North and South

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Name: North and South
Abbreviation(s): N&S
Creator: Elizabeth Gaskell
Date(s): 1854–55
1966, 1975, 2004 (television)
Medium: novel, television
Country of Origin: England
External Links: at Wikipedia (novel)
at IMDb (1966 tv series)
at IMDb (1975 tv series)
at Wikipedia (2004 tv serial)
at IMDb (2004 tv serial)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

North and South is an social novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, first serialised in 1854–55, which dramatises the conflict between the values of the industrial North, embodied in Milton mill-owner John Thornton, and the rural South/fashionable London, embodied in vicar's daughter Margaret Hale.

It is one of her best-known novels and was adapted for television three times (1966, 1975 and 2004). The 2004 version renewed interest in the novel and attracted a wider readership.


Set in cotton capital Milton (Gaskell's Manchester home), the plot turns on a strike that culminates in a riot in which Margaret, who sympathises with the striking workers, is injured trying to protect Thornton from them. Her action causes Thornton to become conscious of his love for her, but his proposal goes awry – Margaret believes it to stem from Thornton's belief that she has compromised herself, and she also does not then consider him a gentleman.

The remainder of the novel mirrors Pride and Prejudice, as Margaret slowly becomes aware of her feelings for Thornton while misunderstandings and circumstances conspire to drive the pair apart. Margaret reassesses her understanding of gentleman/man, and Thornton learns to consider his workers as human beings via getting to know Margaret's friend and strike leader Nicholas Higgins.

Other characters who sometimes appear in fanfiction include Margaret's brother Frederick, on the run for naval mutiny; her Aunt Shaw, cousin Edith, Edith's husband Captain Lennox and his brother Henry, a rival suitor for Margaret; the Hales' maid Dixon; Thornton's mother Hannah and much younger sister Fanny; Higgins' daughters Bessy and Mary; and (from 2004 miniseries) Ann Latimer, a rival suitor for Thornton.


In the first television adaptation (in 1966), Richard Leech played Mr. Thornton and Wendy Williams played Margaret Hale.

In 1975 adaptation, Patrick Stewart played Mr. Thornton and Rosalie Shanks played Margaret Hale. Tim Pigott-Smith, who played Mr. Hale in the 2004 adaptation, played Frederick (his son) in the 1975 version.

And in 2004 a four-episode serial with Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage in the lead roles, where Sandy Welch wrote the screenplay, and Brian Percival directed.[1]

All three adaptations were produced by the BBC, but the most fannish interest is sparked by the 2004 adaptation, even though there wasn't that much publicity for this miniseries.

Fannish Reaction

Reactions to the 2004 miniseries:

