North and South

North and South

by

Elizabeth Gaskell

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North and South: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Mr. Hale announces, to Mrs. Hale’s dismay, that he has invited Mr. Thornton to tea for that night. Based on her earlier interaction with him, Margaret wryly describes Thornton as someone “who would enjoy battling with every adverse thing he could meet with—enemies, winds, or circumstances.” But, despite her reluctance to see him, Margaret helps Dixon prepare for the guest.
The Hales’ anxiety about entertaining Thornton is reflective of their changed circumstances—their smaller lodgings and fewer servants require greater flexibility, though Margaret gamely steps in. Margaret continues to feel ambivalent about Thornton based on her initial impressions of him.
Themes
Class Antagonism Theme Icon
Meanwhile, in the Thornton house, Mr. Thornton is having a conversation with his mother. Mrs. Thornton sniffs at the thought of her son changing his clothes in order to have tea with an “old parson” and warns her son not to be ensnared by Margaret, “a penniless girl.” Thornton laughs at this idea, considering that when last he saw Margaret, she acted as though she was a queen and he was her “humble, unwashed vassal.” This is enough to cause Mrs. Thornton to decide on the spot that she hates Margaret.
Mrs. Thornton takes her family’s newfound wealth seriously and is accordingly disdainful of her son going to any lengths to show the Hales, whom she regards as lower-class, with honor. She’s also viciously defensive at the mere suggestion that Margaret might not respect Thornton’s prominence.
Themes
Class Antagonism Theme Icon