Read-along Discussion Post 1: North and South

Ya’ll, if you’ve never read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, you’re seriously missing out on a great story and some beautiful arrangements of words. We don’t have quite the same vocabulary – or at least the flourish – as they did in the Victorian era. But this means we can admire and enjoy their stories!

So far, we’re 1/3 through with the read-along hosted by Kami, Suey, and Jenni. This means our first discussion post is upon us! Jenni is hosting it; and she’s come up with some great questions for this round. We’re linking up at her post, so be sure to add your link and explore everyone’s thoughts thus far! Also, we had quite the discussion on Twitter with the #NorthSouthRAL hashtag.North-and-South-Read-Along-600x408

1. Is this your first time reading this? If so, what do you think so far? If not, are you liking this reread so far? 

This is my first time reading it! It is better than I expected, actually. I wasn’t sure how entertaining it would be. Sometimes older books are hard to relate to or move too slow. BUT, it’s not that way. The plot moves at a nice pace and the themes seem to be relevant. Plus, the descriptions and history of the era intrigue me.

2. Have you seen the BBC mini-series? Is the book anything like you expected it to be?\

Yes, I have seen it once! So far, the series did stay very close to the book. And, like it was mentioned on Twitter, the casting of all of the characters in the miniseries was very well done.

3. Why do you think Margaret refused Henry? He seems like such a nice chap?

I think she refused him because she didn’t love him. (Perhaps another Pride & Prejudice nod, @moonlight_reads?)

4. What are your first impressions of Mr. Thornton?

Hmmm. With a mental picture of Richard Armitage, it’s hard not to focus on his looks, as Gaskell explains early on 🙂 With that said, he first became an acquaintance of Mr. Hale through whom he connected with a house to rent, etc. So maybe as a considerate person and friend to the Hales? After learning more about his character, it’s clear he deeply cares for the happiness of his mother and sister, Fanny. And he is fair in business.

5. Why is Margaret so indifferent to Mr. Thornton, but she can make friends with the Higgins? They are both northern people and have different customs.

I think Margaret has stereotyped Mr. Thornton as a proud “tradesman”, though she is unaware of the full extent of her feelings. The Higgins family is more comfortable to her. She has called upon “the poor” in the past to aid them, so the Higginses are a new outlet for this habit.

6. Compare the two moms we’ve seen in the story.

They are soooo different! Mrs. Hale is frail, sickly, and annoying in the fact that she pays Margaret little attention. And when she does, it is completely for her benefit to make her tea or sooth her. Mrs. Hale is decidedly selfish.

Mrs. Thornton, on the other hand, is confident and very involved in the day to day life of her son. She comes across as a little stiff and snobby, but I think that is just a crusty outer layer. In chapter 12, we see that she just has a different way of communicating her feelings.

7. What differences are you seeing so far between the north and the south?

Aside from the country/city differences, I think the larger scope of classes living in the north is significant. It allows for more complicated relationships between people (masters/workers, Hales/Thorntons, Margaret/Higgins’).

8. Do you think Mr. Hale was justified in leaving the church and his position?
I do think so. I admire him for standing up for his faith.

9. What are your feelings on Frederick’s situation?

If only I could remember how that comes into play later in the story……

But, it is unfortunate. It’s so sad that they couldn’t really communicate with him.

10. What are your thoughts on the master and worker relationship?

It’s a very interesting situation. One that is definitely relevant today. I can see both sides of the situation, though I do think the masters are more aware of the markets and how all that works. At least Mr. Thornton is known to be fair to his workers 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings about North and South! Have you read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Happy Sunday!

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11 thoughts on “Read-along Discussion Post 1: North and South

    • Thank, Jenni! It was so fun to participate. Great job coming up with the questions!

      Thanks for agreeing with me 🙂 I think she has progressively become more selfish, though it might not be a conscious thing she is doing. She is puzzling, for sure!

  1. Great answers! About Frederick…yeah. It’s coming. 🙂 Oh, and my other favorite Elizabeth Gaskell book is Wives and Daughters. Love it! Thanks for read along with us!

    • Now I’m anxious to get to the “Frederick” part! I’ll have to check out Wives and Daughters, then! I’m enjoying her writing style, actually. It is a bit hard to get into sometimes, but I’m getting the hang of it 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog!

  2. Great answers, Courtney! I especially liked your point in #5, about Margaret stereotyping Thornton. I hadn’t thought that exact terminology, but I think you’re right. She’s quite prejudiced about tradesmen, isn’t she? She does state something along those lines somewhere, I think? And yes! Mrs. Hale is so very selfish! She can’t seem to see beyond herself to anybody else. Very sad, really.

    • Why thank you, Kara! She does seem to categorize tradesmen somewhere beneath her, though I don’t think she’s quite as uppity as I’ve heard some people say. I think Margaret has a lot to learn. 😉 It will be fun to see how that all plays out!

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