Thursday, 10 June 2010

Character Connection (2)

character connection

Character Connection is hosted by IntrovertedJen over at The Introverted Reader every Thursday.

We all have characters we love. Let's spotlight these fantastic creations! Whether you want to be friends with them or you have a full-blown crush on them, you know you love them and want everyone else to love them too!

Today the spotlight is going to be on Mr Thornton from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

(Note: May contain loose spoilers pertaining to the plot and characters but nothing major…)

North and South is a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, written in 1851. Margaret Hale is from the New Forest in the south of England, but after her father leaves the clergy over a matter of conscience they have to move up north, where they come into contact with Mr. John Thornton, a northern cotton trader.

It is set between the hostilities and prejudices between mill workers and mill owners and the divide between the north and the south.

I love all the characters in this book and the little human touches Gaskell gives them. Mr Thornton for a long time, has been my book crush. Mr Darcy, move over!

During the time this book was set, Industrialisation was truly taking form and people like Mr Thornton were becoming some of the richest people in England. The North had many growing industrial towns, such as Manchester, which Gaskell renamed Milton where this book is set.

Yet, due to the British class system there was still the prejudice that tradesmen or other such ‘shoppy’ people are of a lower class – even though they may be richer. It is this reason why Margaret Hale spurns Mr Thornton’s company.

Being a modern day reader, I felt less sympathy and understanding for Margaret then perhaps the readers of the day who might have shared some of her feelings. However saying that, I do still love her character and person.

Mr Thornton is my ideal dream-guy. He his strong minded, opinionated but a quietly thoughtful, kind man. However he is also a hard man who wouldn’t take  nonsense from anyone – especially that of his mill workers.

The working conditions and plight of his workers do not ignite his sympathies. He was not unduly unkind, in comparison to the usual treatment of mill workers perhaps he was quite fair and reasonable. However he saw their complaints and their plight as their own faults and because he had worked hard to get where he was – so could they.

I admire a person who has a clear line of moral beliefs, and a sense of justice and honour which I believe Thornton has. He may not always be right but he does not lie and he does not cheat. He has a strict code and he sticks to it.

He may have pride, but he is not blind to his own faults and throughout the book you see him grow as a person. I also love his passion and his feeling – all that energy bubbling up under that stiffly starched shirt!

This is something I do love about Victorian novels. The sexiness is hidden behind all those layers of clothing – but it’s there it just isn’t overtly being shown. That to me, is so more sexy then any sex scene. Call me a prude I guess – I don’t think I’ve read that many books with steamy sex scenes  - they just take away all the imagination. Like totally nude photo shoots – the sexiness is in the imagination of what lays beneath, once you see everything in all it’s glory it’s done, it’s over there is no point in imagining anything.

Well, you can see where my mind is going in regards to Mr Thornton! You can’t blame me, especially after watching the BBC mini-series starring Richard Armitage as Mr Thornton.

Richard Armitage

He’s a man who has honour, kindness, gentleness, pride and a great depth of feeling. He’s the kind of character where you can feel their pulse in  every scene.

(Or perhaps that is  only my pulse I am feeling?)

If you have read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen you cannot help but see all the similarities between storyline and character. The only difference is that – is Mr Darcy in this book actually represented by Miss Hale? And is Lizzie in fact Mr Thornton?


  1. How did I not know this was a retelling of P&P?! I feel that I've been living under a rock :P The only thing of Gaskell's I've read were her Gothic short stories/novellas, and I loved those. North and South has been on the "soon" list for far too long. I need to get to it!

  2. Oh oh I have recently acquired Gothic Tales and I've been excited to rad those. I've read 3 novellas by Gaskell as well - one being Cranford the other two being those that also featured in the BBC mini-series.

    I really do absolutely with all my heart recommend North and South. It's wonderful, beautiful, stunning... !

  3. You have me curious with that last line. I actually own this and I haven't gotten to it yet, despite all your raving over it. :) I should try to fit it in loosely with Jane in June, shouldn't I? Maybe. I have to be in the right mood to tackle classics and summertime isn't usually conducive to that mood. Anyway, great post! Thanks for the picture! (Oh, maybe that's my incentive to get to it soon. I can't watch it until after I read it...)

  4. Oh God, isn't he handsome. It is the eyes. Blimey!
    Ok I've had a cold shower.
    I have read only Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell and it was a great city novel. I will have to read this now. This will be my summer classic. I always read one classic minimum in ths Summer holiday.
    Great post.

  5. North and South is a fantastic summer read Becky - hope you'll enjoy it. I must read more Gaskell - I love how she writes, her characters are so real you could touch them.

  6. I agree, Darcy move over, Thornton is here.;) Wonderful description of Mr Thornton. He is everything you said he is. I loved this description: "He’s a man who has honour, kindness, gentleness, pride and a great depth of feeling. He’s the kind of character where you can feel their pulse in every scene." I couldn't agree more.

  7. Hmmm... I don't know this book, but I'll check to see if it's anything for me.

  8. I need to read this. I need to read all of Gaskell, for that matter. I just watched the movie adaptation of this. Lovely.



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