The passage that portrays the state of the Hale houshold after the death of Mrs. Hale suggests many interesting parallels between North and South and Jane Eyre, the most striking of which is the way in which Gaskell, like Brontë, uses descriptions of nature, or word painting, to reveal the emotional state of her protagonist. The "soft, silvery mists" of Margaret's happy childhood in the country are in Milton, and in her present state of mind, "heavy fogs." The town, like her mood, is dark, the streets untouched by sunlight, "long, dusky." No longer does Margaret see October as a month with "gorgeous beauty of coloring,"` it is now as "chill, shivery" as the Hale family, touched by the cold hand of death.
Brontë frequently employs this technique with Jane Eyre, beginning the book with an equally, if not more gloomy, picture of the countryside and Jane's outlook on life. The "cold winter wind" at Gateshead brings with it clouds "so sombre," and rain "so penetrating," that, as the very first sentence of the book states, "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day." Jane feels cold and sombre herself, a reviled foreigner in the unwelcoming Reed household. Later, when she is being punished unjustly, and all her "brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection!" the weather again matches Jane's mood, the rain "beating continuously on the . . . window, and the wind howling in the grove behind the hall." Gaskell and Brontë both use word painting to increase readers' understanding of their heroines, and both do it skillfully.
Created October 1992; last modified: 26 March 2000