North and South

The Role of Women in Percival and Gaskell's North and South 11th Grade

In modern day society, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase ‘A woman’s touch’, being casually mentioned in discussions of style and the exercise of compassion. The phrase, however, is an apt description for the role of women in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Victorian novel, North and South, and the resulting BBC miniseries adaptation directed by Brian Percival (2004). In the respective adaptations, both author and director strive to present the potential of women to be more than the submissive, demure and delicate figures that Victorian society appraise by defining what exactly is meant to be a man and what is meant to be a woman. Through the exemplar characterization of the male and female leads (Margaret Hale and John Thornton), and the unprecedented relationship that ensues between the two, both adaptations of North and South present an equalist ideal that depicts women not as triumphant conquerors, but as necessary mediators of our world.

When examining the males in North and South, it becomes quickly evident to audiences that John Thornton is Gaskell’s representation of the stereotypical man. Possessing many admirable qualities that the men around him lack significantly, the novel repetitively describes the ‘self made’ nouveau...

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