North and South

North and South


Elizabeth Gaskell

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North and South Characters

Margaret Hale

Protagonist Margaret Hale is Richard and Maria Hale’s daughter and Frederick’s sister. At the start of the novel, she is 18 and lives with her cousin Edith Shaw and her Aunt Shaw in… read analysis of Margaret Hale

John Thornton

Thornton is a successful, self-made manufacturer in Milton and Margaret’s eventual love interest. About 30 years old, he is “neither exactly plain, nor yet handsome,” and is “not quite a gentleman,” according to Margaret… read analysis of John Thornton

Mr. Richard Hale

Mr. Hale, Margaret’s father and Maria’s husband, is a sweet-tempered parish priest in his mid-fifties. Sometimes emotional and wavering in his beliefs, he is often described as having stereotypically feminine traits. He and… read analysis of Mr. Richard Hale

Mrs. Maria Hale

Richard’s wife, and Margaret and Frederick’s mother. Though a daughter of the wealthy Beresford family, Maria chose to marry Richard, a poor country clergyman, and the two went on to enjoy a happy… read analysis of Mrs. Maria Hale

Nicholas Higgins

Higgins, Bessy and Mary’s father, is a careworn, middle-aged millworker whom Margaret encounters in the streets of Milton. He tolerates Bessy’s colorful faith, but personally believes only in what he knows firsthand (though he… read analysis of Nicholas Higgins
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Frederick Hale

Frederick is Margaret’s older brother, firstborn of Richard and Maria Hale. Six or seven years ago, he was involved in some “terrible affair” in the navy, resulting in his being “lost” to the… read analysis of Frederick Hale

Bessy Higgins

Bessy is Nicholas Higgins’ sickly daughter, whom Margaret meets in the streets of Milton and befriends. Like Margaret, she is 19, but the contrast between their circumstances couldn’t be greater. Bessy is dying of… read analysis of Bessy Higgins

Mrs. Thornton

Mrs. Thornton is fiercely devoted to her son, John Thornton. She bears with and indulges the weaker Fanny, but John is the pride of her heart. Mrs. Thornton is described as “a large-boned… read analysis of Mrs. Thornton

Henry Lennox

Henry, a lawyer, is Captain Lennox’s brother. He is smooth-talking, teasing, and deliberate. He and Margaret enjoy a friendly rapport in London, and she considers him a friend. He visits Margaret in Helstone and… read analysis of Henry Lennox

Mr. Bell

Mr. Hale’s old Oxford tutor and close friend, Mr. Bell is also godfather to Frederick and Margaret. He is a jovial man in his sixties. It’s implied that he is sympathetic to Mr… read analysis of Mr. Bell

John Boucher

A neighbor of the Higgins family, Boucher is an unskilled worker with a large family to support. He frequently argues with Higgins about the strike, calling the union a pitiless “tyrant” because of its attempts… read analysis of John Boucher

George Leonards

Leonards is a former shipmate of Frederick Hale’s, known to be a scoundrel. When Frederick is trying to leave Milton undetected, Leonards happens to be in town and identifies him at the train station… read analysis of George Leonards

Mr. Hepworth

The new Helstone rector, successor of Mr. Hale, whom Margaret meets near the end of the novel. He and his wife are described as “stirring people,” or at least people who “[turn] things upside… read analysis of Mr. Hepworth


Maria Hale’s gruff but loyal maid, who sees Mrs. Hale’s marriage to Richard Hale as the great downfall of Mrs. Hale’s life. She says that she loves Mrs. Hale, Frederick, and Margaretread analysis of Dixon

Fanny Thornton

John Thornton’s younger sister. She lacks all of Mrs. Thornton’s strong qualities, faints under stress, and often complaints of vague ailments. She was very young during the Thorntons’ years of poverty and, because… read analysis of Fanny Thornton

Edith Shaw

Edith is Margaret Hale’s cousin. Margaret has lived with Edith and Edith’s mother, Aunt Shaw, in London since she was a young girl. As the Shaw family heiress, Edith is spoiled, but too… read analysis of Edith Shaw
Minor Characters
Dolores Barbour
Dolores is a young Spanish girl, and a Roman Catholic, with whom Frederick falls in love. Frederick goes into business with her father, and he and Dolores marry. Mr. Hale and Margaret meet her only through letters.
Mrs. Boucher
Mrs. Boucher is John Boucher’s sickly widow and outlives him for only a short time, leaving her many children in Nicholas and Mary Higgins’s care.
Mary Higgins
Nicholas Higgins’s daughter and Bessy’s younger sister. At age 17 she is an untidy and blundering girl, but capable with housework. She briefly assists Dixon in the Hale household and takes charge of Boucher’s children after they are orphaned.
Dr. Donaldson
Donaldson is a Milton doctor recommended by the Thorntons to care for Mrs. Hale in her fatal illness. He is a compassionate man, quickly won over by Margaret’s strength and forthrightness.
Captain Lennox
An Army captain, Lennox marries Edith Shaw at the beginning of the novel. He is kind and brotherly to Margaret.
Aunt Shaw
A gentle, anxious widow whose marriage had been unhappy, Margaret’s aunt lives in London. She is Edith’s mother and Maria Hale’s sister. She is very concerned about upper-class proprieties and finds Milton, as well as Margaret’s accustomed freedoms there, “horrid.”
Sholto Lennox
Captain Lennox and Edith Shaw’s baby son.
One of the Hales’ household maids in Milton.
Watson is a wealthy industrialist who marries the much younger Fanny Thornton. He engages in risky speculations and succeeds spectacularly, and everyone praises his foresight and wisdom.
Mr. Colthurst
A member of parliament who visits the Lennox household at the end of the novel and talks with Thornton.