me + mr thornton, episode 3(c)

[Continued from here (episode 3a), and here (episode 3b), as episode 3 was threatening to top six thousand words. This is the concluding piece of episode 3. Previous pieces of the argument: here the prologue; here episode one; here episode two. Same disclaimers / warnings apply as in previous posts. At this point, it’s going to start to get brutal. No need to defend Mr. Thornton from me, though. I still love him. It may be helpful to keep in mind the way I started this series in the prologue: “What I write about Thornton … I also write of myself.” So, yeah — this is self-criticism I’m writing here, as I recognize my behavior in Thornton’s. ]

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The beginning of the muddle: Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) glimpses Margaret with Frederick at Outwood Station in episode 3 of North & South. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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A quick reminder here, from the two previous posts, that I’m pursuing the reading that episode 3 most fully presents the defeat of principle for Thornton. It’s shaken as a result of the rejected proposal; we see him wrestling with it in the exchange with the Lennoxes and Aunt Shaw in London. Finally, in the narrative encounter with the death of Leonards, we see what happens when Thornton transgresses.

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The final plot strand for Thornton in episode 3 points out that you may be happy in all kinds of weather as long as you’ve got your principles — or, as long as you actually hang onto them. But even your values can be taken away from you, if you surrender them yourself. Perhaps controversially, I see Mr. Thornton’s greatest moral transformation in the series occurring in response to what I see as his greatest defeat. This moment lies not in the failure of his proposal, since he emerges from the Hales’ study with his honor intact; nor in the failure of his mill, which happens, after all, because he follows principle in refusing to speculate (a matter for more intensive consideration in the next post); but rather in his decision to shield Margaret from further interrogation by the local police in the matter of Leonards’ death. In making the decision to intervene, he commits his biggest transgression against his own values of the entire series.

(I also admit that this is the point at which my reading is potentially most idiosyncratic.)

If you’re having trouble seeing Mr. Thornton’s protection of Margaret as a massive breach of principle, consider it first in light of what he has to expect from her at the point at which he makes the decision. He can’t be doing this in his own interest, as he has nothing to hope from her. She’s been repeatedly rude to him, misinterpreted his actions, and ignored or refused to believe what he’s saying (episode 1). She’s nurtured his adversaries, rejected his marriage proposal outright and attacked him for even making it (episode 2). In episode 3, little or nothing in this pattern changes. She’s seen associating with Higgins after the strike, when it looks like Thornton’s coming to visit her father, but turns away; a little later, she lies to Thornton, who’s come again to visit her father, about the presence of a visitor (Frederick); she accuses him of misunderstanding her in London, and he is not party to her defense of his intellect afterwards; and finally, she’s seen, late at night, on the arm of an unknown man at the train station. All that, against a few pregnant glances and a handshake at a dinner party seems pretty decisive. By the middle of episode 3, he’s so distanced from her that he doesn’t even feel comfortable approaching the Hales after Mrs. Hale’s funeral to express his condolences. It goes beyond the boundaries of counter-factual plot development for me, anyway, to imagine that Thornton the principled would break the public trust as a magistrate in hopes of actively taking advantage of the situation (“I protected you from the much-maligned tittle-tattle of Milton, so marry me”). Indeed, his duty to honesty might indeed oblige him, were an inquest held, to admit that he had seen her at the time and place in question; one can only imagine an ex negativo defense of silence in this case (“no one called me as a witness, so I didn’t mention it”).

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Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) turns — I’ve always thought in welcome distraction or even eager relief from problem of how to approach the Hales — when approached by Mason after the funeral in episode 3 of North & South. My cap.

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One could argue that even if Mr. Thornton has no hope of any “reward” to gain from her, it would still be uncharacteristically vengeful for him to expose her lie. Still — if we consider his social milieu in comparison to hers, Thornton has nothing but reasons to leave her to deal legally with the consequences of what she’s said, just as he did socially at the dinner party before the strike. Episode 2 suggests that some features of his principles are congruent with the notions of nineteenth-century classical liberalism. This stance is unsurprising, because as a mill owner, Thornton belongs to a group of men who owed their success to ideas about the inalienable rights of man, the necessity of freedom of conscience, the relationship of property creation to access to governance and the franchise, and the principled abandonment or outright rejection of political or social hierarchies based on inherited privilege. Across the course of the nineteenth century, men from Thornton’s social milieu gradually forced the British government to adhere more closely to the rule of law and the equality of all men before it as a means of mediating social and political dispute. Read in this light, Thornton’s decision to halt plans for an inquest in order to protect Margaret takes a frightening step. It suggests that he’s willing to bend the rule of law — a principle to which he owes both his social and legal position, and even the capacity to express his political views in government, and a principle in which, we may assume, he strongly believes — for the sake of private interest.

