North & South discussion

Wives & Daughters > Chapters 26-33

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
For discussion of chapters 26-33.

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 115 comments Chapter 29 has some interesting new insights into Dr. Gibson's feeling about his marriage and family: (view spoiler) How sad!

Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 123 comments Dr. Gibson's "insights" into his marriage are a little sad as well as the changes he has observed in Molly. However, he chooses not to address these things, not even for Molly's sake.

Although he has noticed ill effects of his marriage on his only child, he doesn't intend to try to help her. "Fortunately" for him, he can bury himself in his work and avoid going home except to eat and sleep. Poor Molly has no source of aid or comfort. I guess Gibson is a typical father for the time, but I can't like him for his callousness to his daughter.

He made it clear in the last section, when Mrs, Hamley was dying, that Molly should not come to him ever again with her troubles and that she was to fend for herself with her "mama."

The example that I am alluding to is when Hyacinth was insisting that Molly attend some sort of party or frivolous social or gathering or some such, when Molly was very reluctant because of the state of affairs at Hamley (Mrs H was on her death bed). Molly appealed to her father for intervention and his wife appealed to him as well. Though he decided for Molly over his wife's party, he made it clear that they were not to ask him for help ever again.

Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 123 comments I guess one of the qualities of character that is almost universally valued as a virtue is "selflessness." But where does selflessness end and stupidity begin? Is it selfless or stupid for Roger, a younger son, who has to make his own way in the world, to alleviate his brother's folly and stupidity by using his salary from his fellowship, to support his brother's wife when that brother made a marriage when he had no resources of his own to support his own wife. It seems to me that Roger should be saving money for his own future or marriage.

Also, The only benefit that I can see in Roger's scheme to take this trip for a stipend to finance the completion of the improvement the Hamley estate, again benefits Osbourne more than anything else.

I guess I will have to grudgingly concede that Roger's sentiments can be considered laudable but his actions are harmful to himself ms his own future.

message 5: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
Gaskell does indeed take a deep look at the concept of selflessness in this book. There were some great passages back in chapter 11, while Molly is trying to accept her father's new decision to marry:

"Thinking more of others' happiness than of her own was very fine; but did it not mean giving up her very individuality, quenching all the warm love, the true desires, that made her herself. Yet in all this deadness lay her only comfort; or so it seemed."

And Roger tries to tell her "It is difficult ... but by and by you will be so much happier for it."

"No I shan't! .... It will be very dull when I shall have killed myself, as it were, and live only in trying to do, and to be, as other people like. I don't see any end to it. I might as well never have lived. And as for the happiness you speak of, I shall never be happy again."

I love that she has Roger and Molly discussing these very deep and fundamental issues. We mold our lives on what kind of answer we take from these very prominent choices.

Gaskell can get pretty serious, but these are serious questions to ask ourselves. How far does selflessness take us? When do we have a duty to speak and act for ourselves? Or is choosing selflessness expressing strength or weakness?

I'm also having fun laughing out loud at Gaskell's biting humor when it comes to comparing Molly and Hyacinth in this regard. Here are two preposterous lines the new Mrs Gibson delivered to Molly - to Molly of all people!

"One must not think about oneself, you know."

"If there is one thing I hate more than another, it is the trying to make out an intimacy with great people."

Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 123 comments I also wonder how such a selfish and foolish light weight like could be smart enough to make his parents think that he is anything else (of value).

I clearly wonder at the Hamley's mental faculties and powers of perception for thinking that Osbourne was something he is not and Thinking Roger something he is not.

I think they attributed qualities in their first-born that just were not there but they would have liked him to have. The Osbourne that they thought they saw was all in their minds or they were both blind where both of their children were concerned.

message 7: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments Poor Molly. Mrs. Gibson is just so awful to Molly when she thinks anyone is paying Molly more attention than deserves. Hyacinth is the very epitome of selfish. She's unwittingly cruel to Molly. (view spoiler) She's cruel to Cynthia at times but Cynthia can handle it. I love her wit.

