Thursday, December 6, 2012

How North and South is Not Like Pride and Prejudice

I have often heard it said that North and South is like Pride and Prejudice. I do not agree with this. I have also heard it said that North and South is like a darker version of Pride and Prejudice. I do not agree with this, either (although it is indeed darker). And I shall endeavor to explain why, as I have now just finished North and South (hereafter to be abbreviated to N&S, and Pride and Prejudice will be P&P) and therefore have sufficient knowledge of the story. I never trusted myself to try and write this post just based on the movie, you know.

(If you do not know these stories already, here is your spoiler warning.)

First of all, I shall list what I believe people base their comparison on, then I shall address the points, and then mention other differences.

Similarities (or what people might consider to be similarities):
1. The general storyline of both is something like this: a man and a woman meet, are not really impressed with each other in their own ways, but the man grows to love the woman and the woman to become more displeased with the man, then he proposes, is rejected, but continues to love her and eventually she finds out what a good guy he his and they finally come to an understanding intending marriage.
2. The heroine is prejudiced and the hero is proud.
3. There is also another man in the story from whom the heroine receives an offer of marriage, which she of course rejects.
4. The hero has a relation who disapproves of the match and at some point has a confrontation with the heroine.
5. The heroines both have an ailing mother who complains a lot.
6. There is a chapter in N&S called "First Impressions" which was P&P's original title.
7. The heroines are both named Elizabeth. (JOKING, I’m joking…although apparently that’s what whoever made this wallpaper/background thought!)

And now I shall address each one of those. Except 7, of course.

1 and 2—These are the ones that probably most everything is actually founded on; the others, I was just trying to think of any possibilities that people could consider. But you will notice that when I wrote the story themes in that description I had to use very general terms. This is because the stories are so unlike each other. This very general storyline is, I daresay, very popular, and these are not the only two authors who have used it. (Although the Janeite in me must point out that Jane Austen did it first. :D)

But anyways. First of all, if a comparison is to be made, I’d have to say that Margaret Hale’s sentiments were actually much more similar to Mr. Darcy’s than Elizabeth Bennet’s, which points out a dissimilarity to begin with. Margaret, we must understand, was brought up as a gentleman’s daughter even though her father is in reduced circumstances; although he was never a gentleman of leisure, his profession was one of the ones accepted by The Gentry, and she had been brought up as a little girl with her rich relatives during the school years in London. When she came to Milton she found what she perceived to be a deal of vulgarity, as Mr. Darcy probably thought about some of the people in Hertfordshire. Margaret found Mr. Thornton himself not to be as polished as she liked, although mostly she was prejudiced because he was a tradesman, or one could also say she was being prideful to look down upon them. Mr. Darcy did not actually find Elizabeth herself to be what he felt was beneath his notice—it was her family.

Also, the sentiments of Elizabeth and Margaret were quite different. What I said in the description there was not actually quite true on Margaret's account; she did not really grow to dislike Mr. Thornton more before he proposed. She had a little esteem that sort of went off and on, and if anything she might have thought a little better of him at that point than she did to begin with.

Speaking of which, the characters of the heroines and heroes are just so completely different from each other in the two stories. Especially Elizabeth and Margaret. Waaaaay different personalities going on. Since their temperaments and outlooks on life are so different, it's another thing that makes the stories differ.

And about the pride and prejudice thing. The fact is, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth both exhibit both traits themselves, and though some people attribute pride to Mr. Darcy and prejudice to Elizabeth, they both have a their share of both. Think about how Mr. Darcy was prejudiced coming to “an assembly such as this” in Meryton. (It’s obviously pointed out that he is proud, so I need not go into that.) He was also prejudiced as to Jane Bennet, believing that she did not really care for Mr. Bingley, rather because that is what he expected. Elizabeth was not really prejudiced about Mr. Darcy until he slighted her at the Meryton ball, which was a founded prejudice, if you ask me. Then she heard the untruth concerning Mr. Wickham and believed it. (You don’t see anything like this in N&S—if anybody is ever mistaken about the other, it is Mr. Thornton mistaken about Margaret and her brother, so there again we have the heroes and heroines not matching up between the two stories.) Then think of her reaction to his proposal. Remember that “had not your pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design”? Or when Elizabeth herself said “I could more easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” There, Elizabeth herself just pointed out that they were both proud in their ways. Although she was half-joking there, and did not think pride was an admirable trait. That doesn't mean she didn't have it, though.

But back to what I was saying before. As for Mr. Thornton, I would have to say he didn’t demonstrate much prejudice, although he could be called proud in his way.

One could try to draw a similarity between Mr. Darcy saving Elizabeth’s honor by settling the affair with Lydia and Wickham and Mr. Thornton saving Margaret’s honor by making sure there was not an inquest in the affair with her and her brother (though he did not know it was her brother) at the station. Well, those were not at all the same when you get down to the technicalities. For one thing, in P&P Elizabeth became even more attached to Mr. Darcy after he did that for her family (for her, in point of fact); in N&S Margaret’s true feelings are rather unclear, but what she feels the most in the situation is mortification that Mr. Thornton should know that she lied. They’re just completely different situations. Mr. Darcy did it for Elizabeth with the full knowledge that it was because he loved her and wanted to save her from scandal; Mr. Thornton tried to convince himself first that he's doing it not for her sake really, but because of what he 'used to' feel for her (heh, heh, heh...) and finally he decides upon using his friendship with her father as an excuse. (Yeah, he's doing it for Mr. Hale. Uh-huh.) However, Mr. Darcy knew Elizabeth was blameless, whereas Mr. Thornton all along was tormented by the probability that Margaret was not at all blameless.

