North and South

North and South


Elizabeth Gaskell

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North and South: Chapter 44 Summary & Analysis

At Harley Street, where “the machinery of daily life [was] well oiled,” Margaret has leisure to reflect on the sudden changes in her life. Aunt Shaw and Edith pamper her, and she gradually resumes her old role of tending to Edith’s needs. In the midst of London’s social whirl, however, it isn’t long before Margaret feels “surfeited of the eventless ease in which no struggle or endeavor was required.” She never sees members of the lower classes, or even the servants, and worries that she’ll forget anything outside of this luxurious life.
Life in London picks up much where it left off, but Margaret has changed significantly. Struggle, and sensitivity to others’ struggles, has become part of her, and in its absence, she feels dissatisfied. She also feels the absence of friends from other stations in life, from whom she is curiously insulated in the Shaws’ household.
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Mr. Bell and Henry Lennox pay a visit to Margaret, and they chat about Henry’s attempt to find supporting witnesses for the case to clear Frederick’s name. As Mr. Bell walks out with Henry Lennox, they chat about the Hales’ family difficulties in recent years. Lennox remarks that he has heard from Mr. Hale’s successor—“a thoroughly active clergyman”—that there was no need for Mr. Hale to have given up his living and left Helstone. But, he says, “these country clergymen live such isolated lives…that they are very apt to disturb themselves with imaginary doubts as to the articles of faith.” Mr. Bell chafes at Lennox’s characterization of his friend.
Margaret’s earlier instinct that Henry wouldn’t have understood her father’s crisis of conscience proves correct—he characterizes Mr. Hale as too contemplative to be useful, and he misses the significance of Hale’s difficult act.
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