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Analytical Overview of Industrial England in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Historians study the past to help us better understand the past and avoid old mistakes. They reassemble the facts to create a picture of a time, a place or an event that may be completely foreign to the way we think and behave today or may explain why we do. Historians use all sorts of data to help create the picture of society; census data, economic reports, laws, newspaper articles, poetry, and even literature. In every part of the world, literature has been more or less, mirror of society. The most realistic forms of literature are the stories and the novels, which deal particularly with the problem of social, economic and political life of a country and are bound to reflect contemporary history.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South is often considered one of, if not the best, of her works, as well as a significant piece of Victorian literature. It features a strong female protagonist and relevant social and political commentary regarding industrialization and class antagonisms present in mid-19th century England. The fictional industrial town of Milton was based on Manchester, where Gaskell lived with her family.

Major Themes of the work include: The contrast between the North and South of England, The danger of pride, female self-determination and autonomy, and class struggle


  • The labor workers strived to form a union between each other because of the terrible working conditions.
  • The strike was bad and people wanted to free the Irish and they went as far as to throw a pebble at Margaret.
  • The masters in Milton treated the workers very badly.
  • Higgins is paid at a very low late and lacks the money to supply food for his family.
  • Higgins brings up the idea of starting a strike against their masters, to which Boucher is hesitant.
  • Margaret feels that Thornton should be nicer to the workers, but he disagrees saying that he has to do what’s best for his factory.


  • The mill you choose the best one is the one that pays the most money.
  • The mill owners formed a union to give the same wages as each other.
  • Milton was an excellent place for manufacturing and Margaret’s family decided to move there once her father broke off from the Church.
  • Nicholas Higgins worked in mill.
  • The strike began and Thornton replaced them with irish workers.
  • Margaret was trapped in Thornton’s house.
  • Thornton and Margaret get married.


  • Margaret had left her mother and father in her childhood.
  • Her parents were actively part of the Church in England.
  • Margaret’s dad eventually stopped being a representative of the Church.


  • They used a lot of practical speech.
  • Edith is very spoiled by her mother and was marrying captain Lennox(I didn’t hear I think that’s his name).
  • Margaret was upset in her childhood due to the fact that her parents weren’t able to introduce to a ‘rich’ setting which upset Margaret, however she always made that hidden in front of her parents.
  • Mrs.Haile grew very ill.
  • This was because of all the bad air and cotton in Milton, that Mrs.Haile was exposed to.
  • Margaret is knocked out when the tiniest of pebbles hit her in the head.
  • Margaret’s best friend, Bessy, passed away.
  • Boucher took his own life.
  • Nicholas Higgins adopted all of Boucher’s kids.
  • Margaret’s mom died from being sick.
  • Margaret’s dad also died.
  • Margaret finds herself falling for Milton.


  • Thornton is very conservative and avoids taking risks at all costs.
  • Mill Owners used special wheels.
  • Margaret is not at all like her cousin Edith and her aunt because she can’t afford to live a rich life and spending lots of money like her Edith and her aunt.
  • Margaret always talked about her hometown to her new friend Henry.
  • Thornton feels that Margaret is prideful lady, while Maragret feels that he is a cold man.
  • Thornton was about to express his feelings to Margaret but she replied that she had no feelings for him.
  • Margaret gained a lot of money after the death of Mr.Bell.


  • They loved to play the piano.

Why do you think Gaskell represents the older characters so negatively?

Gaskell represents the old characters as bad because they are selfish people due to the fact that they paid the workers terribly to the point where they wanted a strike. They were also greedy for money and were overall selfish in that regard.

How do the differences between north and south culture affect relationships in Milton?

Milton was affected by the differences of the north and south culture culture ue to their drastically different views towards slavery. Northern culture believed in the abolishment of slavery, while slavery was very common in the South. This difference made the two cultures often clash heads.

An important theme in the book is the poor relations between the masters and men. This is also reflected as a theme in the movie. What does Gaskell present as the solution for the problem and how does she communicate this through the relationships between the main characters?

The solution is that the workers tried to strike against the mill owners which was shut down by the soldiers. The relationship was shown between Thornton and Margaret as he said the mill owners needed to make money, while Margaret said the workers should be treated with compassion and be paid better.

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Describe the overall working conditions (hours, pay, safety, etc.) of general millwork from the point of view of the laborers. What is their motivation for organizing together and striking? How do they plan to survive during a strike?

The laborers were disgusted by the overall working conditions of general millwork. They worked hard and non-stop only to be paid very sparingly, which meant they were starved. This motivated the laborers to start the strike.

The masters discuss the working conditions in the mills. Describe the conditions viewed in Mr. Thornton’s mill specifically. How is Thornton considered more “progressive” and why is he in conflict with the other mill owners?

He is in conflict because he never thought that they should reduce their wages otherwise the mill-owners themselves would lose money.

Several deaths occur in the story. How do the circumstances of the deaths of Mr. Thornton, Senior, Mrs. Hale, Boucher, Leonards, Bessy Higgins, Mr. Hale, Mr. Belle, effect Margaret Higgins and the characters of the story? Why do you think death such a prevalent theme of Gaskell’s novel?

Those deaths played a major impact because she was close to most of them, and the death of her parents, and Bessy Higgins scarred her. Additionally, death was such a main theme as it showed how the hard conditions of the mill made people suicidal and very ill.

Examine the importance of the Victorian setting. Does Margaret’s want for independence go against Victorian values? Is the older generation holding back this new era? Why is it important the north and south of England come together as a society?

They came together to because of slavery and the bad wages which formed some similarities between the two.

How is the novel North and South an accurate representation of the Industrial age in England?

It is an accurate representation of the Industrial Revolution due to showing what affect new ways to thread cotton affected society. It took place in a Victorian location to add a different vibe and perspective.

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Analytical Overview of Industrial England in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from
“Analytical Overview of Industrial England in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Analytical Overview of Industrial England in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Jan. 2023].
Analytical Overview of Industrial England in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from:
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