I think Osborne is stupid and his pride is worse than his father's His father has pride in the family and the estate but Osborne is just being stubborn. I think he should have written his parents a heads up letter to let his father rant and rave and then his mother make a death bed wish to see her new daughter and smooth everything over. I don't think Roger is being stupid in giving up his money to his father and the estate. I think the position is a good fit for him and he just wants peace and harmony in the family. I feel bad for him because he's in a tough spot. He's stupid to finance his brother's wife though. It was major stupid of Osborne to get her with child. A child he can't support at the moment.

What's the story with Mr. Preston and Cynthia? Why does she need to earn money? She must be in debt to someone -Mr. Preston blackmailer perhaps? I don't remember this from the mini-series.

Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 123 comments QNPB, I think that you are right that Mrs. Hamley would have smother out any hard feeling between father and son over this Marriage and saw to it that her husband came around to having a servant for a daughter-in-law--married to his heir no less.

message 9: by Hana (new)

Hana | 162 comments Andrea (Catsos Person) wrote: "I guess one of the qualities of character that is almost universally valued as a virtue is "selflessness." But where does selflessness end and stupidity begin?..." Such a good point! The Hamleys all seemed to have a certain denseness about them.

message 10: by Hana (last edited Apr 30, 2015 05:28AM) (new)

Hana | 162 comments Another theme that seems to be emerging seems to center around the dangers of impulsive choices and their long-lasting consequences.

I'm finding it interesting this time around to consider the effects of success--it's not always positive. Hyacinth's good fortune makes her more grasping; Osborne's life-long pampering makes him lazy and careless.

message 11: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments I don't know if I'd call Osborne lazy and careless but he's certainly entitled. He's been treated like royalty as the heir and he acts like a young gentleman of means without thinking much about his future and what impact his actions have on his future. I don't think he's really any different from any other college boy then or now. I think it's just that his parents set their expectations so high, he was bound to fail them when he stumbled and made mistakes.

message 12: by Hana (new)

Hana | 162 comments True...and then compounded the errors by refusing to admit them.

message 13: by Trudy (last edited May 01, 2015 11:15AM) (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
Hana wrote: "Another theme that seems to be emerging seems to center around the dangers of impulsive choices and their long-lasting consequences.

Yes, Osborne's marriage also has an element of impulsiveness. It was rather hastily done.

And considering the effects of success is interesting as well, Hana. I don't think Hyacinth would be satisfied by anything less than becoming a duchess - or Queen of England! She's never going to be truly happy with her lot in life. Gaskell's books always seem to include those well-married and provided for ladies who are yet always complaining or fretting about something.

Osborne's character is difficult for me to comprehend. He seems less diligent in working out his responsibilities. Did he apply himself at school? Maybe all that 'first-born' privilege and pampering inflates your expectations and deadens your sense of personal responsibility.

Roger has known from the start, that he must make his own way in life. That seems to be the true advantage.

It's interesting to consider, anyway, how much of Roger and Osborne's character is just inherent in their individuality and how much of their habits might have been molded by their position in that society's structure of heirarchy.

Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 123 comments Trudy wrote: "Roger has known from the start, that he must make his own way in life. That seems to be the true advantage. "

While Roger has known that he has to make his own way in life, he isn't doing anything to prepare for his future. He has been using his fellowship salary to support his brother's wife and fund his conjugal visits. Now he is traveling abroad for the purpose of raising money to complete work that will improve the value of Osbourne's property instead of saving money for his own future or to put himself in a position of offering marriage to the woman he loves--Cynthia (though is disapprove of her as his choice!).

message 15: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
I've just finished off these chapters and must confess that Hyacinth has reached a new level of low in contriving a way for Lady Harriet to always miss Molly. That level of petty jealousy is truly juvenile. I've lost all respect for her in this particular game. And yet, Hyacinth continues to justify herself in some obtuse way, saying that it is for Lady Harriet's sake or convenience.
I really love the way that Cynthia calls her mother out on these schemes, and how it makes her mother squirm a bit.
Molly is a saint for having to deal with a stepmother like this. It's truly no wonder Cynthia has grown up to be somewhat heartless, she's had to endure a childhood with such a selfish, unloving mother. Cynthia has not known genuine affection.

