North and South Read-a-long – Discussion #2

Eeks–I’m behind!  I was supposed to read through Chapter 27 for today, but I’m only on Chapter 20.  Good thing I have the Bout of Books Read-a-thon to motivate me this week.  Gotta catch up!!

Here are the second week’s discussion questions:

1. What do you think of Margaret aiding her mother in keeping Mrs. Hale’s illness from her father?
I found this really disturbing, but I guess it’s just another example of how different male-female relationships were in the Victorian period.  Each spouse has a role to play in the marriage, and even if they love one another there doesn’t seem to be a lot of emotional intimacy between them.  Just as Mr. Hale tries to protect his wife by not telling her about their impending move to Milton, so Mrs. Hale is trying to soften the blow of her health condition by not telling her husband about it.  Margaret seems to think this is a good idea, so either they both view Mr. Hale as being too weak to handle the truth or perhaps her condition is a “woman’s thing” that they feel is best kept to themselves.  It was a pretty prudish time, so there could have been a taboo about certain health problems and diseases.

2. Margaret describes Mr. Thornton has her first “specimen” to “study.” How is Margaret using Mr. Thornton as a “study” and how does using him as such affect her opinion of him?
I either haven’t gotten to this part yet or I don’t remember it, but it seems to me that if Margaret sees Mr. Thornton as a “study” that she is trying to remain detached from him, to not become emotionally involved.  That might imply that she fears the possibility of developing feelings for him–or else that she already is feelng something!  Maybe she is trying to take his measure as an industrialist in order to better understand the way this unfamiliar society works, and she doesn’t want to let her personal opinion of the man affect her judgement.

3. Last week, Heather touched on Margaret’s lack of tact. What do you think of her tact? How is it lacking? Or would you argue that it isn’t lacking at all?
I don’t think she is tactless so much as unable to speak anything but the truth as she sees it.  She is an unfailing honest person, to the point that she says things that she probably shouldn’t in situations that would be better smoothed over with a few polite (if false) words.

4. Anything else you want to discuss?
I mentioned on Twitter the other day that Mr. Hale at one point (I think it’s in chapter 14 or 15) gives some very modern-sounding advice about raising teenagers.  He says something to the effect that when they reach that age, parenting becomes less about telling them what to do and more about being their confidant so that they will look to you for advice as they get older.  I thought that was pretty sound for an old intellectual!


10 thoughts on “North and South Read-a-long – Discussion #2

  1. Brooke

    I like your idea about Margaret trying to remain detached from Mr. Thornton which makes perfect sense in viewing him as a scientific specimen.

    And I also thought Mr. Hale’s parental advice was very sound and forward thinking, especially for the time. I do wonder if his stance comes more from fear of actually parenting than truly believing his own words. He seems to be such a weak little man.

    Good luck catching up! A readathon should be just the thing!

  2. Iris

    “Just as Mr. Hale tries to protect his wife by not telling her about their impending move to Milton, so Mrs. Hale is trying to soften the blow of her health condition by not telling her husband about it.”

    Seeing that question up, this is exactly what I thought. It sort of equals Margaret’s parents in that they both keep secrets from each other, using Margaret as their go-between. I admit, I did feel bad for Margaret on both occassions.

    I also like the idea of Margaret remaining detached from Mr. Thornton as she tries to study the society. (like you I do not remember the particular passage) But I do wonder if she isn’t also prejudiced and that is what keeps her detached. I rather feel that in her rejection of Mr. Thornton, Margaret was being harsh and blunt to such an extent that I wanted to shake her a little. I felt she handled the previous marriage proposal much better.

    1. Beth Post author

      Ooh, see I haven’t gotten to the proposal yet! This is what I get for being behind. I may see her attitude a bit differently once I catch up on this section.

      1. Beth Post author

        No worries–it’s my own fault! I actually skipped a literature class in college once because I hadn’t had time to finish the book (Wharton’s The House of Mirth) and didn’t want the ending spoiled. Needless to say my professor did not appreciate this excuse (however honest it was). 🙂

  3. softdrink

    I’m shocked at how much Mr. and Mrs. Hale dump on Margaret. They won’t talk to each other in order to protect each other, but they’re okay with Margaret having to deal with everything? There’s some definite role reversal in the parent-child relationship with these three. I’m wondering how Fred is going to fit into the family dynamic.

  4. christina

    I always get a twee when a character (author) says (writes) something relevant nowadays especially when it was forever ago. It’ proves that there’s something universal about all of our experiences.

  5. Trish

    I must have missed that advice that Mr. Hale provided. I’ve been mostly listening and think that I need to start reading because I’m missing out on so much. I didn’t do an update again this week (computer at home giving me fits with the slow internet), but I am enjoying the reading. Things will start picking up for you in a few chapters if you haven’t already gotten there…

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