Parodic Prolongation in North and South: Elizabeth Gaskell Revaluates Dickens's Suspenseful Delays (Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell)
Dickens Quarterly 2006, Dec, 23, 4
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"'Loyalty and obedience to wisdom and justice are fine,'" Margaret Hale tells her mother, "'but it is still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly used'" (154; ch. 14). This speech occurs in "The Mutiny" chapter of North and South, seven chapters before the riveting strike episodes at Mr. Thornton's manufactory. (1) Margaret staunchly defends her brother's conduct toward the tyrannical Captain Reid. The seemingly extraneous subplot involving Lieutenant Hale's insubordination--"pure plot-spinning" in one commentator's opinion (Wright 144-46)--deserves its place: Elizabeth Gaskell spells out the rules for rebellion that John Boucher violates but that Dickens allegedly does not know. (2) Like Nicholas Nickleby pummeling Squeers, Frederick Hale acted as a champion of the badly used when he revolted against a bully. Captain Reid's authority, while at sea, could be checked by no other means. Mutiny is justifiable because it takes place far from Manchester. On shore, in an industrial setting, extreme situations of the kind Frederick faced seldom materialize, unless a bogus mutineer like Boucher interferes with his union's efforts and instigates strike into riot. The existence of groups like the union, Gaskell maintains, makes individual revolt unnecessary. Just as Frederick is not Boucher, Thornton is hardly Captain Reid.
- Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
- Published: 01 December 2006
- Publisher: Dickens Society of America
- Seller: The Gale Group, Inc.
- Print Length: 21 Pages
- Language: English