message 16: by Trudy (last edited May 01, 2015 11:38AM) (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
Roger is being thrown by his attraction to Cynthia, but beyond that he seems to have things managed very well. He's waiting to see what kind of career his talents and knowledge will carve out for him. In the meantime "he reserved enough of money for his own personal needs, which were small, and for the ready furtherance of any project he might see fit to undertake; the rest was of his income was Osborne's."

It sure is heartening to see brothers giving to each other instead of bickering over every last family heirloom and piece of real estate as if they were enemies instead of kin.

message 17: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments Trudy wrote: "It sure is heartening to see brothers giving to each other instead of bickering over every last family heirloom and piece of real estate as if they were enemies instead of kin.

I agree. Roger is trying to make peace between his father and brother and help everyone out. It's touching but maybe a little too selfless for my taste.

Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 123 comments Trudy, I think that the Hamley parents have done an excellent job of inculcating to their sons that Osbourne is The heir and gets everything when Mr. Hamley dies. As long as the boys understand the way things are...

Both boys seem to accept the way things are.

Tho address QNPBs comment that Roger is too selfless for taste, if thus is true, and all not despite it, Osbourne is not grateful enough of Roger's sacrifice to suit me.

Oh, I don't mean that a person should be thanked morning, noon and night, but I'm just saying, Osbourne seems to take his brother's money in stride or as if it's his due. This is what I cannot like. The level of appreciation that would make me NOT squirm about it and diffuse my outrage on Roger's behalf just isn't there.

message 19: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments This passage shows Hyacinth's feelings about the Hamleys and Molly's reaction Ch. 28
"...Roger came almost every day, always with some fresh offering by which he openly sought to relieve Cynthia's indisposition as far as it lay in his power. Her manner to him was so gentle and gracious that Mrs. Gibson became alarmed, lest, in spite of his "uncouthness" (as she was pleased to term it), he might come to be preferred to Osborne, who was so strangely neglecting his own interests, in Mrs. Gibson's opinion. In her quiet way, she contrived to pass many slights upon Roger; but the darts rebounded from his generous nature that could not have imagined her motives, and fastened themselves on Molly.... now she had once discovered Mrs. Gibson's wish to make Roger's visits shorter and less frequent, she was always on the watch for indications of this desire. She read her stepmother's heart when the latter made allusions to the Squire's loneliness, now that Osborne was absent from the Hall, and that Roger was so often away amongst his friends during the day..."

UGGHHH like Molly my blood boils!

Hyacinth figured out what was going on with Osborne because the doctors were looking at him through lunch and then she interrupted the doctors examining him. She was in the dining-room and hall when Osborne told the girls the doctors had been examining him the whole time. I expect Hyacinth could also hear what he was telling the girls. The a few weeks later:
"And why has he not come here, then?" said Mrs. Gibson. "It is not kind of him not to come and see us as soon as he can. Tell him I say so—pray do." Osborne chalks her treatment of Roger up to bad temper but I'm certain she put two and two together and made four as far as Osborne's health. Now she plays the waiting game - charm them both in case the heir dies.

message 20: by Louise Sparrow (new)

Louise Sparrow (louisex) | 157 comments Chapter 26

I’ve recently read Jane Austen’s The Watson’s and I find myself mixing up the ball in this chapter with the one in that.

I can’t help liking Lady Harriet, she’s definitely the best of the Cumnors. She’s more aware of her duty to the neighbourhood at least, although Lord Hollingford comes off quite well too.

Chapter 27

The Squire’s prejudices are painful but I can’t help thinking that Osborne could have got past them by being honest with him because he really is attached to his family.

