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This novel examines the nature of social authority and obedience and provides an insightful description of the role of middle class women in nineteenth century society. Through the story of Margaret Hale, a southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skilfully explores issues of class and gender, as Margaret's sympathy for the town mill workers conflicts with her growing attraction to the mill owner, John Thornton.
Gaskell's ninth publication masterfully captures the lives of people drawn together by mere life circumstances. Her characters from Margaret Hale to Nicholas Higgins, regardless of situation, are paid the same meticulous attention by Gaskell in her portrayal of an intricate story which encompasses a range of social issues such as the role of women in Victorian Britain, industrialisation and its effects on class divisions, as well as the changing landscape of Britain through such changes brought on by advancement in trade in urban areas depicted in the contrasts between Helstone and Milton. In Margaret Hale Gaskell gives strength to the ‘weaker sex’ rarely before seen in texts of her time whilst appealing to all readers with the emphasis of a number of households mainly within Milton itself. The text presents itself as well as a novel as it ever did in its popular serialisation in Dickens’ publication Household Words. --Submitted by A. Blackwood
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