Then Mr. Thornton goes on to explain to Margaret that all his feelings are passed, of course, and that he didn’t really do it for her—pretty much the exact opposite of Mr. Darcy. (Although in the book we see that all along Mr. Thornton loved Margaret and this time, so HE who lied too… ahem. Oh Mr. Advocate for Truth, take a look at your own self.)

Furthermore, a big part of the story in P&P is that Mr. Darcy was struggling against his own better judgment to lower himself enough to actually acknowledge his feelings for Elizabeth. In N&S it wasn’t this way at all; Mr. Thornton knew that Margaret probably considered herself above him and if he hesitated in his affection it was because he felt she could never care for him.

They both deal with social class, yes. But it’s on a different plane entirely. P&P is all about The Gentry. N&S has a great deal to do with tradesmen manufacturers.

As for the rest of the story, it is all so different. Not only is it “darker,” it’s just… different. Margaret’s family situation, for starters. Mr. Thornton is a great friend of Mr. Hale and pays kind attentions to Mrs. Hale when she’s ill and all that. The main driving force in the story, I would say, is how Margaret adapts to living somewhere and being with people totally different than what she had experienced so far, and facing lots and lots of change in her life that forces her to lose the simplicity of her former existence. There isn’t anything like that in P&P at all; I would say the they-don’t-like-each-other-oh-wait-now-he-likes-her-but-she-doesn't-like-him-but-then-she-discovers-she’s-wrong-and-it-ends-happily is a bigger deal in P&P.

Now that almost makes it seem like I’m bashing P&P or something, but trust me when I say I’m not trying to do that AT ALL. P&P is my favorite book, my favorite story in the world. I much, much prefer it to N&S. I like the “Light & Bright & Sparkling”-ness of it. It’s so cleverly devised and wittily written, and not at all cheesy or silly, as somebody who gets the wrong impression from very little knowledge of it might think. I greatly admire N&S and think it’s a marvelous and clever story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I couldn’t have a steady diet of it. It’s much too heavy and could be tiring if one has an overdose of it. I cannot imagine having an overdose of P&P. ;)

I wish I knew whether Elizabeth Gaskell liked Jane Austen… I haven’t been able to find out. Does anybody know? I know that Mrs. Gaskell was actually acquainted and friends with Charlotte Bronte, who is infamous for not liking Jane Austen, but I suppose it does not necessarily follow that Elizabeth Gaskell doesn’t like her. One CAN be friends despite one liking Jane Austen and the other disliking her…
…or can they?

Kidding. Sort of.

And now, since I have run out of rambles, I’ll move on to point number 3.
Mr. Collins and Henry Lennox are two very, very different matters. Mr. Collins is a wife-hunter and—well, we all know what he is. Icky. Henry Lennox, on the other hand, is a respectable young man whom Margaret actually likes—but not in that way. He would annoy her as a husband. Also, he is not a wife-hunter at all; it’s one of those cases where a man doesn't believe in thinking about marriage until he's 'made himself', but then meets with a woman who changes his mind. Unfortunately for him, he has to be disappointed.

Now, personally I don’t much like Henry. He rather annoys me. I think I would like the book’s Henry a great deal more than the movie’s, but… still can't say I exactly like him. But anyway, he is not at all repulsive. Like Mr. Collins.

4 - We all know how different this is. I just stuck that in there for fun. The reason Mrs. Thornton confronted Margaret was not at all similar to why Lady Catherine visited Elizabeth. I don’t even need to explain if you know the stories.

And as for 5… Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Bennet, two very different cases. Mrs. Hale did complain a lot about Helstone when they lived there, but of course regretted it later on when she had Milton to deal with. And Mrs. Hale really WAS ailing, whereas Mrs. Bennet was what they call a hypochondriac.

Number 6 is not anything to dispute, just a trivia fact.

If you were comparing the mini-series of N&S with P&P, you might say that something happened at the beginning of the heroine's acquaintances with the heroes to immediately promote a dislike, but as this is not the way it was in the book of N&S, I say it can't be counted. ;)

In short, the stories themselves are so very, very different and have traits all their own that though a few comparisons can be made, it is not sufficient to make them similar enough to be mentioned hand-in-hand as I have seen done.

There now. That, everybody, is my opinion. Do any of you agree with me? Of course, you may tell me if you disagree too, although that will provoke me to argue my case and I do so hate debating. :P
(I am only teasing. Do not mind me. I mean, I do dislike debating, but I'm not forbidding you to say you disagree. Haha.)


BanrĂ­on An Gheimhridh said...

