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Study Guide: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: Literary Devices

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Ahhhh, Helstone. Where the birds always sing and the brooks always babble. According to Margaret Hale, "Helstone is like a village in a poem—in one of Tennyson's poems" (1.1.38). And for those who haven't read Alfred Lord Tennyson, all you need to know here is that the dude was super sentimental when it came to describing the beauty of nature, like in his famous poem "The Lady of Shalott." So yeah, Helstone is kind of a utopia in this book. Of course the story has to force Margaret to leave this place if there is going to be more...

Narrator Point of View

At first it might seem like the narrator of this book is third-person omniscient, since it sticks pretty closely to Margaret Hale's point of view. But as the story gets going, the narrator seems to get more and more comfortable with bouncing around between different characters and perspectives. One of the first major breaks from Margaret's point of view occurs in Volume 1, Chapter 9, which tells us "[in] Mr. Thornton's house, at this very same time, a similar, yet different, scene was going on" (1.9.16). This sudden flash to a completely different house shows us that the narrator is totally capable of moving around.‚Äč more...

Writting Style


Like many nineteenth-century writers, Elizabeth Gaskell is a pretty big fan of long, flowing sentences. In just the second paragraph in the book, she gives us this whopper:

"They had been talking about wedding dresses, and wedding ceremonies; and Captain Lennox, and what he had told Edith about her future life in Corfu, where his regiment was stationed; and the difficulty of keeping a piano in good tune (a difficulty which Edith seemed to consider as one of the most formidable that could befall her in married life), and what more...


Holy smokes. We're open-mouthed with surprise here. Who would have thought that a novel named North and South Holy smokes. We're open-mouthed with surprise here. Who would have thought that a novel named North and South would take place in the northern and southern regions of England?

But for realz, this entire book pretty much focuses on the cultural differences that you're bound to run into between southern England's high culture and the more commercial, gritty life of northern England. As Margaret Thornton tells us early in the novel, the southern village of Helstone is "like a village in a poem—in one of Tennyson's poems" more...



Educated, Compassionate

The narrator's tone in this book pretty much reflects the kind of spirit Gaskell would like her readers to apply to the real world. Gaskell obviously places a high value on education and reading, since she begins every single chapter of this book with a reference to some book or author she's read.Sometimes, these epigraphs don't even add anything to the actual chapter, as we see with the first epigraph, which just reads, "Wooed and married and a" (1.1.E). To that we say, respectfully, "??!??!WTF???!?, Gaskell?" more...


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