow it to occur.

message 17: by Trudy (last edited May 28, 2014 10:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Trudy Brasure | 93 comments In regard to the acknowledgement of their love for each other, I think Gaskell did a brilliant job of showing this, without them having to say 'I love you.' The exchange they made about feeling unworthy of the other is a very powerful acknowledgement of how deep their admiration and affection is. Also, all the body language in the final scene is really superbly emotional and intense. Read it again and imagine every described motion in your mind. Also, it's widely assumed that when Gaskell talks of a few moments of 'delicious silence' there is kissing going on! Just hand holding? Oh no, no, no! Not between these two long-separated lovers. ;)
I'd never considered the issue of Margaret's beauty as a more palatable part of the class-blending marriage she makes. I guess I'm not convinced that Margaret wasn't beautiful. Gaskell implies that Margaret was not a traditional beauty, and was always second-rate next to Edith. But Thornton sees Margaret's beauty instantly and is quite bowled over by it. And she's teased by the mill workers for having a bonny face.
I think, like in most aspects of judging someone, beauty can be very subjective and what draws Henry and Thornton to Margaret is so much more than Edith's dainty looks and presence. Gaskell is very astute in drawing comparisons to other characters.
I think it's a testament to Gaskell's skill that some see this book as a social-economic look at the era with a romance thrown in for good measure, while others see this as a beautifully developed love story with the elements of social-economic differences as a crucial part of the unfolding conflict. She weaves both elements in beautifully, in my mind. It's a love story AND a serious look at the turmoil of the time and place.

Noorilhuda | 34 comments Just read and finished it and posted the review:

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