Sunday 3 June 2012

North & South Spans Continents

It is much easier to do an article in response or disagreement to something than doing a round and sound analysis on its own.
So I greatly thank SERVETUS for inspiring and provoking my own analysis and it is her wonderful source which made this following article possible. Her detailed analysis points me to facts I otherwise would overlook and so her articles regarding North & South were eye opening for me in so many points that I can't enlist them all here.

Today is the last chance to join the group watch of "North & South". If you have not given it a try, it is a lovely feeling to watch the film and knowing that around the world others are sharing your experience and to be simultaneously able to connect and discuss things with them!

A main thing I learned through Servetus' analysis is, that I project my experiences on the main male character. I previously thought I would quite naturally and automatically identify myself with the female protagonist and did not even question this expectation. But for some reason, this is not the case for me with "North & South".

As I react to the analysis of Servetus, my points are in no way complete or consistent with an idea, but rather a collection of ideas, accumulated and collected, not to forget them for a later re-watch.
So please forgive, if they just don't make sense to you or are jumping from one aspect to the next.
Like Servetus' analysis, mine is a very personal analysis which depends mainly on my own personal experiences and projects them into the film characters and their actions.
So it is in no way a generally applicable analysis trying to be general or objective.

The yellow rose at the end for me is a symbol of happiness, not in such a general way as Servetus sees it as a justification for re-evoking the past or the happiness of childhood.
In my view, it is only a small part of the past, which can be rescued from the past and transferred into the present. Fond memories, which can be transferred into the present.
I saw the realisation he came to while holding the rose in Helstone more in a way of Margaret's realisation that the past cannot be revived. (Mr. Thornton and Margaret in the end getting into a parallel development and making a union between them possible.)
The conclusion I see Mr. Thornton getting, when plucking the rose is, that he comes to terms with his own past and childhood, which in my opinion was till now mainly overshadowed in his memory by the later dire circumstances following the suicide of his father.
As I am of the opinion that Mr. Thornton might have a not too fond memory of his childhood, as his later hardship overshadows the perhaps existing good moments  he remembers with his father. He comes to term with his fate, as Margaret completes him and makes sense for his way he had to go to find her. It makes his previous life o.k. because it lead to her and his love for her.

The problem I have with the end is, that both are finally at a moment, where they appreciate the other at the same time, while differing on that during the whole previous time. They come together in a very emotionally calculated balance, not an euphoric feeling of love.
But I think, especially Margaret, after the experience of her parents' love match, does not trust an emotional and euphoric love.

Where I also have a different interpretation of Mr. Thornton compared to Servetus is in seeing his ability to take advice. Perhaps (or rather most certainly) my own experiences are heavily overshadowing this analysis.
In his position as a 'master', Mr. Thornton is no longer able to access advice from others. If he tries, it will be rated as 'weakness' and undermines his position as a master.
Quite like a king, he must not show weakness or will be replaced and torn down by others faster than he can look.
The masters meetings in my opinion show that aspect quite nicely, as they show the masters as the pond of sharks they are. They want to hear Mr. Thornton's opinion and plans to outsmart and outrun him in their competition for the best orders. So every word he says there must be well calculated.
Taking the advice of the worker he fired for smoking, would make him dependent on information, which legitimacy he can't prove or judge, but could ruin his company by making wrong decisions based on wrong, biased or intentionally misguided information.
Also the fact that he had the need / necessity to depend on this information would be sold on to others as well and would again undermine his position as an able master.
So better to keep distance to such an untrustworthy creature, even if it puts him in a bad light in front of Mr. Hale and Margaret. But Mr. Thornton this way can keep his moral conviction and principles intact.

Where I fully agree is, that "North & South" is not about changing either the North or the South. (While I sometimes wonder if either Margaret Hale and John Thornton are such typical examples for either side to begin with.)

It is about keeping their principles intact while still being able to come together and appreciate each other's values.
That is the main thing, why I see "North & South" as a really exceptional piece of literature, as most literary works try to reach development and a storyline by sending their characters on a journey of learning.
"North & South" only does this in a way of learning to respect the other's principles, while leaving the individuals at the place and in their mindset they already had at the beginning.

As soon as someone starts to 'justify' his behaviour, his environment and the sharks circling around him, will see that as a weakness and him having done something wrong. For a 'master' those under normal circumstances understandable methods in my opinion are not applicable. They neither work in social media today (though some advisers propagate this approach, which only works when backed with a lot of money and influence and a clear sign of an unsurpassed market power.) nor did they work among businesses. To show weakness means to go under.
Mr. Thornton can't show his intact forces, as his financial position is already weakened, and 'justify' his actions. He must appear in full strength to keep the appearances intact as long as possible, to survive in one of the most competitive trades of the 19th century.

