North and South

North and South


Elizabeth Gaskell

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Mr. Hepworth Character Analysis

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 down for very little purpose.” They are teetotalers (people who never drink alcohol) and try to impose this on the parish, with limited success. Mr. Hepworth remodels the parsonage to accommodate the many Hepworth children. In contrast to Mr. Hale, Mr. Hepworth composes orthodox sermons and is more interested in action than contemplation.

Mr. Hepworth Quotes in North and South

The North and South quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Hepworth or refer to Mr. Hepworth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Nostalgia and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of North and South published in 1996.
Chapter 44 Quotes

“But the truth is, these country clergymen live such isolated lives—isolated, I mean, from all intercourse with men of equal cultivation with themselves, by whose minds they might regulate their own, and discover when they were going either too fast or too slow—that they are very apt to disturb themselves with imaginary doubts as to the articles of faith, and throw up certain opportunities of doing good for very uncertain fancies of their own.”

After visiting with Margaret in London, Henry and Mr. Bell chat about the struggles the Hale family has endured in recent years. Henry remarks that he’s heard from Mr. Hale’s successor, Hepworth, that Hale need not have abandoned his position as rector over a few nagging doubts. Henry argues that “country clergymen” become so morbidly consumed by their own ideas that they make mountains out of theological molehills, and overreact about small things. They have no neighbors of similar education, so they have few opportunities to test and refine their thinking against others. The result is that they become disproportionately fixated on certain pet ideas and sometimes do what Mr. Hale did, walking away from a potentially fruitful ministry for no good reason. While Mr. Hale himself had warned of the risk of stagnation in country life, Henry’s claim is presumptuous—assuming that Hale’s doubts were insignificant, and that his heartbreaking choice to leave Helstone need not have been made. It also lines up with the bias, seen elsewhere in the novel, that concrete, measurable action is to be preferred to thought.

Related Characters: Henry Lennox (speaker), Mr. Richard Hale, Mr. Bell, Mr. Hepworth
Related Symbols: Nature and the Countryside
Page Number: 371
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Mr. Hepworth Character Timeline in North and South

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Hepworth appears in North and South. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 46
Nostalgia and Identity Theme Icon
Religious Diversity and Conscience Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
...fitted for thought than action.” There is a new window in the study, from which Mr. Hepworth , “even during the composition of his most orthodox sermons,” can spot his parishioners making... (full context)