First, let me be clear, the North and South of which I speak is the wonderful Victorian novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, not the 1980’s mini series about the Civil War. If you haven’t read it do yourself a favor and put it on your reading list… Click HERE for the free Guttenberg file to read on-line or HERE for the Kindle file
Who: John Thornton
From: North and South
Written by: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
Date of Publication: 1855
Why: John Thornton is a self-made man whose stoic exterior conceals a heart waiting for the love of the right woman. He has spent his life building a business and taking care of his mother and sister. He’s the owner of a mill in the fictional city of Milton in northern England. He has “never loved any woman before.” His “life has been to busy,” his “thoughts too much absorbed with other things.” But, when a beautiful young woman, Margaret Hale, comes to the city from the rural, gentrified, south the walls of indifference he has built up around his heart begin to tumble. …Are the two of them so different in manners and customs…(and is their timing too flawed) for love to bloom?
Pros: Strong, loyal, generous, disciplined, intense, genuinely concerned with both his worker’s health and the mill’s financial viability.
Cons: Hot tempered and initially inflexible with his workers. Bad timing.
Shining Moment: During a strike against the mill (it’s a town-wide strike) he has brought in Irish workers to run the mill. When the town’s workers hear about the scabs they storm the mill. Thornton protects the Irish workers, and, at Margaret’s urging, attempts to talk to the rioters and calm them. (ALSO: the ending, but I wont give that away.)
Least Shining Moment: When Margaret first see’s Thornton. He’s in the mill and has caught a worker smoking. The slightest flame can set the entire works ablaze and he beats the worker for his carelessness.
And you should really watch the 2005 BBC mini series of North and South. (Which has the added bonus of co-starring Brendan Coyle — Downton Abbey’s Mr. Bates — as mill worker Nicholas Higgins.)