That Mr. Thornton is rather utilitarian than philanthropic, I can't agree more.
I see Mr. Thornton's utilitarian approach in his intention, to better try and fail than never to have tried at all. Mr Thornton tries and risks losing. No success is guaranteed in business, no precaution can prevent this. Mr. Thornton knows that and plays and acts in full speed of the market.
This daring to risk is bravery, which makes inventions and the creation of things of all kind possible.
He can't just be and let things go on around him, he must be an active part of this creation process. He is someone who actively creates, initiates and as consequence risks to loose.
Creation and change is only possible through risk.
This is also the reason why I so vehemently defend Mr. Thornton from being stagnant, unmoving or bound in old, overcome and once already failed principles.
Because the only principle I see Mr. Thornton applying is to try everything in moral and legal boundaries to make his business a success.
If Margaret is a hindrance to that, I don't know if Mr. Thornton would take her side or just set her aside and chose work over her.
Fortunately, Margaret in the end understands his principles and will be clever enough not to risk getting Mr. Thornton into such a dilemma which would not end in her favour.
So for me, the ending of "North & South", so utilitarian as it is, still is a romantic one and the combination of two people, who took the time to fully learn to understand each other before coming together.

A rare and fulfilling and in my opinion lasting romantic connection.


  1. I was very pleased to take part in this worldwide group watch of N&S! I watched parts 1 & 2 on Friday and then 3 & 4 today (Sunday) so it was possible for me to fit it in my busy schedule with all the choices provided. Massive thanks to the organizers!

    1. It was great to be connected while watchin N&S. Though I only sporadically did join the discussion, it was great to read all the comments. I joined yesterday (all 4 episodes) and still could not get enough and joined the last episode again today ;o)
      Great thank you to the organizers !!!

  2. Great post C.Doart,thank you!:)
    I admire Servetus for many reasons but there are rare moments like this when I'm even glad that I can't see why.."this ending is not romantic ; it's catastrophic";)

    1. Thank you very much, Joanna!
      As I see that my own interpretation of N&S heavily relies on experiences I made during work and my life in general, I am a bit weary, what must have caused Servetus' interpretation. I would like to reach out and hugh her and say, everything is o.k. now.
      Even when people don't change in general, they still can adjust in cases of emergency. But I think that is, what Servetus sees as not happening in N&S and made the experience that people could not change any longer, when they should have done.

  3. I find the entire production of N&S continually intriguing. Initial view has not remained static. Probably the initial view was a romantic one - but all the effects of the characters on one another continue to be intriguing. In a sense, Thornton was a dominating figure in the series - perhaps a result of the actor's interpretation, and his screen charisma. However, the other characters remain vital - Hannah, Higgins, Bessie and yes, Joy Joyner's Fanny. As to the changes one wrought upon another, Higgins and his foster child had an effect on Thornton - perhaps he recognised in Thomas something of the effect a mentor (Mr. Hales?) could have. And Margaret led him to the Higgins family. Bessie had her effect on Margaret...and if Margaret underwent some change, Thornton's complex reactions to the Hales also include Margaret.

    It really is refreshing to read diverse views of characterisation. A common element with Margaret and John is that they are both survivors. Their fathers were not entirely. Hannah is. John is. Margaret is. Is their implied union romantic? Or is it based on more, a recognition of regard, respect, admiration, sexual attraction, which has elements of love, if built upon in the future.


    1. Thank you for commenting, fitzg!
      I fully agree with you, that my interpretation of N&S grew with time (and re-watching ;o)
      Not necessarily that it changed in its basic elements, but in a way expanded and got its own life.
      What I also find fascinating in N&S is, that it so well depicts the full appreciation of the romantic couple, where modern times less and less have the patience for it. I find it very romantic, that both partners take the time to find out that they, as you say, feel "regard, respect, admiration, sexual attraction" and love for each other. So though it is a very calculated approach of the two, it also is a very careful and responsible approach of two very caring and circumspect persons.

  4. The Global watch of N&S was such fun! I am always wanting to rewatch it with someone - that is more fun for me than watching it alone. I was only able to partake for the first episode on Friday and the last one on Sunday though.
    I enjoyed reading your views on this excellent series. Some time I should probably write up my own impressions of it.

    1. Yes, please, phylly3. I am very much looking forward to your interpretation of N&S!
      It was great fun to participate in the group-watch and I hope we can do that again soon and join in together ;o)
      Though my Twitter-abilities are very limited, the chat-tool was very handy for the group-watch.