In the second chapter of North and South Margaret comments on life in Helstone. While Margaret's mother seems to despise the simple and monotonous existence characteristic of cottagers living in Helstone, Margaret feels that no other life will do. Living on the land and associating with common laborers is all Margaret ever wants:

I think we are far better off knowing only cottagers and labourers, and people without pretence . . . I call mine a very comprehensive taste; I like all people whose occupations have to do with land; I like soldiers and sailors, and the three learned professions, as they call them. I'm sure you don't want me to admire butchers and bakers, and candlestick-makers, do you, mamma.

Questions

1. These first chapters seem to comment a great deal on Margaret's passion for nature and her sympathy for common workers. How is this setting us up for what is to come in later chapters? In terms of her values, how does Margaret compare with Jane Eyre?

2. In a sense, is Helstone a fairytale-land (as Henry Lennox calls it) and Milton a reality? If so, for whom is Helstone a fairytale?

3. Compare Gaskell's ideas about common workers with those expressed by Carlyle. In what aspects do they differ?


Victorian Web Overview North and South Elizabeth Gaskell

Last modified 3 March 2003