North & South discussion

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Mary Barton group read > Chapter 16-20

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message 1: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
For discussion of chapters 16-20

These chapters contain some very dramatic scenes. The murder of Henry Carson is a pivotal event. It's going to be chaos and nail-biting drama from here on out -- which is why I think this story would make great film.

What do you make of the masters and workers meeting? One of the masters says of the workers that "they're more like wild beasts than human beings." I believe Gaskell is trying to show that their desperation is what is driving them to more animalistic behavior. Are the workers morally depraved? Or are the masters?

At the close of chapter 16, Gaskell describes the scraggly, embittered union leaders gathered around the darkened room --planning violence against the masters. She says they all made "one of those fierce terrible oaths."

Strangely enough, the footnotes in my book make this statement regarding the above quote: "Perhaps the most fantastic instance of the novel's consistent demonization of trade unions."

I didn't really think Gaskell was consistently demonizing unions! Her entire novel suggests that the workers have a right to be heard, and to have their grievances heard.


message 2: by Marren (new)

Marren | 77 comments It is an interesting footnote from your novel. The actions from the Trade Union leaders does sell them out as 'by any means necessary' type and who can blame them. Their children are starving to death and at the same time the youngest of Carson's daughter is worry about getting money to buy an expense flower. it is a necessary contrast to show the fortune of one world and woe of another. The factories told a long while to offer an increase but that increase the Trade Union sees a further sting in their eyes.


message 3: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
Noirfifre wrote: "It is an interesting footnote from your novel. The actions from the Trade Union leaders does sell them out as 'by any means necessary' type and who can blame them. Their children are starving to de..."

Trade Unions were vital at that time. It was the only way that the workers could make the masters pay attention to their concerns.
Gaskell is against extremes and, of course, violence.

Finding a way to keep people from suffering poverty and starvation is important to every civilized society. Did the masters not really comprehend the level of want many of the poor were in?


message 4: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
I really don't like the interruption of first-person narrative that is sprinkled through the novel--when the author suddenly swoops in to say things as the author. It breaks my absorption in the story and seems an awkward intrusion to the flow of the unfolding events.

I'm glad she drops this practice for the most part in North and South. Offhand, I can only think of one specific time when she uses this technique in N&S.

Anybody else find the first-person intrusions of the author in this novel a little annoying?


message 5: by Michaela (new)

Michaela | 63 comments Trudy, I also find those first-person intrusions annoying. It breaks the flow of the story and disturbed me when I first read it. Don´t remember this from N&S. I suppose Gaskell did it because MB was her first book and she wasn´t so used to keeping the flow.


message 6: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Clarkston | 5 comments I don't mind them, but I understand why. They do break my concentration for a minute, but I feel like the author is speaking directly to me. I am just swooning over her language use and the intensity of humanity she lends her characters. Even minor characters like Harry Carson's sisters just come alive.


message 7: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
Michaela - I think the use of first person interruptions is a definite sign that this is her first work. I can't recall it being used in W&D or even in Ruth. And I'm glad she dispensed with it. She was able to make relevant commentary without the use of this in her later works.

Nicole - I, too, just love the way she makes characters come alive with real emotion and traits. In comparison, most of Dickens' characters end up feeling like constructed caricatures of personality types -- not real people.

Thanks for chiming in!


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