...I would suspect that N&S will definitely be regarded as iconic, certainly for its genre. I cannot think of another actor with the capacity to present a Thornton of the same quality. Others may take the role, but as Colin Firth gave us the quintessential Darcy, Richard Armitage has offered audiences the quintessential Thornton. (fitzg)[2]
I've often thought that novel adaptations work best if you haven't read the novel, and I think N&S may be one of these. The scene where Margaret meets Thornton is visually stunning & makes fantastic drama, but... it just doesn't belong to the character. As in the source, the first half was stronger than the second -- the mill riot is the real climax, and no amount of faffing around with melodrama or romance plots can disguise it. Thus said, the mill interiors are seriously gorgeous, Richard Armitage is rather good at the brooding look, & Sinead Cusack effortlessly steals every scene she's in, till the production was in danger of becoming the tragedy of Mrs Thornton. ...
The Margaret-Sue-ness has been significantly toned down from the novel (where Bell sings her praises several too many times), but I find it quite touching, as she's easy to read as Gaskell's self-insertion. (Espresso Addict)[3]'s a delightful period drama which one might describe as "Pride and Prejudice set during the Industrial Revolution". the heroine is fantastic, the hero is a borderline-abusive jackass who puts Darcy to shame (seriously, at least Darcy just insulted Elizabeth's family before asking her to marry him; Thornton tells Margaret that her friends deserve to starve and be beaten by the police, and then goes ahead with the proposal like it's no big deal) but manages to have a convincing redemption arc, and the cinematography is gorgeous. the last scene. I just. ALL MY FEELINGS. (meretricula)[4]
MISOGYNY-FREE ZONE: ... Margaret Hale has a front-row seat to one of the greatest upheavals in human history: industrialization. She takes on its rewards and woes. She makes decisions, engages with the powerful, grows and changes. And she does all this without once trivializing herself, or allowing anyone else to trivialize her. *And* she's accompanied by interesting women and girls, both rich and poor. That, alone, makes N&S worth more than a hundred critical darlings in which misogyny is an inescapable ingredient.
MORALITY. CHRISTIANITY. HOPE. REMEMBER THOSE? Gaskell's book and this adaptation take on really hard challenges: workers v. capitalists, traditional rural life's poverty and its beauty v. laissez-faire capitalism's new opportunities, ugliness and anomie. N&S could have just exploited the Industrial Revolution as colorful backdrop; it didn't. N&S attempts to offer solutions and hope, based on fundamental Christian values like non-violence and sharing. ... When the N&S boss and his workers sat down to a meal together, I cried cynicism-free tears. ... The redemption in the movie's key kiss is not just about eros, it's also about agape. And that made me cry. (Cried many times.) (Danusha Goska)[5]


The popularity of the 2004 adaptation turned N&S overnight from a rarelit microfandom into a flourishing small fandom. The height of fannish activity was in the mid-2000s, and since then many fansites have gone offline. Armitage's starring role in The Hobbit films led to a resurgence of interest, with, for example, 12 requests at Yuletide in 2013. N&S was an entry fandom for some, many of whom have followed Armitage into other fandoms. Substantial overlap also exists with other costume drama fandoms, particularly Austen fandom. Fannish activities include fanfiction, fan art, fanvids, picspam and discussion.

The vast majority of fanfiction is in the canonical pairing of Margaret/Thornton. Obstacles to the couple's union (particularly Henry Lennox and Ann Latimer) are often demonised. Many works tackle Margaret's sexual awakening and Victorian attitudes to sex; sometimes Thornton is also a virgin or more commonly simply inexperienced. Common scenarios include AUs in which the two get together earlier, including forced marriage scenarios in which Margaret's reputation is irreparably damaged by her actions during the riot. Stories that continue the romance from the novel or miniseries ending to their marriage and wedding night are common, and sometimes try to reconcile book canon with miniseries canon. Novel-length sequels which follow the couple's marriage also exist. Several continuations and AUs have been self-published via Amazon. There is also a small amount of Thornton/Higgins slash.

Modern AUs are reasonably common, though nowhere near as prevalent as for Pride and Prejudice. Occasional same actor crossovers have been written, particularly with The Hobbit where Armitage plays Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's film trilogy. There's also at least one crossover with another work by Gaskell.[6]

Example Fanworks


Recs & Reviews

Fan art


  • "Addicted" by Heathra (linked here). Unusual AU vid that portrays Thornton as a stalker
  • "Cosmic Love" by gss42x. More conventional Thornton/Margaret





Fan art



  • C19 has several active N&S-related discussion boards and fanfiction




  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 March 2013. Retrieved 2012-06-13.  Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. ^ me + richard armitage: fanstRAvaganza two, Day 2! (accessed 24 May 2013)
  3. ^ Espresso Addict: Scottish watching & reading (accessed 5 June 2013)
  4. ^ meretricula: if I have to suffer, I'm taking you all down with me (accessed 5 June 2013)
  5. ^ Foolish Passion: Top Twelve Reasons "North and South" is a Ten (accessed 6 June 2013)
  6. ^ Age of Evolution by SummerRed is a crossover with Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, written for Yuletide 2011