That the law should apply equally to all was a central tenet of classical liberalism. That the powerful bent the law for their sake of their preferences was the sort of accusation that classical liberals of the time were always making to the country’s entrenched political elites, particularly landed interests of various kinds. Particularly to “gentlemen.” And that these issues about upper class privilege are very much alive in Milton is heavily indicated by both dialogues between Mason and Margaret. “I hope you’ll forgive me for seeming impertinent,” Mason says to Margaret at the end of their first scene together, after she’s refused to react to the threat of a summons to an inquest: “I have to do my duty.” Note the way Mason’s words foreground the comparison between these two things — apparent or acknowledged social transgression, and the duty of a public servant. His questions warn her repeatedly not to lie, even as he is convinced that she has done so. Later, when he comes to inform her of the canceled inquest, Mason’s statements on behalf of the witness, who “was so positive, but now he knows he was mistaken. He hopes he hasn’t caused offense,” also point to the potential consequences to social subordinates of participating in the equal application of the rule of law. Mason’s eyes and facial gestures accuse Margaret all through the scene; only the privilege of your acquaintance with Mr. Thornton, his words imply, has saved you.

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Mason (Ben Crompton) tactfully broaches with Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) the likelihood that he’s caught Margaret in a lie, in episode 3 of North & South.

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The significance of social issues around equality in the prosecution of the crime obviously weighs on Mr. Thornton’s mind as this narrative strand proceeds. He ventures to say, when Mason approaches him the second time, on the stairs, that it matters even if a drunkard meets his death by violence, and refers to the distress of “one of his mother’s servants,” who’s engaged to the deceased and now grieving. The law requires the investigation of crimes against it, especially if people are hurt, no matter their social status. Thornton stills when he realizes, based on the timing of the incident, that Margaret must be lying, and his surprise is obvious to Mason. Thornton is a master of control here, I find, after his initial response to his realization that she’s lying, although as typical with Richard Armitage’s acting style, we can see the gears of his brain churning, as if the frontal lobes physically moved during cogitation. Mr. Thornton must be overwhelmed. If, at the beginning of episode 3, he still respects Margaret, saying to his mother, “I knew that she was too good for me,” since she not despises his suit out of principle — by now, she has also appeared in questionable circumstances unchaperoned — here, she has finally made herself a liar, a betrayer of principle, in a situation where the lie matters in a way that directly circumvents his own sense of principle. It’s hard to think of anything she could have done that would cause her to sink further in Thornton’s estimation.

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Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) clashes with his mother (Sinead Cusack) over Margaret’s behavior, and then makes his decision, in episode 3 of North & South.

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Mr. Thornton leaves Mason behind, donning his hat and knowing that he has definite decisions to make. His opening remark to his mother, as he appears on the landing of their house, that someone (we? the rather silly Jane? the swallowed pronoun is interesting here in light of the political issue) is “better off without that scoundrel, Leonards, you know,” indicates that he’s weighing, if not really endorsing, precisely the sort of argument that he would have rejected at the beginning of the previous scene with Mason — before he knew that Margaret was involved. His statement that he doesn’t know or care what the servants are saying, and neither should his mother, seems defensive, if it can be read as a reiteration of his proposal that they not speak of her anymore at the beginning of the episode. Mrs. Thornton doesn’t know, necessarily, that he’s the magistrate in this case, and it’s unclear what she would have said had she known — but in contrast to his discussions with her before the strike, he doesn’t choose to raise this issue with her, potentially because her expression of hate for Margaret at the beginning of the episode bars her in his mind as a useful conversation partner here. Leaving his mother behind him to go upstairs, Thornton is now as alone with his principles as he’s ever been.

And then follow ten painful seconds as we see him deliberating. The motion of Thornton’s head as he turns away is the same gesture he made, at the same approximate physical attitude, while departing the scene, in London. He will damage the law; he will say inevitably by his actions that Margaret is more important than Jane (even if he doesn’t mean that in the political sense that an outsider might assign to it).

And what remains for him? The factory, yet again — his progress through its snowy aisles ensues upon Margaret’s statement to Dixon that “it’s over.” Margaret is no longer in the unspecified social danger that Thornton thinks is the thing he’s saved her from, nor in actual danger of endangering Frederick’s freedom. Thornton remains — still — in the factory. Now, as we learn in the scene where Mason returns to report to Margaret, with all of his duty and none of his principles.

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 Margaret (Daniela Denby-Ashe) is confronted by Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) and his implied plea for an explanation for her behavior in episode 3 of North & South.

