Jane Austen discussion


Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
In Penguin Classics edition, this is pp. 235-302.

message 2: by Alicia (last edited Jun 02, 2010 02:10PM) (new)

Alicia Margaret feels guilty about her lie to the police inspector, but I think lying was the moral thing to do. I believe that telling the truth is almost always the right thing to do; only very rarely, when some higher principle is involved, is it right to lie. Margaret lies to protect an innocent person. If her brother had not been innocent, I think it would have been wrong for her to protect him. She thinks that her action shows a lack of courage, but I think it took courgage to lie convincingly and to stick with her story even when it was questioned. She also knew that she had been seen by Mr. Thornton. If there had been an inquest, she would have been in a very difficult position.

It's interesting--the choice she made is similar to the choice that Frederick made. He disobeyed orders to stand up for a vulnerable person. Again, a higher principle was involved.

message 3: by Alicia (new)

Alicia When someone is needed to break the news of Boucher's death to his wife, again Mr. Hale's courage fails, and he leaves Margaret to face the difficult situation. With all his years as a minister, one would have thought that he would have had enough experience comforting grieving families that he would have been able to do this well. When they visit Mrs. Boucher again later, it is Margaret who is able to be the most help, and Mr. Hale seems to say all the wrong things.

message 4: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Alicia wrote: "Margaret feels guilty about her lie to the police inspector, but I think lying was the moral thing to do. I believe that telling the truth is almost always the right thing to do; only very rarely, ..."

Great point Alicia. And this part of the plot is one place that represents why I am really loving Elizabeth Gaskell. From Frederick's choice, Margaret eventually has to make this choice to protect him. And from there, John Thornton then struggles so much with his view of Margaret, dealing with jealousy and his views of her reputation. Of course Margaret knows it looks as though her reputation is compromised to him and feels so helpless and ashamed. And of course this is pivotal in her realization of her feelings for John.

I know our views may vary, but I wish others who have not read this novel would somehow know how rich it is for such a strong human story of "North and South" AND of the beautiful romance it contains.

message 5: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) These seven chapters sure were action-packed. After we learned of Dixon running into Leonards it seemed apparent that he would reappear and be a threat to Frederick, but I did not anticipate such a dramatic series of events. Such great drama!

Sarah, you previously inquired as to which events are turning points, and I think that this incident is an important one. By intentionally being deceptive to the police, Thornton takes quite a statement about his feelings toward Margaret. Instead of trying to distance himself from her after her refusal of his proposal, Tornton further reveals his emotions and creates a bond between them. For Margaret, it forces her to examine her opinion of Thornton and also to see a side of his character that she has not yet acknowledged.

I predict a happy ending :)

message 6: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) Apologies for any misspellings. The iPhone app doesn't allow me to scroll in the comment box so I can't read back through and correct my post. Grr.

message 7: by Alicia (last edited Jun 30, 2010 07:54PM) (new)

Alicia Joy wrote: "By intentionally being deceptive to the police, Thornton takes quite a statement about his feelings toward Margaret."

You know, I think Thornton does involve himself in the case in order to protect Margaret, but I don't think he is deceptive. He goes over the medical evidence again, and sees that it is very weak, so that cancelling the inquest is justified.

message 8: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I think that Thornton is deceptive in that he knows Margaret was at the station that night, because he saw her for himself, but he does not disclose his useful knowledge to the inspector. By not divulging that information after learning of Margaret's denial he is intentionally deceptive (deceptive as in "giving an appearance or impression different from the true one; misleading") in my opinion.

message 9: by Alicia (last edited Jun 30, 2010 11:29PM) (new)

Alicia I guess you're right. But since it couldn't be established that the man's death was a result of the fall, it wasn't necessary for Thornton to reveal Margaret's presence there or her lie.

message 10: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I think you're correct Alicia, that there was not sufficient evidence to connect the fall/push with Leonards's death. However, for me, one is not dependent on the other and I still think that Thornton was deceptive. Although, I am glad that he was :) I think that the moral ambiguity of his decision allows for much debate and validity on either side of the issue.

message 11: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
This is really a point to consider, Joy and Alicia. I guess it could be looked at as this became a place where both Margaret and John were struggling with doubts and decisions.

