chapter  36
3 Pages

North and South, ch. 17

All the important themes in the novel are touched on: the employers-employed clash, the industrial-rural contrast, the universality of suffering, the need for understanding between the classes. None of these themes is expatiated upon by the author; all are worked into the conversation as naturally as possible, and without strain. At the same time the 'great deal of nothing' which makes up so much actual conversation has been left out, so that only what matters to the novel is talked about; the naturalness is the result of deft compression. Mrs. Gaskell concentrates on making the scene as real and vivid as she can, not asserting that Higgins felt indignant, Margaret puzzled or Bessy desperate but presenting the indignation, puzzlement and despair in what the characters say. Higgins's 'be danged to 'em' expresses his feelings more pungently than any authorial statement, and Bessy's neurotic weariness is felt in her 'I shall be in the Great City' and her complaint of the 'endless noise, and sickening heat'. Margaret is similarly dramatized, urging painfully by means of her questions towards some solution of her bewilderment. The striving for realism is seen in the attempt to convey the racy tang of the Milton dialect; it is not a thoroughgoing representation of Manchester speech, but an inclusion of enough features ('yo' see', 'welly clemmed to death') to differentiate it from Margaret's educated language and thus give the passage variety and life. To use her own words in the letter quoted earlier, Mrs. Gaskell is con84