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When next we see Thornton, his defeat is complete. If he was wounded and exhausted at the end of the proposal scene, he is now aggressive. His posture indicates an intensity of emotion nothing short of rage. He seems to want some sop from her: “Have you no explanation for your behavior, that night, at the station? You must imagine what I must think.” I’ve lied for you, he implies — at least tell me that you care about my good opinion. Give me some explanation that will allow me to salvage my respect for you from this sordid mess. As she tries to say something, his glowering becomes ever more intense. And he is not minded to accept her explanation that she wishes to protect another person’s secret as soon as it’s clear it involves a man, which confirms what he had concluded anyway (risky, indiscreet behavior with a lover). He tells he acted in her father’s interest, and states — I believe quite honestly, if nonetheless with wounded pride — that any “foolish passion” he felt for her is over. She’s killed it, not by not loving him, but by acting dishonestly, by demonstrating that she is not worth of his love and thus, by taking away from him the thing he most loves: his cherished regard for principle.

To foreshadow a bit, putting that back together will require most of episode 4. It’s potentially a concomitant piece of our accepting that the problem here is not his fear that she loves a different man, but rather that the loving occurs illicitly, i.e., that she fails to behave as the principled ideal to which he can hold fast — depending on how you see it — for us to conclude that, if some kind of transformation in his character is occurring, that what Thornton learns from Margaret is not a new or a different ethics, but rather to love individual people rather than abstract principle. I’ve been skeptical about arguments for his transformation, but if I’m going to concede this point, that change might be a central piece of it. I don’t find this interpretation fully convincing, in that I can see immediate objections to it and find episode 4 to involve a decisive reembrace of principle on his part, but I may find a way to weave these things together as I start on the next piece of this analysis. As should become clear in just another paragraph or so, I’m trying very hard to leave pieces of this reading open as a way of thinking creatively about myself.

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The symbolic enigma. Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) standing at the Bouchers’ graves, in episode 3 of North & South. My cap.

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Before ending this reading of episode 3, we have to consider two more issues. The first is the question we raised at the beginning, but still haven’t answered: why, precisely, Thornton decides to halt the inquest in ignorance of what’s really at stake for Margaret and her family in having her lie exposed. He states explicitly that he does so for her father, though, even given the strong friendship between the two and Thornton’s lack of a father figure, it seems a little weak as an explanation. It is the best explicit justification we get, though Thornton’s rage as he delivers it may make it seem unnecessarily defensive, and thus (perhaps incorrectly) like an excuse that covers something else. As noted above, Thornton has no rational expectation of anything beyond politeness from her. I’ve also rejected the obvious explanation of explicit desire to exploit his position to get something from her, and the less potent possibility that he does not want to act vengefully. But I can think of at least two other reasons (though there may be more).

Why does he save her? We could argue that Mr. Thornton’s willingness to lie by omission here is of a piece with the fruit be brought to her mother and his ongoing visits to her father — that these gestures all attempt to relay that he is “a gentleman” or someone who thinks of matters beyond profit and possessions. If that’s the case, then the scene suggests that he’s really gone off the rails with regard to his principles, as “behaving like a gentleman” in the sense of manners turns into the manipulative games with the law “behaving like a gentleman” could involve for the landed interests of nineteenth-century England. In doing so, he replaces the landed elite with a capitalist one that also uses the law for its own interest. (I can’t resist the pedagogical aside that the reservation that this effect is not something Thornton can be seen to have wanted doesn’t mitigate that it is precisely what happened, historically.) That is presumably not the kind of gentleman Thornton wants to be, and he’s angry because Margaret’s pushed him into that role. I reject this intepretation as an overreading, albeit a suggestive one, simply because Thornton doesn’t seem like the type for passive aggression — he manages overt statements about his positions just fine without having to hint around. I read the ongoing to attention to the elder Hales as a demonstration of his principles even in the face of Margaret’s rejection, not as whiny noodling around for attention or another chance.

The last reason I would advance for his decision is the possibility that he indeed makes it out of something that could be called “love” for her — that Mr. Thornton simply is overwhelmed by his need to save the woman he loves. This conclusion would require that we conclude that his assertion that his “foolish passion” for Margaret is “entirely over” is either partially or completely false. Admittedly, common interpretations of human behavior in the modern West do suggest that covert affirmations often masquerade behind such vehement denials. While he may have come to see his attitude toward her, which he might earlier have considered in terms of principle, as “foolish,” precisely because she is not who he thought she was, perhaps precisely for that reason he is in fact no less passionate. It’s just that his love has turned to rage, and because it is no longer visible in the context of principle, or understandable as a further embrace of that, it’s something that he has to say he is rejecting. This reading would fit loosely with argument that episode 3 is supposed to demonstrate Thornton’s loss of principle and his wounded reaction to that loss.

