North and South

Women Entering the Public Sphere 12th Grade

Margaret Hale in Gaskell’s condition of England novel; North and South enters the public sphere of industrialised Milton. As a form of Bildungsroman, this ‘Manchester’ novel illustrates the representation of industrial life and their purchase on the relations of workers and masters, labour and capital, while depicting Margaret’s first encounters with this world. It is suggested that middle-class women upon entering the public sphere, in this case only one woman; Margaret entering Milton, face some form of danger.

In North and South the greatest danger Margaret confronts, is the potential threat to her own personal livelihood, both physically, morally and physiologically, exemplified in Chapter XXII A Blow and its Consequences, where she is struck by a stone meant for Mr. John Thornton. Margaret’s sheltered and somewhat passive childhood at Helstone undoubtedly juxtaposes her existence and coming into the public sphere in Milton. The “idyllic Helstone” represented Margaret’s feminine lifestyle of discussions concerning fine silks and reading novels, and the reader infers a great sense of gender role-reversal upon entering and residing in Milton. Margaret arguably adopts a more traditionally masculine role in Milton, first noted...

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