Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Taming of Mr. Thornton

I was at Power Books last week waiting for a friend when I saw Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South. I haven't read the book but I was familiar with the story because BBC made a TV mini-series adaptation of the novel. A few years back while channel surfing, something caught my eye. It was a period drama about 1800's England, the cultured and socially-driven South in contrast to its more bold and industrial North. On top of which, it's a love story!

BBC adaptation
Margaret Hale and John Thornton, the protagonists, couldn't be more different. She's a lady and daughter of a former clergyman from the South, he's an owner of a mill in the North. The first time they met couldn't be more disastrous. Margaret saw John beating the crap out of his employee for smoking in his cotton factory. In her opinion, he was a brass, uncultured tradesman. While he thought her haughty, he can't deny that she's beautiful and intelligent.

Throughout the story, their knowledge of each other deepened. John's overbearing mother disapproved of Margaret because she thought all Southern ladies' greatest ambition was to marry a nice, rich man. Of course in his mother's eyes, John was the most desirable of them all (I thought so, too!) and that Margaret was entrapping her son by saving him from a mob of strikers. Though John downplayed his mother's suspicions, he proposed to Margaret. She rejected him (the lunatic!). She thought he just wanted to save her reputation and not because of love.

John was devastated and left. But he couldn't stop himself from visiting Margaret. One day he went to the Hales only to be turned down admission. Margaret's fugitive brother Frederick, was in the house to see their dying mother and she was afraid to tell anyone outside their household lest her brother be arrested. John once again left the house more hurt than ever.

The dastardly handsome
John Thornton
When Margaret went to see her brother off the train station, someone from their past recognized them. They brushed him off and hurriedly hugged and said goodbye. Well, wouldn't you know it, John himself witnessed this exchange of affection! He thought she turned him down because she already has a "lover". News reached John's mother and she quickly noted what kind of a woman Margaret was prancing around in the middle of the night embracing strangers.

As luck would have it, the man who recognized the siblings died and soon inquisitions were made. Margaret was questioned but denied she was at the train station. Mr. Thornton covered for Margaret which led to her clearance. When she knew of this, she realized she was in love with him (finally!). Margaret became an orphan and her godfather left her a substantial inheritance. She went back to the South to be with her relatives.

John's business suffered heavy losses. He finally learned of Margaret's brother and that she didn't have a "lover" after all. He went after her to the South while she decided to go back North. They met half-way at the train station and confessed their love for each other.

 John and Margaret
Classic love stories sometimes are so over dramatic and sappy that I couldn't bear it. Although I haven't finished reading the book, I can already tell that there are differences and that I like the TV adaptation better. Of course the book will be more detailed thus I feel, character flaws are more distinct. The adaptation highlighted the protagonists more and although flaws were shown, it was tolerable. Also it had such subtle and gentle way of showing the "kilig" factor. Not to mention the actor who played John, Richard Armitage (sigh...), suited the part to a T. He worked so well with Daniela Denby-Ashe (Margaret) you wish they were the real thing! So next time you're in the mood for a romantic watch, why not try North and South and say, "Much obliged, Mr. Thornton!".

Rating: 4.5/5


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