That would be very interesting to know whether or not Elizabeth Gaskell liked Jane Austen! I agree with everything you pointed out. I love both Pride and Prejudice (of course) and North and South, but they are very different, though they may appear similar at first.

Jane said...

Funnily enough, before I watched N&S, it was described as being similar but "dark" to P&P. And then when we finished watching it the comments of most of my family was how much it was like P&P only much more depressing. AND N&S was the first period drama in which I took an instant dislike to the hero and never totally warmed up to! Dear me did I actually say that about Richard Armitage. oh dear! No worries, I just need to see it again. My opinion of him may improve as I get to know him better. And oh btw, I totally approved of Margaret; saw her point of view, the whole way through.

Alexandra said...

I know that she was friends with Charles Dickens...not sure about Austen. :)

Abilaine said...

This was a great post by the way.

I really do like N&S, but P&P is my favourite story ever. Seriously. I never really thought N&S was much like P&P. I had become very similar with P&P when I watched N&S for the first time and I was not exactly liking the "darkness" about the whole story.

Pride and Prejudice is much better in my opinion though I love N&S something fierce. Nuff said.

Alexandra said...

And as for the story itself...I'm more of the darker type myself ;), and of course the film version had Richard duhhhh. :)

Maria Elisabeth said...

Sink me, if you aren't right. For a - Um, as usual.

Melody said...

Banrion An Gheimhridh,
Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you agree. ;)

You should read the book. I, for one, liked Mr. Thornton better in the book, especially in some ways. And you can just understand him a lot better.

Alexandra my dear, if you call Jane Austen "Austen", I shall call Baroness Orczy "Orczy". :D Well, that will only do if that bugs you... so hopefully it does.
Ha, yes, I suppose you are more of the darker type. :P Well, I'm not. And, if you can believe this, I liked the book's Mr. Thornton better than Mr. Thornton As Represented By Richard Armitage. Weeeeell, okay, he can keep the looks. I wouldn't mind. ;)


Maria Elisabeth,
Hahahaha! That made me laugh. And thank you. I am always right, you know, except when I am wrong, which is... well, not seldom enough. *cough*

Marie said...

I had always thought of the two stories as being similar, but I think you're right! I'd never thought about the details before. As for me, I'm not sure which I like better...they're each so good in their own ways :)

Jessica said...

I never thought the stories were alike. I love both P&P and N&S, though. They are tow of my favorite period dramas and the books are both excellent. Each in their own way.
I don't mind the "darkness" of N&S. I enjoy deep stories as well as light and bright stories. Depends on my mood. ;-)

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Lovely post, m'dear! I'm in the middle of answering your email and I was going to put my thoughts in the email, but I decided to comment instead. New comments on old posts are always fun. ;)
Anyways. I totally agree with you! This was delightful to read--I enjoy posts that make me nod my head and mutter, "Yessss...thank you muchly." :D Also I haven't talked much about JA with anyone recently, and this was almost as good. ;)
Heehee, JA did indeed do it first...and you're right that it's a common storyline. Even Shakespeare had some elements of it--"Much Ado About Nothing" doesn't have exactly the same thing, but close.
I like the comparison you drew between Mr. Darcy and Margaret! They really are quite similar, except in the matter of suitors and situation, haha. If Mr Thornton had been more like Elizabeth, perhaps Margaret would have unbent a little bit, snorrrt. (Not that I didn't like her, but she could have used a joke once in awhile, poor girl.)
Heehee. It's a good thing we both like Jane Austen, oui? (Otherwise neither of us would be blogging in the first place. ;))
Interesting thought about Gaskell and Austen! I get the feeling that Gaskell's sentiments on Austen might have been the same as Charlotte Bronte's, but maybe not so strongly put...simply because Gaskell has kind of the same tendency towards gritty writing and extreme suffering, haha. But I could be wrong. (It has happened before. Except when it hasn't, which is...frequent. HAHAHA.) (Also random fact...last time I was at the library, I got out a few other Gaskell books [Cranford wasn't there...hmph. The movies were, though. ;)] and one of them was "Gothic Tales"! Turns out she wrote gothic novels, ehehehehehe. So one gets the feeling that there was one work of Austen's, at least, that she might not have appreciated.)
Yezzz...Mrs. Hale *was* rather annoying at first, but then she got more sympathetic, haha.
Number 6 is a very interesting fact! So there are some similarities, between N&S and P&P, if only in name. Heehee.
I think that's it...don't think I put anything debate-worthy in here, snort. ;)
P.S. I agree about Richard Armitage for the most part...I liked his portrayal all right--it was very good, in fact--but there were some moments that made me go ehhhh. :P HE CAN KEEP THE LOOKS THOUGH. I had no problem with those. ;)

Anonymous said...

Austen died when Gaskell was 7, so doubtful they were friends. Also, P&P was a middle class woman's polite commentary on society in the Regency period whereas N&S was a social commentary on the divide between the rural south and the industrial North, bringing about the 'pollution' of the upper middle classes in the mid-Victorian period, where social move,net had become possible due to industrial advancement, hence the inclusion of the Great Exhibition in N&S. I don't like P&P, although I love Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, but LOVE N&S.

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