North and South

North and South Summary and Analysis of Chapters XXXIII-XXXVI


Chapter XXXIII

At home it was quiet and peaceful. The only possible damage seemed to be if Leonards were to follow Frederick and find him in London, but that seemed unlikely. The funeral was the next day, and Mr. Hale said he was going to take Mr. Thornton with him since it was not a woman's place to go. Margaret protested and said she would not be trouble. She did not like the idea of Mr. Thornton going at all. Mrs. Thornton sent them their carriage but Margaret did not want even that. She burst out crying in front of her father; she had tried so hard to keep the grief away but was now agitated and restless.

The next day a note from Frederick came; he had to stay in London for a few more days since Mr. Lennox was not yet available. This made Margaret extremely nervous, but she kept this information from her father.

On the way to the funeral Margaret held her poor, disconsolate father and repeated verses of comfort from the Bible. At the funeral Dixon pointed out Nicholas and Mary in the background. Dixon was loudly mournful but Mr. Hale was mute in his anguish.

Mr. Thornton asked Dixon how Mr. and Miss Hale were. He had been in attendance the whole time but neither Hale noticed him. Dixon replied that Mr. Hale was not well but Margaret was doing fairly well. This information irritated Mr. Thornton, for he had rather hoped his love could be a consolation to the grieving girl and he was still "haunted by the remembrance of the handsome young man" that Margaret had been so close to at the station. Clearly she was receiving consolation elsewhere. He seemed to be filled with hate for Margaret, but he knew deep down that he had a "longing for the very atmosphere she breathed."

Chapter XXXIV

Margaret remained uneasy abut her brother, especially as no letter came in the next three days. Mr. Thornton came to visit Mr. Hale. He noticed how Margaret's stately beauty was enhanced by her grief. The two men entered into a conversation, and Mr. Thornton tried not to pay too much attention to the woman he loved.

Dixon informed Margaret someone was at the door for her; when they were alone the maid told the girl it was a police-inspector. Margaret's heart flew into her throat, but when she entered the study the man was caught off-guard by her haughtiness and steely, quiet reserve. She remained silent and asked no questions, so the inspector proceeded to tell her a man died in the Infirmary as a consequence of a fall he received at the station. Even though the man had been drinking it seemed like the fall had precipitated his death. An eyewitness said a woman they took to be Miss Hale was there with a young man that night who pushed the man onto the platform. Margaret replied, "I was not there." The inspector observed that "the lady standing before him showed no emotion, no fluttering fear, no anxiety, no desire to end the interview."

Leonards had never been able to gain consciousness enough to speak for himself, and the eyewitness was partially unsure. The inspector asked Margaret if she was prepared to deny her presence and she again said yes, but this time the man was struck by how her response seemed a dull echo of the first denial. He said he might need to come back, but asked for her to understand he was only doing his duty.

As soon as he left, Margaret fell to the floor in a swoon.

Chapter XXXV

Mr. Thornton's presence and conversation gave Mr. Hale comfort. He felt he could not be as frank with his daughter since he did not want to tell her of his sorrow and doubts.

While the men were talking Margaret roused herself from her fainting spell. She sat up and tried to remember what had made her swoon, then recalled the danger Frederick was in. She knew her lie may have bought him time, which was some comfort.

On his way out Mr. Thornton encountered the very same police-inspector, who was an acquaintance of the mill owner. The inspector was a tad startled, and said he had just had some business in that house where Mr. Thornton came from. Mr. Thornton was startled and asked the man to explain himself. As Mr. Thornton was the magistrate who saw Leonards on his death bed, the inspector asked for his advice. Mr. Thornton, musing, told the man to come back to his factory in an hour.

Mr. Thornton's thoughts swirled in his head. At first he was angry, filled with the jealousy he felt upon seeing Margaret with the young man at the station. He then decided that he would save Margaret –he must "yet do her faithful acts of service of which she should never know. He might despise her, but the woman whom he once loved should be kept from shame." He gave one of his clerks a note for Watson, the inspector, which read: "There will be no inquest. Medical evidence not sufficient to justify it. Take no further steps. I have not seen the coroner, but I will take the responsibility." Watson was relieved; he did not want to take the matter further and wondered at the veracity of the eyewitness's account.

He returned to the Hale residence, and when Margaret let him in he told her what had happened. He mentioned Thornton's note, and Margaret immediately asked to see it. After the inspector left she went to her room and puzzled over the situation. She felt relief that Frederick would be safe and wondered why Thornton was involved. She began to feel guilty and degraded in his sight. It was some time before she felt the significance of his interference, and gratitude rushed over her: "She suddenly found herself at his feet, and was strangely distressed at her fall."

The next morning a letter came from Frederick which said he finally met with Mr. Henry Lennox, who believed there might be some success in his case if witnesses could prove his statements. He had returned to Spain. The letter was postdated some days earlier and was delivered late. This meant that Margaret's lie had been for naught since her brother was already safe. She wished she had bravely told the truth instead of lied, since she now felt terrible –"humbled before God...and degraded and abased in Mr. Thornton's sight." Strangely enough, she felt worse thinking about Mr. Thornton's opinion of her than of God's.

