Late nights while I’m up nursing, I treat myself to a little Netflix. I decided to watch the four-part BBC miniseries North & South, but first I needed to read the book by Elizabeth Gaskell. In a nutshell, it’s like a crappier version of Pride & Prejudice set against the backdrop of the 19th century Industrial Revolution.
The rich Mr. Darcy figure John Thornton (played by Richard Armitage a.k.a. Thorin Oakenshield) is a misunderstood cotton mill owner who inexplicably falls in love with a certain insufferable Miss Margaret Hale who is definitely no Miss Elizabeth Bennett.
Sometimes I used to hear a farmer speaking sharp and loud to his servants; but it was so far away that it only reminded me pleasantly that other people were hard at work in some distant place, while I just sat on the heather and did nothing.
“I am a man. I claim the right of expressing my feelings.”
“I do not care to understand,” she replied.
“Why, mamma, I could astonish you with a great many words you never heard in your life. I don’t believe you know what a knobstick is.”
“Not I, child. I only know it has a very vulgar sound and I don’t want to hear you using it.”
She might be idle, and silent, and forgetful— and what seemed worth more than all the other privileges— she might be unhappy if she liked.
This is one of the very rare instances in which I think the TV/movie adaptation is way better than the book itself. Hats off to the screenwriters. The ending was handled superbly, and I highly recommend watching it.
There were, however, passages in the book that seemed relevant to American life in the 21st century with its long and demanding workweeks and its frenetic obsession with social media:
Senseless and purposeless were wood and iron and steam in their endless labours; but the persistence of their monotonous work was rivalled in tireless endurance by the strong crowds, who, with sense and with purpose, were busy and restless in seeking after— What?
He was but like many others— men, women, and children— alive to distant, and dead to near things. He sought to possess the influence of a name in foreign countries and far-away seas— to become the head of a firm that should be known for generations.
My favorite quote from the book, though:
“Oh dear! a drunken infidel weaver!” said Mr. Hale to himself, in dismay.