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Discursive and Literary Analysis of North and South by Gaskell

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Tess encounters Angel Clare who forms a relationship with Tess after agreeing to tutor her and who becomes a significant impact on her life. Hardy presents Tess as a powerful force as he creates a border between happiness and depression in her life. Mark Asquith critiques “Angel abandons her, masking his prurient disgust at her sexual history with spurious Christian principles”. This is evidenced when Tess grows fond of Angel Clare and Angel returns his love for her. But the readers can sense the tension in their relationship as Angel calls Tess and The symbolism of mythical Greek goddesses emphasises the idealised image that Angel wants to see rather than the living reality of who Tess really is. Hardy continues to dominate the life of Tess with injustice when Tess drowns in her feelings of romance and carelessly reveals the history of her past which leads to Angel abandoning her. Angel’s response – shows that Tess did not meet the expectation of a ‘Goddess’ that Angel had for her. The irony is presented as they both have a past, but Angel’s past is only forgiven, merely due to his status and his sexuality however, Tess is left out in the dark. Unlike Tess experiencing a myriad of injustice in her life, Margaret is also in a cyclical trap with one person’s death after another. The most dreadful death that encounters Margaret’s life is the death of her mother, Mrs. Hale who is her biggest female guidance. Her mother’s terminal illness, which may be cancer, worsens when they move to the Northern city of Milton. The city is described as having a and the The negative use of adjectives – and connote the drastic environment of Milton as being dirty and polluted which contributes negatively to Mrs. Hale’s illness. This adds a heavier burden on Margaret as she must adopt the domestic and active role to take on her mother’s duties in the household as well as helping her father find a new house. As Margaret involuntarily adapts to the horrific life in Milton, she also matures rapidly and proves herself to be of an intellectual substance. In her own way, Margaret epitomizes the true spirit of a heroine when she fulfils her mother’s final wish to see her son, Frederick.

Throughout the novel of TOTD, Tess’s patience and emotions are tested when she is faced with disastrous situations that lead her to her downfall. The biggest and final injustice that destroys Tess’s character development is ending her torment of Alec by killing him during the denouement. The triadic listing of connotes the end to Tess’s suffering and her freedom from Alec’s torture. Interestingly, Hardy creates the climactic action towards the end of the novel to allow the reader to question whether Tess is of a ‘pure woman’ after her journey of hardships. Whilst the readers believe Tess is to be blamed for her sin and she was destined to be punished perhaps for her ancestors’ crimes, Hardy defends his female heroine and claims her demise was caused by manipulation and alienation so she is not held responsible for being a victim of her own misfortune. Tess accepts her fate and concludes at the end of the story symbolises the execution of Tess that Hardy could be representing the unjustness of conventional society that even the guiltless people are punished for their wrongdoing despite their good intentions. Similarly, Margaret experiences her final bereavement when she loses another beloved family member, her father on the way to their trip to Oxford. Margaret’s heroism is expressed vividly as she now has lost her two of her main supporters and source of guidance and must take on a lot more responsibility to care for herself. At the start of the novel, the readers can visualise immediately that Margaret and Mr. Hale have a rocky relationship as he is unable to do anything on his own and expects Margaret to do everything. However, the readers can see Mr. Hale’s inability to take responsibility is what shaped Margaret to grow and become a young adult. Margaret that her father had died and with the use of repetition expresses her disbelief and melancholy as her whole world has crumbled to bits. Margaret must adhere to the new course of life that she has entered and continue to live for herself. However, her gets the best of her and concludes that she needs to leave Milton where she had as perhaps there is nothing left in Milton for Margaret anymore.

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Class antagonism is a pivotal thematic role during the Victorian period where social status directed everyone’s life. Class differentiation in TOTD also reflects Hardy’s own personal life as he struggled with social mobility and was originated from a working-class household. Whilst Hardy himself was bought into an independent mason in the rural area, he felt restricted from opportunities the same as an upper class . In the same way, Tess bears a difficult life being ascribed in an underclass family who goes through obstacles to provide for her family. Ironically, at the start of the novel, the readers are immediately told that the Durbeyfield family are decedents from an aristocratic family, the D’Urbervilles – As soon the celebratory news got around, the Durbeyfield family felt a sense of obligation to get in contact with the knightly family as they . Mrs. Durbeyfield’s quest is and to raise the Durbeyfield’s social status. This leaves Tess saturated with oppression by her family as they are more concerned about Tess bringing wealth than her right of freedom to do what she likes. However, it can also be seen that Tess had a right to complete this duty due to the incident of their horse, Prince. Since lack of freedom and choice was not permitted during the Victorian period, Tess presses on and fulfils her parent’s wish which later she encounters many downfalls. Similarly, Jane Eyre which was also set during the Victorian era explores the strict social class during its time. Charlotte Bronte presents her female protagonist as a typical, young woman who has Immediately, Charlotte Bronte brings in the concept of social class as the readers identify that Jane was born into a working-class family but was taken in by her upper-class relatives. The irony is displayed as Jane belongs to neither the two disparate classes as she is tyrannised by her wealthy cousins for being underprivileged and living in the same prosperous household as them. Charlotte Bronte brings out the femininity as throughout the novel Jane pursuits for independence and to be valued rather than allow her brutish cousins to torment her and make her feel worthless.

In parallel, though Margaret is lived with luxury and affluence in the south, Helstone, at the start of the novel, she also learns a lot about the impoverished and deprived side of the world in North Milton. This concept is directly visible in the dichotomous title, North and South as the entirety of the novel, Gaskell portrays the harsh lives led by the working-class. Margaret reflects about the British class system and learns about the relationship contrast between the north and south. Margaret criticises Thornton’s view about the south – The sibilance and alliteration of and display the euphemism of inequality of the lower class. However, Margaret does hold pride from her upper-class upbringing that also stems from her relationship with Aunt Shaw and Edith that the readers are introduced to at the beginning of the novel. Margaret holds strong views on the division of social class and prejudice after her transfer to Milton and Gaskell focuses profoundly on class hostility on the conversation between Margaret and Thornton. Gaskell creates an initial appearance of Margaret as she identifies the classism between the north and south. Similarly, Agnes Grey takes on the Marxist approach of social class as Anne Bronte uses her female protagonist to depict the struggles of trying to create a meaning for herself, such as being a governess as she lacks the educated knowledge and materialistic necessities to do so. As Agnes identifies the struggles that her family is going through to pay back debt and bring in money, she makes a wise decision to become a governess however, her family’s dismissal on the idea empowers Agnes to defend her worthy – The monosyllabic language of and show that Anne is a girl who is knowledgeable as she uses sophisticated language to gasps her mother’s attention despite her lack of privileges to be educated. The belittling from her family creates a sense of frustration in Agnes however, Bronte exemplifies confidence and certainty in her character to counteract the notion of being powerless.

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Discursive and Literary Analysis of North and South by Gaskell. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
“Discursive and Literary Analysis of North and South by Gaskell.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Discursive and Literary Analysis of North and South by Gaskell. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Discursive and Literary Analysis of North and South by Gaskell [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from:
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