Mr. Hale noticed her sorrow and tried to take care of her, but she knew she could never burden her father with information about her actions as it would only lay a heavier weight upon his weak mind. Father and daughter talked of Frederick and his betrothed, Dolores, and even though they both desired to see them in Spain, Margaret decided they must remain in Milton. She hoped someday Mr. Lennox would exonerate her brother and Frederick could bring Dolores to meet them in England.

After Margaret felt just how ungrateful she had been toward Mr. Thornton, and wondered at how high her respect and esteem for him had grown.

Chapter XXXVI

Father and daughter went to visit Nicholas Higgins the next day. He said he was out of work and would not be rehired by Hamper. Margaret spoke of the Union and Boucher's words that it did more harm than good. Even though Higgins was prickly and depressed, he responded calmly enough to her comment and said the Union was better than nothing for working men since it fought injustice and was the only way for men to get their rights.

He explained that Boucher had been up to a lot of mischief, and was now in hiding or missing somewhere. He had asked Hamper for employment, but, to Nicholas's grudging admiration, the factory owner had refused him.

As they spoke six men, including three policemen, came down the street carrying a dead body upon a door taken off its hinges. It turned out to be Boucher, drowned. The neighbors told Higgins he must go tell Boucher's wife but he shunned the task. Margaret finally agreed to go, and went into the woman's house. She was sitting in a rocking-chair in the small, dirty, and cluttered house. After a few words, the woman realized what Margaret was trying to say and cried out tearfully. Even the children seemed to know what had happened and set up a cry of despair. Other neighbors came in and helped by taking the children away. When he father came in he delivered the mournful news that Boucher had not just drowned –he had killed himself.

A neighbor woman said she would stay with the grieving woman and one of her children who had been brought back, and Margaret and her father departed. They stopped by Higgins's door and knocked, but he said he wanted to be left alone.


Frederick's return brings a lot of happiness as well as turmoil for Margaret. She is relieved to have her brother as a pillar of support; he is the only one who understands her position of caring for her sick mother and melancholy, mourning father. However, she is plunged into difficulty once it becomes clear that Frederick must depart England for fear of being turned in by a former member of his ship's crew. The encounter at the train station leads to the accidental death of Leonards by Frederick's hand and the subsequent policy inquiry of Margaret. She tells a lie to protect her brother, whose whereabouts at the time were unknown. This lie may have saved Margaret from some trouble, but it is Mr. Thornton who makes the problem go away when he uses his powers as a magistrate to end the inquiry. Margaret's embarrassment when she finds out about his involvement is intense –she feels herself indebted to Thornton and is ashamed that he knows about this blight on her character. The degree of Thornton's love for Margaret is clear in this instance, for he truly believes that he is protecting a woman who has another, secret lover.

In regard to Margaret as a character, Nancy Mann's influential article discusses how she demonstrates a conspicuous abstract and objective intelligence as opposed to a purely personal and feminine intelligence. Although in these chapters she seems to spend a lot of time in her own head thinking about her moral lapse and her feelings for Mr. Thornton, overall she is a remarkable 19th century heroine in that she is able to think abstractly and disinterestedly about social, political, intellectual, and religious matters. She does not talk about the strike and the relationship between masters and men with Mr. Thornton in a personal or emotional way, and her tone is cold and dispassionate. She possesses slow conviction, a penchant for deep thought, and "attention to semantic differences." She uses her intelligence to ultimately decide that she can order her life as she sees fit; this is her assertion to her aunt Shaw at the end of the novel.

Mann illustrates how Margaret's attention is impersonal in that it is never "directed primarily toward the management of human relations, especially domestic relations" like other heroines from contemporary novels. She also shies away from managing social groups. Most Victorian writers saw intelligence in women as being firmly rooted in the personal, private sphere. Elizabeth Gaskell was often viewed as a very "feminine" writer, but her creation Margaret Hale is "a brainy heroine" who "shows no inclination to apply her intelligence in traditionally feminine directions."

Margaret avoids extensively analyzing her own feelings or focusing on developing her own character. She rarely knows her own feelings or can correctly identify the feelings of those around her. She is completely blind to the affection felt for her by both Henry Lennox and Mr. Thornton. Mann sees her "lack of self-awareness...[as] one of the major themes of the book." Self-discovery is emphasized in the formation of identity instead of an encounter with the external world.

Gaskell handles Margaret's abstract/objective intelligence through the novel's structure. Personal elements of mental growth and love are incorporated into the action of North and South "through the dialectical use of opposing themes and characters...[and] Gaskell frees her heroine from a too-prominent consciousness of them." Margaret and Thornton are opposites in terms of religion, sex, class, intellect, and geographic origins, but their eventual union reconciles these dichotomies. The characters do not see themselves as representatives of their "two nations," however, and Margaret's special intelligence is emphasized.