How we answer this question — and I think a lot of viewers will be inclined to embrace the last possibility not because of my argument about principle and Thornton’s rage over its destruction, but simply because it bears all the features of thwarted romantic love — has a lot to do with how we answer the question of what Margaret means for Thornton. I leave this question open as we move to episode 4, but how you answer it will be definitive for what you think the ending of the series means. That Margaret has some symbolic meaning for Mr. Thornton just as Mr. Thornton in the series has some symbolic meaning for me stands out of question for me as an INFJ — we’re crazily symbolic interpreters — but you may choose to continue seeing the series primarily as a love story, the sort of thing romantic Victorian readers loved, and only a tale about ethics insofar as Victorian audiences loved moralistic endings in a way that presages our own love of melodrama these days. Or, and I should emphasize that I don’t find this reading implausible, you may read Margaret as the opposite pole to work in the vocational dilemma that Thornton faces. It’s either work or love, perhaps; or in a world where the payoff of work is uncertain because of factors beyond one’s control, love might be a more secure harbor than work. I’ve suggested throughout that the meaning of Margaret for him has something to do with how he sees principle.

By keeping her meaning to Thornton open at this point, however, I seek to leave as many readings of episode 4 open as possible to the end.

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to addendum to episode 3: What does Margaret symbolize for Thornton?

~ by Servetus on February 5, 2012.

71 Responses to “me + mr thornton, episode 3(c)”

  1. I’m glad you addressed this inquest part, it has always bothered me. It just seems so out of character and, dare I admit this, part of me feels that Margaret should have to have accountability for her knowledge. Were the original audiences more sympathetic to Margret’s plight? Here I want to hang her out to dry. I struggle to makes sense why he did what he did, I always felt it was a way to save face to himself and everyone else who noticed that he cared for her, if she were entangled in the matter and certain things were made public, he would look like a fool for caring about her. I’m sure that is overly simplistic.

    You’re an INFJ too! Yay! No wonder I like reading your blog so much.

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    • Nice point, Jael! One can also ask if Mason isn’t complicit in trying to protect Mr. Thornton. After all, Mason does approach Thornton outside of his official capacity as magistrate with the disputed identity dilemma and asks Thornton’s advice due to his position as a ‘friend of the Hales’. One imagines Mason would not want Mr. Thornton’s friends implicated either in the ‘awkwardness’ of a disputed identity case. So it’s a lot of collusion all the way around!

      The ultimate decision was still Thornton’s, but it’s clear that Mason is asking for some form of intervention.

      I haven’t done Myers-Briggs for some time, but I usually come out ENTJ – although I am probably on the cusp with E/I (working in technology as I do, just about everyone is an ‘I’ and sometimes hardly a word can be heard in the section)!

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      • I didn’t speculate about Mason’s motives in the post, as his reasons for informing Thornton are not germane to the story I am telling about Thornton, but of course whatever they are, they also get to these class / connection issues as well. They point out that even in popular sovereignty we are all arrayed in hierarchy. Mason knows where his bread is buttered, presumably. IIRC in the book Mason is someone whose career has been followed by or started by Thornton, but I couldn’t put that in here because I’m leaving the book out of the series reading.

        I would totally have figured you for a TJ, Expat.

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    • It’s one of those places where the book and the series really grate against each other. The book makes Margaret more self-interested, and very worried about whether her mother loves her. The movie tries to make her look more altruistic and less self-centered than she is in the book. The series thus makes it look like in lying to Mason, she’s doing something like committing perjury, whereas actually it’s more like aiding and abetting treason. Thornton of course doesn’t know this, and probably the worst of his thoughts at the time run to the possibility that Margaret is associating with someone who may have committed a murder.

      Urban police forces were relatively novel things at the time; we could ask as well whether Margaret really feels herself obligated to answer the questions of such a plebeian with candor. Everything about this plot strand screams “class issues” to me.

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      • Class issues for sure. The Hales don’t appear to be on the surest footing in Milton society, it’s more based on their acquaintance with Mr. Thornton. I had a lot more to say about that, but it’s off topic.

        After re-reading it today, I’m going along with Mr. Thornton covering up Margaret’s presence for Mr. Hale’s sake, as he stated. Thornton knows that Hale just lost his wife and does not want to subject Mr. Hale to the embarrassment that would come if people knew Margaret was hanging out with strange men alone at night at the train station (in conjunction with the fact that the town knows he stepped down as a minister). The anger could be in part from the fact that Margaret thanks him as if he did her a favor, which could have upset him after the way he was rejected by her and her subsequent behavior from his view (combined with the mix of emotions he is sure to be feeling about everything, including violating his principles).

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        • I tend to like answers that square well with explicit text, so I like this answer on that basis. I don’t like interpretations that try to write off what characters actually say. Armitage’s acting is a problem here, though. I wish I could ask *him* why he thought Thornton did it. 🙂

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  2. It’s more interesting to view N&S as something more than just a love story. This was a mobile society, notwithstanding the perceived hierarchies. It is possible that Margaret represents a “gentility” to which Thornton aspires – after all, he sought out her father for the purpose of attaining a more “gentlemanly” and intellectual education. Combined with that, he had seen in Miss Hale a woman of principle, who, he has assumed, will adhere to those principles, as he has done to his. At this point,
    Thornton is guiltily aware that he has failed, and perceives that Margaret has done so.