Chapter 28

‘I consider the thought as everything,’ said Mrs Gibson. ‘Thought is spiritual, while action is merely material.’ – I couldn’t help thinking that this echoed the discussion in this week’s Big Bang Theory!

Mrs Gibson is making me cringe with her rudeness to Roger.

Chapter 29

Even if he has regrets Dr Gibson does at least find some good in his marriage, when his wife is at her least provoking, in her organisation and in Cynthia’s company for Molly.

Osborne is getting sick by this point and it obviously bothers him that Roger is paying for everything but I still think he should have made more of a push to find a way to earn money, even if he couldn’t ultimately keep it up.

I think what makes the book for me is the one liners and little humorous asides like the dinner with Dr Nicholls where he is quietly amusing himself on Hyacinth by recommending odd foods to her.

message 21: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
I burst out laughing whenever Mrs Gibson is moralizing to Molly. Gaskell's humor is great.

It doesn't take much to ruffle Hyacinth. That doctor knew her type: narcissist who only wants attention. Lol!

message 22: by Marie (last edited May 14, 2015 09:46AM) (new)

Marie Williams It's been kind of difficult for me to comment on this one since I already know what happens, I don't want to ruin it for anyone.

Osbourne was always one of the more sympathetic characters for me. He should deal with his father like a grown man, especially with a family, but all things considered, I'm glad he found something happy. Roger I was more indifferent to, but I feel for the man. It gets worse...

Cynthia was definitely better off where she was, rather than with her mother. She's not a likeable character, but at the same time you can't always fault her considering how she was raised - or rather not raised - by Hyacinth. Hyacinth... Don't we all know a Hyacinth??

I am kind of shocked reading through the comments by everyone's surprise over Dr Gibson's behaviour. It was pretty common, and actually not that old. I just turned twenty-nine, and my mother is fifty-one. Her parents had her in their forties, then her mother died when she was a year old. My grandfather had no idea what to do with a little girl on his own, so he remarried to a friend of the family about three years later. It gave him someone to take care of the household and raise my mom. I have some fond memories of my grandmother - and some cringeworthy photos - but she wasn't from the kind of money my family was (her late husband was only a minister) and her behaviour was very stilted in favour of her daughter over my mom. And there wasn't always a lot my grandfather could do about it. And these were people with some standing in the community in the 1960's and 1970's - not the 1800's.

message 23: by Louise Sparrow (new)

Louise Sparrow (louisex) | 157 comments I think the surprise over his behaviour is more to do with how long he waited and then the way he went about it, hardly knowing her, rather than the idea that he wanted a mother for his child.

message 24: by Marie (new)

Marie Williams I was actually referring to the way he went about it. There are a lot of bad things about Dr Gibson's character, but his handling of his marriage was actually fairly common, and was common until a fairly recent point in history. It was a simple marriage of convenience, they still occur now on occasion. Time, thought, and effort rarely go into them. The bad part is that after realizing his mistake he prefers to ignore it for his own comfort, to the extent of even trying to ignore Molly's struggles because it will make things easier. It's not as if there's anything he could do to stop Hyacinth, so it's too late. For some reason, nineteenth century authors seemed to enjoy making fathers as indifferent as possible, if not ridiculous.

message 25: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 315 comments Louise Sparrow wrote: "I think the surprise over his behaviour is more to do with how long he waited and then the way he went about it, hardly knowing her, rather than the idea that he wanted a mother for his child."

Right. If he had married again right away that would be understandable but he wasn't even thinking about it and he didn't bother courting Hyacinth. He just asked her randomly.

message 26: by Marie (last edited May 15, 2015 03:56AM) (new)

Marie Williams Oh I agree, it's ridiculous, I hope that's coming across. But I'm not surprised no courting went into it. I would like to have seen him at least meet Hyacinth, gauge her character, then maybe come back to propose - preferably after speaking to Molly. But he got an idea in his mind and considered it settled with as little trouble to himself as possible.