Consider though that during this era for a lady's word to be questioned would have been a dire thing even in preliminary discussions of a case. As the magistrate who would have had to weigh what to do in this case, it wasn't too unusual to conceal initial knowledge about Margaret. If evidence had shown that the incident needed to be pursued, John's position would have probably been to request further investigation of Margaret. If John had actually had to come up as a witness, he might have had to do so with another magistrate appointed.

I think the internal struggle apart from the law was what struck me more in this incident. I don't know if that is what Gaskell intended or not, that's just how I took it.

message 12: by Joy (new)

Joy (joylnorth) I suppose I looked at this situation as if truth (and thus the responsibility to disclose it) is a categorical imperative and not contingent on social mores of the day. However, this is part of a larger philosophical discussion that is not imperative to the novel or our discussion of it, it was just my inclination to view Thornton's actions from this perspective.

message 13: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I think this would make a great discussion too. It reminds me of the discussions that come out in Great Books. Have you ever been involved in that group?

I did think that in general an investigation involving a lady would have been a touchy thing. Not that it would have necessitated untruthfulness. And of course Gaskell's story goes further that this was a lady Thornton loved -- going beyond just treatment of "a" lady, she was "the" lady.

In your comments, your direction is to describe John Thornton's action with the term truth. It could also be termed unlawful instead of untruthful. It was during a period of gathering evidence about the man's death rather than in a court situation. As magistrate he might have understood that, in this initial investigation, many things could change. And due to his personal feelings he hoped that and was glad that they did change and his information was not needed. So I guess I am saying that at this point he chose not to follow the law. Similar to Margaret who chose not to follow the lawful path because she was afraid the truth that she was at the train station would ultimately cause her brother's death.

I guess that is what I meant by apart from the law. Maybe I meant, like the two characters might have, not apart from the law but in addition to the law or lawfulness.

thanks for bringing it up Joy. It is good for debate.

message 14: by Kim (new)

Kim | 181 comments Thornton told the police no further investigation was needed because the coroner stated there wasn't sufficient evidence to prove that the push/fall was the full reason of death. I don't think that Thornton really lied in essence. I think that he knew there was no sufficient evidence to pursue that angle and when finding out that Margaret had been involved, well it was even more reason to not pursue it.

message 15: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I thought this was a very interesting part of the story -- just more of the many wonderful layers of Gaskell's writing. It made a few of us in this conversation really look at it and try to discern what is was really about. There was so much complexity and no simple answers in John and Margaret's relationship.

And it was also a ripple effect of the secret that the Hales felt they had to hide (involving her brother). How do you think it would have affected John to know about her borther's troubles early on? Would it have put too much pressure on his friendship with the Hales. Would he have been able to accept their choice to support the brother (I can't remember his name right now!)?

message 16: by Kim (new)

Kim | 181 comments The brothers name was Frederick - I think that had John known he would have kept the secret for Margaret. I think that his love is deep enough for her that he would never do anything to harm her. If he had known how deeply she loved her brother he would have kept it I think for her.

However - if his mother had found out about it/knew he was keeping that secret I don't think she would have had any qualms about getting the police involved. Her disdain for Margaret and her unhappiness in her son's love for her would I think have been her driving motives.

It’s a very interesting conundrum.

message 17: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (last edited Sep 28, 2010 11:46AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Good point, Kim. John cared for Margaret and her father and would have probably taken this on as his private burden too.

Mrs. Thornton though, I think of her as someone who reacts rather than acts from her own careful study of the situation. She was simply too caught up in the pride of all they had done to build their lives and their reputation again after John's father's death. I think she would have had a hard time just being sympathetic in what the Hale family was going through AND remembering that they thought Frederick was truly not guilty of a crime.

[Frederick, thanks for the reminder!]

back to top