North and South

North and South


Elizabeth Gaskell

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North and South: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

The next morning, as Margaret and Mrs. Hale chat, Mrs. Hale is displeased by the Milton “provincialisms”—“factory slang”—that pepper Margaret’s speech. Margaret defends the use of such speech, arguing that if using Milton expressions is “vulgar,” then she was very “vulgar” when they lived in Helstone.
Margaret’s defense of provincial speech—its expressiveness, and its cultural appropriateness—echoes Gaskell’s own interest in English dialect. Margaret’s comfort in using such language also shows how much she’s come to feel at home in Milton.
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Mr. Thornton enters as she says this, and Margaret feels embarrassed that she may have offended him. She is aware of Thornton’s careful avoidance of her as he talks with her parents, and she yearns to return to “their former position of antagonistic friendship.” Thornton, meanwhile, still feels bitter about Margaret’s rejection, and yet finds “a stinging pleasure” in being in her presence.
Margaret comes to the realization that she and Thornton were, in fact, friends, and that she cares about what he thinks. Here she longs nostalgically for their earlier friendship, “antagonistic” and combative as it was.
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