North and South

North and South

by

Elizabeth Gaskell

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North and South: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On the last day in Helstone, Margaret is “calm and collected,” knowing that if she indulges her feelings of heartache, no one will be left to act. She walks around the decaying garden, remembering her walk there with Henry Lennox only two weeks ago. Soon she hears a poacher walking in the woods beyond the garden and, though she normally has no fear of poachers and wishes them success, she rushes inside the house. She talks with Mr. Hale about his last day of parish visitations; he grieves the sufferings of those he is leaving behind and wonders if he should go back on his decision. Margaret tells him that it’s bad enough to believe him in error, but it would be worse to know him to be a hypocrite.
As will become characteristic of her, Margaret suppresses her emotions for the sake of those who depend on her. Her world has changed dramatically from two weeks ago, symbolized by the altered state of the garden. The poacher—someone who hunts on other people’s property—alarms Margaret with a sense of intrusion on her predictable world; though even here, she sympathizes with someone who was probably in difficult straits. Mr. Hale wavers anxiously, and Margaret helps him to regain his backbone—a swapping of stereotypical roles.
Themes
Nostalgia and Identity Theme Icon
Female Agency and Strength Theme Icon
Religious Diversity and Conscience Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon
The following day, the Hales bid farewell to Helstone for the last time. When they arrive in London, they pass familiar houses and shops, and even acquaintances; Mrs. Hale even spots Henry Lennox passing by in the street. Margaret thinks of him as “a relic of Helstone.” The family spends a friendless night in a hotel. Margaret feels that many friends would receive them if they came in gladness, but that “London life is too whirling” to deal with the sorrows of friends.
The Hales’ stop in London highlights their disconnected status—they don’t belong to any particular place right now. In Margaret’s mind, London has already become a place that’s insulated from the hard things of life. And even Henry, whose friendship had been a bright spot in Margaret’s London life, now seems unreachable, belonging to a former phase of life.
Themes
Nostalgia and Identity Theme Icon
Personal Character, Environment, and Change Theme Icon