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    • Well, he knows for a fact that she has lied to Mason. This is certainly evidence of Margaret’s failure to adhere to principle if he values truthfulness above all else.

      In the book he asks, ‘Is Miss Hale so remarkable for truth?’ in the presence of her father and Mr. Bell, knowing that only she would feel the shame of what he was asking (although, I guess, he does kind of flog himself with remorse when he sees her response).

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    • This is the Veblenian reading — that studying the classics permits entree into a different kind of society (the point being that you can mobilize the material circumstances to spend time on non-productive activity) and so I would certainly agree.

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  3. I don’t have anything intelligent to add that anybody else hasn’t already said. Just wanted to say I’m enjoying this series.

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  4. I’ve always been bothered by Margaret’s lying to Mason too and wondered if it was meant to be seen as a kind of parallel sacrifice of integrity to Thornton’s. Good to be reminded that she’s from a different class, with a different attitude to the law. (The law in any case has been shown to be suspect in her eyes because of its treatment of her brother.)

    Margaret’s sacrificing her relationship with Thornton – his ‘good opinion’ of her – rather than her principles, for the sake of her brother. Thornton’s sacrificing his principles and integrity and jeopardizing his public status for the sake of her, or what she stands for. She may be modelling how to put love for individual people before abstract principle but he’s learning it despite his better judgment and at a much greater personal cost.

    I think Thornton colludes because he wants to protect his idealized vision of Margaret and her cultured class. She – an individual – may have disappointed him but he still aspires to the ‘civilized’ values of gentility.

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    • That she will lie to protect her brother goes without saying, I think; that she does it with such a lack of regret I attribute to her feelings about Frederick’s conviction; that she does it with such aplomb, I attribute to her class background and attitudes toward the law.

      The reason I don’t like the argument re: learning to love people rather than principle is that i don’t think that that explains either of his two big “loving” turns in episode 4: his treatment of Higgins, and his revaluation of her after he learns that Frederick was her brother.

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    • Oh, and re: attitudes to the law, there’d also be a kind of Carol Patemanesque argument here that liberal society constructs women in such a way that the social contract is not seen to apply to them. That could be in play here, too, though I am not a gender critic. I wonder what Didion would say.

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  5. Feefa, I so much agree with that last paragraph. “I wish to marry you, because I LOVE you” in the film grated. Attracted, yes, aspiring, and whether or not altruistically ready to protect – but love? At this stage?

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    • and that’s actually a tone down of the novel, which has Thornton saying, “I love you as no man ever loved woman” or some such tripe.

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  6. I think he cared about her (no matter what he said) so he protected her — plan and simple. He may have regretted not living up to his principles, but protecting the people he cared about took priority over the principles. It’s a rare person whose principles are never wavering. And even if you’re the rare exception, is that a good thing?

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    • I don’t think any of the options assume that he doesn’t care about her — rather they ask in what way / to what extent / with what ends. It hurts to sacrifice something you believe in for something dirty or something that you feel makes you dirty, no matter how much other emotions drive you. At the end here he has nothing, I think.

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      • He cared about her to the extent that he would give up his principles to protect her. She may not have been worthy of such deep feelings, but that apparently didn’t matter to him. He cared for her in spite of her feelings for him. Unrequited love….the stuff of which romance novels are made.

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        • Yeah, I’ll concede that it’s a philosophical blindness of mine that I don’t really believe in romantic love either as a thing in itself or a meaningful motivator. But I know that many people do.

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        • Oh, and I should add that I left that option open as a reading above.

          Something else I didn’t put on the table — for a fairly specific reason — is that he just wants her in his bed. Sexual attraction triumphs over principle. The reason I didn’t put it on the table is that I’d have had to write a lot about sexual attraction meant to Victorians / how it was expressed in Victorian society, and what historians have learned about this is a lot more complex than what the average reader of Victorian literature knows, so it would have required a lot more words, and probably a fair amount of insistence from people that I was reading it wrong.

          But that is an option: sex.

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          • Sex, the great motivator, especially for men. There isn’t much they won’t do to get it.

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            • That’s part of the problem though — as soon as I say “sex,” then it’s possible for people to start seeing that as the trump card. Sexual desire is always mediated through culture, and this mediation is particularly complicated in Victorian society. The role that sex plays as a motivator for us is not the same role it played 150 years ago. The other thing is that if it were primarily sex motivating him, I don’t think he’d feel the rage that he does in the scene, nor do I think he would have uttered the dialogue he’s given.

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  7. Yes, I’m still reading and enjoying your detailed analysis of Mr. Thornton’s character!!!

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  8. You know I am always good for taking the IQ points down. Can I add that I love his sideburns? Princples, foolish passionate aside, those side burns are just awesome.

