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North and South Elizabeth Gaskell


North and South

North and South is the story of a nineteenth century family who moved from the South of England to the industrial North. This novel shows the differences in lifestyle of the people who lived in these places at this time.

The family who are the main characters in the book are ; Mr. Hale, Mrs. Hale and their daughter Margaret. There is also a son who is living in Spain because he is in trouble with the authorities and cannot come back to the UK. This unfortunate family are forced to move from their lovely home in a quiet part of Hampshire, to an industrial town in the North of England. This is because Mr Hale has decided to give up his job in the Church , and as their home came with his job, they would become homeless when he resigned. He had contacts in the North , so he decided to move there and become a private tutor.


At the start of the story Margaret is nineteen years old . She had been bored living in Hampshire and had spent some time staying with some other members of her family who were living in London. Then circumstances made her go back to live with her mother and father in their quiet home in Hampshire. She was living a quiet life visiting the local people and generally helping out where needed, then her father dropped a bombshell. Mr Hale was worried about telling his wife that he was leaving his job and was planning to move the family up North. So it was Margaret who learned this news first and it was her who had to break the news to her mother.

The Move

The move to the North of England came about fairly quickly and the family soon found a new home. They were not well off but they did have a bit of money put aside for them to use until Mr. Hale found work as a tutor. When they lived in Hampshire they had been able to afford help in the house , but after the move they could only afford to take one of their servants with them. This was a woman named Dixon.


Now this is a very strange character who has rather a large part in the story even though she is only a servant. Dixon has known Mrs Hale for many years and she seems to adore her much more than a servant should have done. Dixon seems to think that she is one of the family and she is very possessive of Mrs Hale although she clearly does not think much of Mr Hale. In fact I get the impression that Mr Hale and Margaret are a bit scared of Dixon and it seems like they are afraid to upset her. She does seem to take more liberties with the family than a servant would have done at that time.

Mrs. Hale

Mrs Hale was very upset to hear that she was going to be moving to the North of England because she was happy enough with her life in Hampshire. She would help her husband in his work with the church by going to visit some of his parishioners who were old, ill or poor. She was very upset to hear that her husband was giving up his job without discussing it with her first. But this was the nineteenth Century and wives were expected to do what their husbands told them.

The move took it`s toll on poor Mrs. Hale`s health and she had only just settled into her new home when she became gravely ill.

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The Locals

When Margaret first moved to her new home, she often spent her time walking around the area and she got to know a poor local family called Higgins. This family consisted of the father and two daughters, one of which, Bessy, was very ill after having to work in the cotton mill from a young age. The fluff from the factories had caused damage to Bessie`s lungs and when she first made friends with Margaret she was already very poorly. Margaret often visited this family who lived in the poorer part of town .

Margaret noticed that the poor people who lived in the North were a lot different from people who were living in poverty in the South. These Northern people were forced to spend their days in noisy, dirty factories and this took a toll on their health, wellbeing and even their appearance.

The Thornton Family

John Thornton met the Hale family when he was introduced to Mr Hale who then became his tutor. By this time John was already an established factory owner who had got to the top by hard work and thriftiness. He was very much controlled by his domineering mother who was just as ambitious as he was.

The Hale family and the Thornton family became acquaintances and it was thought by some that John and Margaret would get together. However, Margaret disagreed with John`s business practises because she took sides with the workers.

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