THAT OTHER FAMOUS CLASSIC ROMANCE
A genteel but independent young woman in reduced circumstances meets and clashes with a reserved seemingly haughty wealthy man. Despite bad first impressions, misunderstandings, and differences in temperament they eventually overcome their judgments of each other and fall in love. Does this story sound familiar? If you are thinking it is Pride and Prejudice, then you would be right….and wrong. This time it describes another literature classic, North and South.
Since my first viewing of Elizabeth Gaskell’s romantic period drama adaptation, I found myself enamored with the battle of wills between northern mill owner John Thornton and passionate southern transplant Margaret Hale. From the beginning, these two butt heads, much like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy do in Pride and Prejudice. Margaret and Thornton find themselves attracted to each other against their wishes. Thornton is more open to the attraction. But Margaret fights against it after a bad first impression causes her to misjudge his character. This leads to a delicious push and pull, will they or won’t they romantic storyline.
Since this is a period drama, the romantic moments in North and South between these two are more subtle and less overt. Like a good mystery, the viewer always has to be on the lookout for clues; the brush of a hand, the longing glance, the words left unspoken, to learn how Margaret and Thornton really feel about each other.
Much like a good investigator I have gathered those clues which will prove that all the denial and verbal sparring is really just a cover for the deeper truths of their hearts. So let’s count down the top ten romantic moments in North and South.
Ten of the Most Romantic Moments in North and South
(Reader Warning: Spoilers are included)
10. Thornton defends Margaret to his mother and Fanny
Thornton is not a demonstrative man, nor does he often profess what is on his heart or mind. But when he hears his mother and sister Fanny disparaging Margaret, he bursts out in defense of her charging them not to speak of her in such a way.
9. Thornton asks Nicholas Higgins if Margaret recommended him
“Was… was it Miss Hale who told you to come to me? You might have said.”
Margaret’s friend Nicholas Higgins led the combined strike effort against the city’s mills. When the strike ends, all the mill owners refuse to hire him. But he is desperate for work to help provide for his neighbor’s newly orphaned children. Margaret suggests Higgins ask Thornton for a job. Thornton rudely rejects the request. Later, he seeks Higgins out to apologize and to offer him a job. Thornton betrays his motivation for doing so when he asks if Margaret was the one who had told Higgins to seek him out.
8. Thornton visits Helstone
Margaret and Thornton often disagree about their hometowns, with Margaret insisting Helstone is superior to Milton. So, after Margaret leaves Milton to live with relatives, Thornton visits Helstone alone. Memories of Margaret keep him company as he wanders around the place which she loved so much.
7. Margaret’s Change of Heart
“I have a better opinion than you do of me.”
This is one of the first glimpses we see into Margaret’s changing feelings for Thornton. In the past, she has been predisposed to judge his character harshly. But when he covers for her with the local constable, she realizes that she has been wrong. Here she acknowledges that her opinion of him is improving even as his for her is deteriorating.
6. Thornton’s last doubt is obliterated
“He was her brother.”
After Thornton sees Margaret embracing a man at the train station late one evening, he begins to doubt her character. Especially when Thornton chooses to cover for Margaret when she lies about being there at all. This is a major obstacle for him even as Margaret’s opinions of him begin to improve. When his business fails, a chance conversation with Nicholas Higgins reveals that Margaret’s mystery man is none other than her beloved brother. Even in the midst of business failure, this brings a delighted smile to Thornton’s face as he realizes that he can trust Margaret’s character. Thornton’s smile reveals the inner passion he feels for Margaret, definitely marking this one facial expression as one of the most romantic moments in North and South. With Richard Armitage, it’s all about the subtlety.
5. Thornton discusses Margaret with his mother
“I dare not hope she care for me.”
Margaret’s actions to protect Thornton during the mill strike expose her to public commentary. So, Thornton and his mother discuss the fact that he should offer marriage to protect her good name. While Mrs. Thornton dreads losing the affection of her son, she accepts his duty. But Thornton confesses his doubts that Margaret will accept, exposing his deepening affection for her.
4. Margaret defends Thornton to the strikers
At this point, Margaret still believes Thornton to be a harsh, unsympathetic employer. Nevertheless, when his striking employees threaten him at home, she defends him against the angry mob. She claims it is only because she cares about the poverty-stricken workers. But she also betrays her own unexamined emotions towards Thornton when she willingly puts herself in danger for his sake.
3. Thornton’s Proposal
“I don’t want to possess you! I wish to marry you because I love you!”
After Margaret’s unseemly actions during the strike, Thornton arrives at her home to propose. Stumbling over his words, she stops him before he can finish. She misunderstands the intent of the proposal and insults him with her response. But even then, he confesses that he loves her. Despite their anger, his outburst of emotion is rather romantic for a man who normally stays guarded.
2. Margaret’s Proposal
“So, you see it is you who would be doing me the favor.”
Months after leaving Milton (and Thornton) Margaret has become an heiress of great wealth. But she is saddened to receive news that Thornton and his mill are bankrupt. So, Margaret heads to Milton to discuss a business proposition with him, but he is not there. She heads back to London by train. Her train makes a brief stop at another station where she is surprised to see Thornton. He confesses he has been to Helstone. This flusters her a bit. Still, she is determined to share her proposal to save both him and the mill. His tender stare, however, undoes her and she takes his hand in hers to kiss it. With hope dawning in his eyes, Thornton answers her with a real kiss. Not only is this moment one of the most romantic moments in North and South, but also one of the most romantic moments in a period drama ever.
1. Margaret leaves Milton and Thornton
“Look back, look back at me.”
I can’t think of a scene more full of yearning and desire than this. Margaret is leaving Milton for good. Although her feelings towards Thornton have changed, she receives no hint from him that she has regained his affection. After a brief goodbye where they stare at each other with unspoken emotion, she enters a carriage and departs. As it pulls away from his front door, Thornton stares passionately at the tiny window in the back of her conveyance and speaks these words with desperation and longing.
There are, of course, other quietly romantic moments in North and South, but these are some of my favorites. If you have yet to watch this classic, you can find it on Netflix and Amazon.
What are your favorite romantic moments in North and South? Sound off below…
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