    Can we say it was love vs romantic love that caused him to cover up the murder?

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    • I don’t read him as capable of agape at this point (some people would say that he is w/r/t the Higginses). It could eros. But to me what most people mean when they attribute something to “romantic love” is something more than or different than eros.

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      • I imagine you’ve hit the nail on the head. Being in the throes of eros he acted irrationally and covered up for Margaret. I was thinking more of him being motivated by agape. As for romance, I think romantic men are a rarity and I say that even though my own father was a hopeless romantic.

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        • it’s kind of a puzzle because you hear so many men complain about how women are unavailable. I think the average woman would have a lot of time for a man who was willing to act romantically once in a while even.

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    • I like your point of view — it’s absolutely funny and refreshing. And I agree, the sideburns are definitely sexy!

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  9. Impossible to ignore the power of sexual attraction between Thornton and Margaret! After all, it IS Richard
    Armitage as JT….

    (And here I thought we were desparately striving for serious discussion of ologies and isms 😀 )

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  10. Having a chuckle here now 🙂 RA does great sideburns!

    @Rob, I’m another one who’s likely to bring the IQ points down.
    I simply saw it as Thornton protecting Margaret because he loves her, but would he have similarly compromised his principles in order to protect his mother and sister?

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    • well, depending on how serious you read the mill failure in episode 4 being — potentially not. I’m assuming that Marlborough Mills is incorporated and so this mill failure doesn’t constitute a personal bankruptcy — but if not, then the mill failure is also his mother’s ruin. (The book implies that the mill is incorporated).

      I have nothing against sideburns. It’s just an unlikely potential index of identification for me as I don’t have any 🙂

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  11. At this point, I think he has gone from eros to agape bec he foregoes his principles and doesn’t expect anything in return.

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    • but then why is he so obviously filled with rage? It would seem to me a fundamental requirement of agape that you not despise yourself or the recipient for doing it.

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      • *runs off to look up agape in dictionary* 🙂

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        • and you thought it referred to his mouth 🙂

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          • LOL! Especially Guy’s when he runs away from the cave explosion.
            Your essays and now angie’s word of the day are working wonders for my vocab!

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            • I’m not a jargon fetishist but the difference between agape and eros is pretty essential to (e.g.) the New Testament and western philosophy through Freud, so in this case, I’m glad to be helpful 🙂

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      • IMO he’s filled with such inner rage, because he’s still- against all odds- deeply in love with her. I think the main reason of his anger is located in the fact that he’s incredible jealous of the obvious success of The Other man in her life. The painful memory of their embrace and the undeniable fact that “his perfect principled Margaret” had lied for this person to protect him, was an unbearable and painful truth for his already tortured heart that she REALLY (must have)loved that mysterious stranger. (Geraldine’s:..NO…it should have been me!!!! 😉 )

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        • To me, rage = anger + humiliation. So I need an explanation of where the humiliation comes from. That she would love someone else I can see as making him angry (particularly if he thinks it’s Henry Lennox — not clear how much he saw of Frederick’s face, or if it’s plausible he thinks it’s Henry he saw her with). But whence the humiliation? IMO Geraldine has much more reason to feel humiliated than Thornton.

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  12. There is a thin line btw love and hate. I get what you are saying if it had moved past romantic love into love love would he feel anger and jealously? Hmmm ….You are prob right.

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  13. Well, his frustrations/emotions were very human, weren’t they? Like every one else he was on a journey. BTW in my former reply I left out this sitenote: I wish I could use the word envy in stead of jealousy….
    IMO jealousy and the ‘need to possess’ someone (something he denies, but is like Servetus said questionable at that particular moment) are based on conditional love (from the ego) and UNconditional True Love is wanting total happiness for the love of your life, despite having no part in that (which does alow a kind of envy for the partner of her choice) Luckily in the end, we can all see that -after a lot of mind-heart struggle- he DOES TRUELY Love her (and vice versa):)

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  14. Did I mension that I love your blog?;) Unfortunately, my computer slowly refuses to obey,so Servetus see you again soon,I hope,:) Thank you!

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    • Still a fascinating series. Right now it has me thinking about Thornton in his version of “Armitage Protectiveness Mode” not that he imagines he has a relationship or future with her, but just that in a very lonely life filled with associates but not friends (the annual dinner’s guests as evidence for that) she was the single person who made what could be seen as a connection on a personal level. I’m thinking of it as the same emotion that has him to himself begging her to just remember he was once a part of her life (look back at me)–a sort of nostalgia for a moment when he felt some tenderness, and he dearly wants to protect that.

      (and, of course, as i get all mushy here, it’s also possible a certain Mrs. Gaskell just wanted to introduce some plot tension and give herself an excuse for her two main characters to have some much needed dialogue at this point in the story 😉 )

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      • I’m explicitly interpreting the series as an object in itself in my remarks just because that was the sense in which it takes on meaning to me. Of course there are generic conventions at work here, but that’s of secondary relevance to me.