That seems a recurring theme with "father" characters at this time in literature, especially written by women. Mr Bennet didn't care what happened so long as he didn't have to listen to it, Mr Woodhouse was ridiculous. Mr Eliot, Mr Tilney, and the fathers in Mansfield park are all varying degrees of horrible. John Dashwood couldn't think past what his wife told him. Most of the men in Wives and Daughters and Cranford vary between indifferent and ridiculous. Even Mr Hale made a decision on what was best without considering the full impact it would have on his wife and daughter.

message 27: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 442 comments Mod
I'll have to mostly disagree with your last statement, as I think it's precisely because Mr Hale is aware of the consequences of his decision that he cannot bring himself to tell his wife! He absolutely knows she will hate it.

Concernig the men in this novel: what is it do you think Gaskell is trying to show about the roles and customs of the day as well as how men played their part?

message 28: by Louise Sparrow (new)

Louise Sparrow (louisex) | 157 comments @ Trudy “Concerning the men in this novel: what is it do you think Gaskell is trying to show about the roles and customs of the day as well as how men played their part?”

The men lead and manage and the women are expected to submit and not question their understanding or authority…. Though they have their own ways of getting what they want. The men have a code of honour that they expect others to understand and follow but the younger generation don’t necessarily see things in the same terms, things are changing and a man may elevate himself through his actions rather than his birth.

Chapter 30 - 33

I don’t like the way Mr Preston behaved towards the Squire, I can understand his (misplaced) dislike of Roger but they are both his social superiors and he should give them respect whether he feels it or not.

It’s good to see that Roger is finally being valued as he should be by his father, and by others.

It seems Osborne’s sickness and depression are the reason he’s now prepared to let Roger provide for him and his family. I think I would be more sympathetic if he’d ever seemed to make a push to find employment.

Hyacinth just gets worse, beginning with jealousy of Lady Harriet’s attention to Molly. She also never corrects the way Cynthia speaks to her, though it’s usually cheekily correcting her own bad manners, but she will imagine things in Molly she needs to correct. She asserts that she never lies… I think she believes that. She talks things round in her head until she’s entirely in the right.

message 29: by Marie (last edited May 17, 2015 01:50PM) (new)

Marie Williams Sorry, I just saw the last of the discussion. I need to check my notifications on this group because I rarely get anything from it.

I agree with most of what Louise had to say. Perhaps some of the authors were writing their experiences of father/daughter relationships and the dealings of some men with their families within their society. I wonder if a small part wasn't also the popularization of the character in contemporary literature. Writers were writing to sell to popular audiences of the time, and they had the same sort of tropes we still use today. One author would write a ridiculous gothic novel, the next would write an even more absurd one. Edgar Allan Poe was almost hostile toward a lot of his audience for what he felt he was forced to write. If you read Bronte outside of Jane Eyre, you can see that she and Gaskell liked to borrow from each other, especially names. Indifference was certainly an element of the times, the ridiculousness of some of them might be a little bit characterization.

I went much easier on Mr Hale than the rest, because he deserves far more credit for the consideration he gave to their discomfort due to loss of income and a less comfortable living. He certainly could never have imagined how far the consequences would extend. But there were societal restrictions he didn't fully explore. While she wasn't exactly the landed gentry, Mrs Hale had already loss some standing by their marriage. But he at least retained the status of a gentleman through his position in the church. He would have lost that by becoming a tutor, and it was a another hit to both her and Margaret's position. I don't think it was so much he didn't consider some of these thing, so much as he may not have agreed with them - shown in his fast friendship with Thornton. But whether he agreed with them or not, his wife and daughter would still be held to them. Mrs Hale especially was put in the very difficult position of not being accepted in the circles she was accustomed to, but not being allowed to associate with the circles she now found herself in. And Margaret was marrying age in a place where, had she wanted to consider marriage, there was no one she would have permitted to court and without the income to move in better societies near there. It was basically a big mess, and one of the reasons I like North and South - there's so much to pick apart. :)

And I absolutely agree with Hyacinth. The fact that honestly believes everything she says and does is fine in her own mind, ways made me like her even less.

back to top