I really do enjoy watching movies, in particular, movies based in the “olden days” which I would date as almost anything in the 18th or 19th Century. I don’t know why these time periods fascinate me so much, but they do.
I just finished watching a BBC version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s story North & South. In many ways it reminded me of Pride & Prejudice (by Jane Austen) though Austen typically revolved her stories about the oddities of social class whereas Ms. Glaskell’s story included a class conflict, yet was instead revolving around the industrial revolution. It was certainly an interesting movie and that always makes me wonder what the book is like. There are too many versions of Pride & Prejudice and I know too many of them are not good or accurate renditions of it. I can only expect the same in this case.
As I watched the two characters finally embrace one another, it made me long for more. Not more of these characters, though I am always interested in a good “epilogue” just to know what their futures might have looked like. These things are not often found in literature, so I suppose it is left up to my imagination that Mr. Thornton marries the now wealthy Margaret, reopens his mill and they live happily ever after. What I actually long for is to create those two characters. I want to be able to create something that is so stirring that other people want to know more about them. I want to create these people, for characters are easy to create, but fashioning a whole person is almost impossible. That would probably be my harshest criticism on this story. The characters did grow and change: Margaret went from love of the South and despising the underclass (and upperclass) living in Milton to eventually falling in love with a mill owner and befriending many of the workers. John’s story is more of a humbling and rising. At the beginning of the story, he is at the top of his game, an influential man in his community. He is shown to have values and virtues that the other mill owners do not share. Gradually through the strike, he gives in to some conditions, but the main thing that I think of is that he did deny to opportunity to “speculate” and doing so cost him everything. So, he stood up for his values but he didn’t gain from it (unless you allow that by his loss, he gained in his marriage). The other main change that we witness in Mr. Thornton is his treatment of workers. At the beginning, he is seen chasing out and beating a man for smoking in his factory. He denies the man work later, even with the promise to never smoke again. After Margaret’s influence, John hires Mr. Higgins, who had been so influential in the strike that no one would want to hire him. I felt like this change was influenced, not by some depth of character, but as an outward display of affection for one that he didn’t want to love.
Anyway, the whole story was pretty good, though I am new at picking things over. I dare say that I would have gotten an F if I were to bring that analysis to any English classroom. Oh well, it was only the spur of the moment, and not having read the book puts me in a very difficult place to judge because Elizabeth Gaskell gets credit for the plot, but not the script nor the acting or screenplay. I will have to read the novel and see for myself.
In the end, it was an enjoyable FOUR hours, though I will probably never watch it again. Maybe one day, someone will be watching my work turned into a gripping movie.