        When you say “made what could be seen as a connection a personal level,” what are you referring to specifically as seen from his perspective? The fact that she went out on the balcony to save him? Or something else?

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        • The Gaskell comment was just a throw away–it struck me funny that I was thinking about Thronton’s motivations and judging options on whether people ever “really” do things for this or that reason. Made me laugh at myself to remember that whatever his motivations are, they don’t have to make sense since he’s completely fictional.

          But re the personal connection, I actually wasn’t thinking of the balcony at all. I could see how *Thornton* (and his mom) might feel it was proof of a connection, but I don’t really see it as something that would form one. I’m probably also influenced there by the fact that I thought the scene itself, in the film, was very awkwardly staged to the point of making it mostly silly (ymmv, of course, but that’s where I saw it).

          I was thinking more about just the conversations–partly the filmed “signs” we are given: eye contact, long glances, focus on brushed fingers, “those” looks. But, also it seemed to me that everyone we ever saw speaking to Thronton wanted something from him related to goods and services. The other mill owners, obviously, wanted his cooperation and wanted him to take the lead in certain business matters so they wouldn’t have to. Mr. Hale I see as the most debatable, but I think while he was friend*ly* to him (in the “way of a gentleman”) Thronton was first and foremost a client. Potential investors wanted him to earn them money. Fanny pretty clearly just wanted him to provide her with a certain lifestyle, and Mrs. Thornton struck me as wanting him primarily to make her proud as a prosperous and envied mill owner–the thing her own husband failed at so miserably. But I didn’t see a whole lot of anyone who cared how he felt about anything, as long as he did what his role was to them.

          I wouldn’t say Margaret’s motives were completely pure, but, for example, at the dinner party when she “learned Milton ways” enough to shake his hand the second time, I see it as a symbol that his feelings and the offense she gave him earlier actually mattered to her. And her outspokenness on multiple occasions made her seem to be someone who cared to engage with him and discuss ideas, including his and how he felt about them. And when she was “caught” talking to his workers in the Mill yard and she was asking him about his role, it seemed to me an illustration that, while she was partly motivated by what she’d been seeing of the mill workers, she actually wanted to know how he saw things and it showed to him that what he thought mattered to her.

          And to me, especially in contrast to everyone else in his life, I got the impression that that mattered to him a great deal.

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          • well, we assume that his motivations did make sense for someone. This may be the historian at work here: I tell my students that if something doesn’t make sense to you that’s a sign of a time gap between you and the author, and it’s your job to construct a world in which it does make sense 🙂

            and there’s also a generic convention at work in the series, in that each episode seems to seek to give each major character a satisfying story arc. So four tv episodes do bear some resemblance to however many installments of a serial novel.

            I take your general point, although I do think his mother loves him (as she says in episode 3, she would give her life’s blood for his happiness. You are a much more optimistic reader of Margaret’s behavior than I am. I think she’s conscious that she’s broken every canon of Victorian hospitality after the tea and knows that she needs to make amends. Her own sense that she’s done right is central to her. In other words, I think if he’s reading her as interested in him in episode 2 he’s really wrong. But maybe it’s because I find her character extremely opaque.

            However, this makes clear that I need to backtrack a little and talk a bit about what she might mean to him. There’s a scene I left out of the analysis of episode 2 that’s crucial here.

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            • Fair enough about his mom–and actually, now that you mention it, if I remember right, doesn’t the book spend a few paragraphs at least going over why she loves John and not so much Fanny? It’s been a long time since I read it, so that may just be something my head made up?

              Not sure if I’d say Margaret’s entirely uninterested in him at that point (agree with you in other comments that the actress doesn’t always, shall we say, make it easy to see that she has emotions, which makes it really hard to figure what the scriptwriters intended her to sho) but then again it’s really what he feels that I think relates to his actions later on.

              Trying to guess what scene you’re referring to and coming up completely blank–looking forward to that post!

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    • Thanks for the kind words, Joanna.

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  15. I’m just loving this reading of the series. And it makes me want to talk in person with you about something that’s always bothered me: the fact that Thornton is not really very good at explaining his principles — or is it that no one wants to hear them? His true motivations remain quite opaque for the first-time viewer until Ep4; I remember even being confused about why he wanted to/ “must” marry Margaret in Ep2.

    The first problem is his temper and his beating up of the worker in Ep1 — is that really in keeping with his values overall? Or his screaming at the rioting workers in Ep2? Both show a capacity for unreason that seems so oddly out of place with his expressed raison d’etre — and so counterproductive (though it does fuel the plot).

    And second, can his values for good management really be sustained if he’s alone in feeling them, and if he’s not articulate enough to make them comprehensible to either Margaret and his fellow mill owners? In asking this I don’t mean to ask a “tree falls in a wood” question. What I mean is, his business decisions run the risk of being seen as quixotic — even to *him* — because he intermittently makes business and personal decisions that seem to be at odds with his stated views. That money he spent on the wheel, for example — didn’t that expense take away from his capacity to pay workers’ wages for another few weeks?

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    • I think he thinks his principles are *obvious*. (This is part of why the overly principled person embraces them in the first place. Do not ask me how I know this, lol.) He’s realized through his life experiences that not everyone agrees (“others may do as they wish” is a sort of constant implicit and explicit refrain in his remarks) but on the whole the friction isn’t so great because his associations lie in mill owner society. It only becomes completely clear how obvious they aren’t once he meets Margaret and her family, I would guess.

      Re the beating up — my reading of this [see ep 1 where I treat this] is that he can’t always say why he’s angry, but that in this case he’s angry because of the safety rulebreaking (or he would justify it to himself in that way). [[Code that only you will get: battles over how many foreign languages should be necessary for the Ph.D.]] His anger is out of all proportion to the offense committed because he can’t see it as a single act, but rather unconsciously views it as a threat to the entire universe. Hence his screaming at Stevens: “you know the rules!” as opposed to “you’re endangering everyone!”

      Re: the rioters — again, he sees them only in the principled light of transgressing against his reading of utilitarianism. (In this sense he is definitely more of a paternalist than he would ever admit to being.) He’s angry not because he’s unreasonable (from his perspective) but because others won’t see things that are obvious.

      Can his values for mgmt be sustained, if he’s the only one? NO. Something else that the principled person *has* to realize eventually. Or face destruction. As he does. But which matters less because at least he didn’t betray himself. I am getting ahead of myself there. But in calling him a classical liberal I am not calling him solely profit oriented in a sort of Gilded Age sense (also an argument I broached in episode 2).

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  16. I come in late and did not read most of the comments, so please excuse, if I am repeating something.
    I see Margaret as more than his love interest. In a way she starts to be the personification of his ideals and as you call them, principles. He sees them in her, the strictness, the total subordination to them, by doing the right thing for her parents. When he offers marriage, I am never sure he already is in love with her. I always have the feeling he starts to really fall in love afterwards, after, as you so wonderfully put it, betraying his principles for her. Therefore, here the outburst of feeling. He did not do that after the proposal scene when he came back to his mother. There he still was collected and content with work dominating his way of life and the place in life he had to maintain. Now he desires more.
    Now I really can’t await the 4th part of your wonderful analysis, Servetus!

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    • yeah, where this discussion started was my claim that Margaret is mainly a symbol for him, and I also agree mostly with what you say about the role of work for him after the turndown — and that his statements in 3 about work signal a sort of unanticipated dissatisfaction. So you essentially agree with me, I guess 🙂 Am am I saying too much?

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  17. […] from here (episode 3a), and here (episode 3b), and here (episode 3c). This post responds to a problem with the interpretation raised in a discussion that arose at the […]

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  18. […] the prologue; here episode one; here episode two; continuing with (episode 3a), (episode 3b), (episode 3c), and (addendum to episode 3). Same disclaimers / warnings apply as in previous posts. A short […]

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  19. […] the prologue; here episode one; here episode two; continuing with (episode 3a), (episode 3b), (episode 3c), and (addendum to episode 3). Same disclaimers / warnings apply as in previous posts. A short […]

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  20. […] the prologue; here episode one; here episode two; continuing with (episode 3a), (episode 3b), (episode 3c), and (addendum to episode 3). Same disclaimers / warnings apply as in previous posts. A short […]

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  21. […] the prologue; here episode one; here episode two; continuing with (episode 3a), (episode 3b), (episode 3c), and (addendum to episode 3). Same disclaimers / warnings apply as in previous posts. A short […]

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  22. […] the prologue; here episode one; here episode two; continuing with (episode 3a), (episode 3b), (episode 3c), and (addendum to episode 3). Same disclaimers / warnings apply as in previous posts. A short […]

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  23. I think almost everyone was so obsessed with RA and his acting abilities that they basically found fault with DDA’s. Plus DDA’s physical appearance in the miniseries-(brunette, rather plump facial features) may have been been detrimental to how viewers perceived her too. It takes 2 to tango

    JT covers up for MH because of agape -love, even though he himself is in self-denial. MH represents someone different from the other females in his acquaintance- strong, with her own mind, not afraid to stand up to him- similar to his mother in some ways.

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    • Thanks for the comment, and welcome. I felt that DDA was fine, but the weakest link in an extremely strong ensemble. She doesn’t show any strong dramatic chops here. That said, I don’t think she’s terrible. And I have never run into any fan of the series who found serious fault with DDA. Most of the Armitage fans I know like her work here as well.

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  24. […] To episode 3c. […]

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